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    All-Centennial Team

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    Stanley Cup Champs

    Where are they now: Per-Johan Axelsson

    Anders Per-Johan Axelsson, known to Boston Bruin fans as P.J. Axelsson, was a staple of the Bruin’s penalty kill from 1997 to 2009. I’m sure a lot of us, me included, forgot or didn’t realize P.J. was still with the club as recently as 2009. So what has the 38 year old fan favorite been up to for the last few years? He’s been playing, and been involved in, professional hockey of course.

    Photo courtesy BostonBruins.com
    After leaving the Boston Bruins in 2009 he signed a four year contract in his home country of Sweden to play for Frölunda HC. This is also where Axelsson began his professional playing career in 1993 and where he spent the NHL lock-out season of 2004-05. During the NHL lockout he helped the Frölunda Indians get their second championship in three years which was considered quite an accomplishment because the Swedish Elitserien League at the time was considered the best league in the entire world. So many stars that were unable to play in the NHL came to Europe, the majority of which were in Sweden, making the quality of play better than it had ever been.

    In the 11 seasons Per-Johan played in the NHL he called Boston home. While he wasn’t the most gifted scorer he personified a lot of what Boston Bruin’s hockey is. A smart, gritty player who was defensive minded and most always made the right decision with the puck. In just shy of 800 games in the NHL P.J. scored 103 goals, had 184 assists for a total of 287 points. 2002-03 was his most successful scoring season. He was only able to play in 66 games but still amassed career highs in goals with 17 and points with 36 in addition to 19 assists. He was seventh on the team in scoring that year. His career high of 24 assists came in his final season with the Black and Gold.

    It was after the 2009 NHL season that Axelsson inked a contract that put him back in a Frölunda uniform for the last four years of his playing career. Frölunda made the playoffs in three of those last four years but were unfortunately knocked out of the first round each time. Though P.J.’s time in the SEL was segregated by his time in the NHL he still managed to play in just over 300 games there totaling 61 goals and 71 assists for 132 points and a championship in 2004-05. He was drafted by the Bruins in the 1995 entry draft though was still playing in the SEL in 1996-97 when he had his most successful scoring season, perhaps being the catalyst to his call up to the NHL the next year. He had 19 goals and 15 assists for Frölunda that season.

    P.J.’s younger brother, Anton Axelsson, is currently playing for Frölunda and was drafted in 2004 by the Detroit Red Wings. He has yet to play in the NHL but there is still time for the 27 year old to make it to the Red Wing’s roster According to BettingTop 10 the odds are in his favor.

    Photo courtesy BostonBruins.com
    It was just this past April of 2013 when P.J. announced his retirement from professional hockey as a player. Then in August he was brought right back into the fold with an organization that was very familiar to him. The Boston Bruins named Axelsson as a scout for European talent that might have what it takes to make it in the NHL.

    Hopefully, I can find some talent, but I know it’s a tough job. You know, you watch a lot of games, and you see so many different players, hear so many opinions. It can be kind of overwhelming. To be honest, my head’s spinning — I hope it gets easier.

    Axelsson has had some help getting started in scouting with Svenake Svensson showing him the ropes. Svensson was actually the Bruin’s scout who convinced Boston to take a chance on Axelsson back in 1995.

    I’ve got a great teacher here. Like I say, there’s so much you think you have to do and watch, but the first thing he says is, ‘Just relax and watch the game . . . you’ll see who sticks out.’ So, I’ll just sit and watch and it will come to me, I guess. That’s what I am hoping, at least.

    Though Axelsson was not fortunate enough to win a Stanley Cup during his time in the NHL he still had success in his hockey career. In addition to his championship with Frölunda in 2004-05 Axelsson also received a bronze medal in the Ice Hockey World Championship in 2001 and 2002, a silver medal there in 2003 and 2004 and Olympic Gold with Sweden in 2006. Those of us that are fans of Per-Johan Axelsson continue to cheer him on finding the talent that will help keep the Bruins a force in the NHL for years to come.

    By Billman DeCosta