ANTON STRALMAN (# 36)
Birthdate:Â August 1st, 1986
(for all you stargazers out there, that makes him a Leo).
Hometown:Â Tibro, Sweden
Size: 6’1, 180 lbs
Drafted: 7th round, 216th overall (2005)
Cap hit: $731,667
Signed through: 2009-10 season
FA status:Â RFA after 2010 season
You May Not Know This, But:
– Stralman is a huge Iron Maiden fan
– Suffers from Asthma
– Is charitably involved with the Lung Association’s Teen Asthma program
– Lives in Toronto with his girlfriend, Johanna, and their daughter, Liv
Stralman is an excellent skater, with a smooth stride and good acceleration.Â He passes the puck crisply and accurately, rarely making a poor decision with an outlet pass.Â Â Stralman’s puck-handling is marvelous, enabling him to rush end-to-end through an entire opposition team on his own.Â His shot is hard enough to be considered a threat from the point.
Stralman’s positional game leaves a lot to be desired, at this point.Â He needs to improve upon reading the play, and anticipating where the puck will go, rather than chasing it in his own zone.Â Â He also needs to bulk up a bit in order to play an effective physical game.Â Â Stralman doesn’t throw many hits, and does not absorb contact well (he can be knocked off his skates easily).Â He also needs to be a more willing shot-blocker.Â Â Â He owns a quality shot, but doesn’t use it often enough to be effective as a point man on the PP.
After a fine season with Skovde IK of the Division 1 league in Sweden, scoring 9 goals and 9 assists in 41 games, Stralman was drafted 216th overall by Toronto in 2005.Â At season’s end he was promoted to the Elitserien, the premier league in Sweden.
Stralman’s first year with Timra IK in the Elitserien was nothing special from a statistical point of view (5 points in 45 games), but he played well enough to finish third in Rookie of the Year voting (the award was won by Niklas Backstrom, now with Washington).
During his second season with Timra IK, Stralman’s game really began to take off, resulting in his being named to Team Sweden for the 2006 WJC.Â Â Â He finished the season with 10 goals and 11 assists in 53 games, considered to be very good numbers for a defenseman in the Elitserien.
Anton Stralman crossed the pond in 2007, and played his first NHL game as a Maple Leaf on October 23, 2007 in a 5-4 shootout loss to Atlanta (14:27 ice time, 0 points, +/- 0).Â Â Â Â During an up-and-down season, he impressed with the Marlies (21 GM, 0 G, 11 A, +3), but struggled with the defensive aspects of the NHL game (50 GM, 3 G, 6 A, -10).Â Â Coach Paul Maurice was careful to ease Stralman into the NHL, playing him on the third defensive pairing for an average of 12:48 per game.
This season has been a struggle for Stralman, although the sophomore jinx is certainly not exclusive.Â Â Stralman played in 21 games with the Leafs, scoring 1 goal and 6 assists, and posting a +1 rating while playing 15:51 per game.Â Â However, his physical game and special teams work left much to be desired.Â Coach Ron Wilson felt that Stralman would receive more ice-time at the AHL level, which would serve to boost his confidence and aid his development.Â Â Â As of December 30, Stralman had played 6 games with the Marlies, who went 3-2-1 during those games.Â Appearing in all game situations, Stralman recorded no points and a -1 rating, while exhibiting a much more focussed approach to the defensive side of his game.
From The Grapevine
A few regular Marlie-goers have mentioned to me that Stralman seems to have gotten the message, on the farm, and is rededicating himself to learning the defensive nuances of the game.Â Â I am told that the statistics do not tell the whole story, in this case.Â Â While the offensive numbers have been non-existent on the farm, Stralman is not there to work on his offense; it is his own-zone play that is of concern.Â Â To that end, I am told that he has looked much better at reading the play, and anticipating opposition puck-movement.Â He is much more patient in his own zone, and is starting to let the play come to him instead of chasing the puck around.Â Â He is also finding his way into the shooting lanes, and although he is not blocking many shots, he is preventing the opposition from taking them with smarter positional play.
Of course, the game is much easier against AHL competition, than it is in The Show.Â How his AHL growth translates to the NHL, upon his return, remains to be seen.
Notable Quotables:Â Ron Wilson
On sending Stralman to the minors …
“He needs to get some minutes in, get some confidence and work on some of the things we’ve been talking to him about [ … ] Sitting down and watching games and not getting a lot of minutes isn’t the way to develop players.Â So we’ll put him down to the Marlies and his recall will be entirely up to him.” (The Star)
“We have a lot of confidence in (Stralman) being a big part of the future.Â Some guys we can send down, some guys (we) can’t.Â In his case, he doesn’t have to clear waivers so it makes sense for him to (go down) and play in all situations.” (The Star)
Notable Quotables: Anton Stralman
On Skating …
“I started when I was two years old. When I was a kid, we got help from the figure skaters, the girls. They came to our practice once a week and we learned some technique. It was turnarounds, not losing any pace, keeping the pace going while you were turning.” (mapleleafs.com)
On having Athsma …
“I do a pretty good warm-up so that it gets my lungs working slowly.Â I can’t just go out there and start out hard right away.Â I really feel it then.Â […]Â I take my rescue inhaler when I need it.Â I usually take it right before a game, or practice, too.” (The Lung Association)
On Adapting to the North American Rinks …
“My shot isn’t hard at all but I found the hardest thing here is to get a shot through.Â That’s the thing I’ve been trying to work on.Â In Sweden, there’s no one blocking shots.Â It’s harder to get into lanes (as a blocker) because the ice is bigger.Â The D can be 20 metres (away) and he can’t block a shot from there.Â You get a little bit more time (to shoot) in Sweden.” (mapleleafs.com)
On Learning the Game …
“Hal Gill really taught me how to communicate.Â He bugged me every day to speak up out there.Â It was something I had to learn.Â I think I’m getting better at it.” (mapleleafs.com)
On the City of Toronto …
“Itâ€™s like a fifth of Sweden, so itâ€™s a big difference.Â Iâ€™m not used to that big a city […] I think itâ€™s great to come to a city where Swedish players had great success,Â Mats and Borje other guys. Everyone is so nice. If you say you’re from Sweden they will do anything for you.” (mapleleafs.com)
On the Toronto Media …
“I had heard about it.Â I talked to Alex Steen at the World Championships last fall and he filled me in on how the team is always in the spotlight, good or bad.Â I think it’s a good thing.Â I’d rather have the bad times here than play in a city where nobody cared, win or lose.” (mapleleafs.com)
Here is a GREAT example of what this kid can do.Â Â The future is bright for Toronto’s defense corps!
In My Humble Opinion:
Any player who lasts into the seventh round will usually have a few deficiencies, and Stralman’s defensive play issues have been well-documented, here and elsewhere.Â Â However, defense is something that can be taught, whereas offense, and playmaking vision, cannot.Â Â And Stralman’s offensive potential is through the roof.Â Â Â If he can commit himself to learning the defensive game, and to becoming stronger physically, he could be an impact player for the Toronto Maple Leafs for a long, long time.Â Â He has future star written all over him, and if he keeps working he will get to that plateau in time.Â An absolute steal at 216th overall.