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Prospects Unlimited: Hjorth hopes shift to Sarnia sets stage for spot on Blue Jackets blueline

He left Sweden to make the move to the OHL's Sarnia Sting, and Hjorth hopes the lessons he's learning in major junior can clear a path to the big league.
Metcalfe Photography

Metcalfe Photography

For a kid who missed most of his draft year with a knee injury, defenseman Eric Hjorth hasn’t taken the easy road back. The 18-year-old left Sweden in the summer to join OHL Sarnia, but first he suited up for Columbus’ entry at the annual Traverse City Prospect Tournament. While the pace of the game seemed to overwhelm Hjorth at times, that was precisely why his presence was so important. “After the game your head is spinning,” said Mike Eaves, the AHL Cleveland coach who was behind the Columbus bench in Traverse City. “You think to yourself, ‘I can’t play this level, it’s too fast.’ But then after a while you realize it slows down. For him to come over to a smaller space, the speed and quickness is invaluable.”

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Hjorth has NHL size at 6-foot-3 and 192 pounds and moves well for a big guy. “I like to play with the puck and join the rush,” he said. “I like to shoot it, too.”

The young defenseman agreed with Eaves’ sentiment about the speed of the game over here, and that’s one of the reasons Hjorth signed on with the Sting. In Sarnia, he’s playing for ex-NHL blueliner Derian Hatcher – who never took a backward step to anyone in his brawny pro career. That mentorship should be ideal for his new import. “It’s good for me because he has so much NHL experience,” Hjorth said. “That will help get me to the next level. I want to improve my defensive game, get stronger in front of the net, hit more and play physical.”

Hjorth got off to a solid start in Sarnia, regularly appearing on the scoresheet in the early stages of the season. For a fourth-round pick who played only 10 games last year (including the playoffs), that’s pretty impressive. Clearly, Hjorth has persevered from his knee injury. “I was gone nearly the whole season,” he said. “It was tough because you see your friends and teammates play, and you’re doing rehab. But it was also a good learning experience to have an injury at a young age.”

Chalk it up as one of the many lessons Hjorth hopes will lead to the NHL. – Ryan Kennedy

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