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Behind the Bench: Tobias Enstrom

by on 07/14/2011

Born: November 5, 1984
Ht: 5’10″
Wt: 180 lbs
Draft: 239th Overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2003
Plays for: The Atlanta Thrashers, defenseman , Shoots Left
Jersey No.: #39

NHL Totals

Regular Season: 318 GP – 26 G – 145 A – 171 P
Playoffs: 0 GP – 0 G – 0 A – 0 P

He was drafted 239th Overall. 239th! Bearing in mind that NHL All-Stars Pavel Datsyuk (171st) and Henrik Zetterberg (210th) are considered “draft steals,” what does that make Enstrom?

There are only 4 other NHL All-Stars in the last 20 years that were drafted later than Enstrom.

  1. Dustin Byfuglien was drafted 245th overall in 2003 by the Chicago Blackhawks
  2. Kimmo Timonen was drafted 250th overall in 1993 by the L.A Kings
  3. Pekka Rinne was drafted 258th overall in 2004 by the Nashville Predators
  4. Mark Streit was drafted 262nd overall in 2004 by the Montreal Canadiens

After being drafted in 2003, Enstrom didn’t sign with the Atlanta Thrashers until May 2007. He made the team out of training camp and made an immediate impression. Enstrom played all 82 games in his rookie season and finished with 5 goals and 33 assists for 38 points. Here’s a quick breakdown of how good Enstrom’s rookie season was:

  1. Enstrom led all rookie defensemen in assists and scoring
  2. He finished 8th in scoring and 4th in assists among all active rookies
  3. He finished in the top 25 in scoring and top 20 in assists among all active defensemen
  4. Tom Gilbert and Enstrom were the only rookie defensemen to play all 82 games during the 07/08 season
  5. Enstrom was one of only 8 rookies to play all 82 games during the 07/08 season
Not bad for a 239th overall pick!

Enstrom played all 82 games of the 08/09 season and finished with 5 goals and 27 assists for 32 points. With a quick glance at his stats, one could say his 6 point decrease was a product of the typical ‘sophomore slump.’ Enstrom didn’t suffer through any such drought, vastly improving his defensive game in his sophomore year. Enstrom went from being a -5 in his rookie season to a +14 in his sophomore season, while taking only a 6 point drop in production. Enstrom was rewarded with a 4-year $15M contract extension for his efforts.

Enstrom finished the 09/10 season with new career highs in goals (6), assists (44) and points (50). By the end of Enstrom’s third year, he had played 246 consective games; he had not missed a single game since coming into the league. His streak would end at 296 games, as he missed 6 games in January 2011.

Enstrom spent his first few years in the league paired with Zach Bogosian. After an offseason trade that saw the Thrashers acquire Dustin Byfuglien, that pairing would be no more. Before training camp for the 10/11 season began, head coach Craig Ramsay announced that he would move RW Dustin Byfuglien to defense, thus marking the inception of a new defensive era in Atlanta. Enstrom and Byfuglien had instant chemistry. In October, Byfuglien had 10 pts and Enstrom had 9; in November, Byfuglien had 17 pts while Enstrom had 11 ; in December, Byfuglien had 12 pts and Enstrom had 10. Both Enstrom and Byfuglien where nominated to play in the 2011 All-Star game. While Byfuglien’s scoring pace would eventually cool to a paltry 13 points in the latter half of the season, Enstrom remained consistent, putting up 20 points from January to April while playing in 10 fewer games than his defensive partner. Byfuglien and Endstrom completed their first season together with 53 and 51 points, respectively.

Unlike his defensive partners Byfuglien and Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom does not possess a big slapshot. His lacking physical presence, especially compared to Byfulien, ensures that he will not make the highlight reels for dishing out big hits. However, Enstrom is a very intelligent player. Despite his career plus-minus, he is a very reliable defensemen. He manages the puck very well and makes very few mistakes in his own end. A calculating defensemen with great vision, Enstrom gets the puck on the blade of his stick and can be seen moving his head, left to right, to scan the ice. He is also a great skater that possesses a smooth stride that rivals that of Canucks defensemen Keith Ballard.

With all the skills Enstrom has at his disposable, his coaches are confident in playing him for 22 minutes a night and using him in multiple situations. He plays regular shifts against opposing top lines, kills penalties, and is the power play quarterback. Enstrom is one of the best all-round puck moving defensemen in the league; at 26, he has only just started to enter his prime.

Drafting Tobias Enstrom at 239th overall was a ‘draft day robbery’.

Behind The Bench appears Monday to Friday only on puckpuckgoose.com.

Edited by: Aneil Parashar
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