It hasn’t even been a full calendar year since Fabian Zetterlund was traded to the San José Sharks by the New Jersey Devils at the trade deadline in a package for Timo Meier, but he is already close to surpassing his NHL game total from New Jersey (59) while with the Sharks (53 and counting).
He has played in every game for San José this season and is currently tied for second on the team with eight goals - the Sharks have the least amount of goals this season (66) and the second-fewest points in the entire NHL. So, it's been a tough season out there, and Zetterlund is making the best of his first real chance to play heavy minutes in the world’s best league.
Picked 63rd overall in the 2017 NHL Draft by New Jersey, the Swedish forward already has set a career high for goals in a season and will certainly accomplish the same feat for both points and assists since he is playing top-six minutes and is often deployed on both the power play and the penalty kill for San José.
Earlier this month, the 24-year-old made his first visit to New Jersey as a visiting player with the Sharks, and they left with a 6-3 win, their first road win of the season. To say it meant a lot to him would be an understatement. What person alive wouldn’t want to beat the team that didn’t believe in them enough to keep them around?
“That’s all I wanted, to win this game, you know? Especially with us having a back-to-back, it’s hard,” Zetterlund said with a grin after the game, “playing a lot of minutes, you feel it in your legs. Overall, it was a great game. We battled, played a lot of good defense, and we made some good plays out there. Granny (Mikael Granlund) and Duke (Anthony Duclair) had unreal games, and Kaapo (Kahkonen) was unreal, too. We just have to keep it going from here.”
While it was probably weird for a lot of the Devils players to play against their friend/countryman, how weird must it have been for Zetterlund to play against about 15 of his friends and former teammates? He was able to catch up a bit before the game at center ice or after the game in the tunnels between the locker rooms, but once the game started, it was all business.
“In the warmups, it was special. Every time I skated up to the red line, someone (I knew) was there laughing at me or saying something,” Zetterlund said through a laugh, recalling the pre-game skate. “But once the puck drops, it was just a game.”
“I tried to read Jack (Hughes) a couple of times, but he’s at another level. I came to the bench and I was literally pissed about it,” he told media while shaking his head. “But I know he was going to do that, then he did it again and again.”
At the end of the day though, Zetterlund had the last laugh.
“Big W and a sore body; perfect (ending).”
Before we said goodnight to the former Devil, I asked if there was something that Zetterlund learned while he was with New Jersey’s organization that has served him well in the next chapter of his professional career.
“Hold on to the puck. Don’t get rid of it right away,” Zetterlund replied, “hold on to it, be strong on it and try to create some offense off of it.”