Two 20-year-old Rangers prospects got their Swedish Elitserien seasons off to a very strong start on Thursday night, as Sweden's top league opened the 2012-13 season, joining the KHL as the first two major European leagues to get under way.
Oscar Lindberg, a 2010 second-round draft pick who was traded to the Rangers from Phoenix in 2011 and signed his first NHL contract in June, had a career-high three points in Skelleftea AIK's runaway 5-1 win over MODO Ornskoldsvik in Skelleftea, Sweden.
Lindberg, who had 10 points in 46 Elitserien games last season, picked up nearly a third of his 2011-12 total in just one game. His three point night started with an assist on the game's first goal -- Skelleftea's first of the season -- at 4:16 of the first period, and he was later on the ice for a goal at 16:30 of the first.
Lindberg continued to shine with just one second left in the opening period, when he flew down the left wing and backhanded hom his scored his first goal of the season at even-strength for a 4-0 lead. Then, just 2:26 into the second period, Lindberg set up an even-strength goal for a 5-0 lead.
He finished his remarkable season-opener at plus-4 with four shots in goal and also won six of 11 faceoffs as the center on Skelleftea's third line.
In another SEL game on Thursday at Karlstad, Sweden, Rangers 2010 sixth-round draft pick Jesper Fast scored his first goal of the season at 3:18 of overtime to give HV-71 Jonkoping a 3-2 win over Farjestads BK. On the winning goal, a heads-up Fast charged the net as the puck bounced in front off the crossbar. Fast used his speed to get to the puck and backhand it in before the goaltender or defenseman could react.
Fast, who also signed with the Rangers at the end of last season, finished the game plus-1 with two shots on goal. It was an impressive performance for a player who missed most of last season with a fractured ankle.
Both Fast and Lindberg are former members of the Swedish World Junior Championship team and both are likely to join the Rangers in 2013 after finishing their Elitserien careers this season. Over the summer, each player had opted for one more year in his home country before making the transition to North America.
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