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Flames select Swedish blue-liner Erixon with 23rd pick in NHL draft

MONTREAL - Already destined to pick in the bottom third of the first round of the NHL draft, the Calgary Flames felt it was more important to accumulate picks than to target a specific player.

But in the end, the Flames managed to do both.

Calgary took Swedish defenceman Tim Erixon with the 23rd overall pick Friday night after trading down from No. 20 and grabbing the 84th overall pick from the New Jersey Devils.

The Flames now have two third-round and two fourth-round picks for day two of the draft Saturday, but none in the second round.

"When we got to our pick, we still had four or five guys that would have been there at No. 25," said Flames GM Darryl Sutter. "So we wanted to get a pick because we didn't have a second (round pick) and we would still be able to get one of the guys we wanted."

It's the second time in three years the Flames have used their first-round pick on a Swedish player after going six straight drafts without selecting a European with their top pick.

Erixon, six foot two and 190 pounds, was the fifth-ranked European skater on the NHL Central Scouting Bureau list, but Sutter said the Flames had him ranked as the fourth blue-liner in the draft.

"I would say I'm a two-way defenceman, and my strength is probably my hockey sense," Erixon said. "I want to get more explosive in my skating. But I like to join the rush and play a two-way game."

Erixon already has one professional season under his belt, having played 45 games with Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Elite League this season.

"I was pretty late developing, I think," Erixon said. "I'm still growing and getting bigger. At the start of the season I didn't even have a contract with a team, but I dressed for 45 games and I think that's a good thing."

Erixon was named to the all-star team at the 2009 world under-18 championship and also helped Sweden win the silver medal at the 2009 world junior championship.

Erixon is the son of Jan Erixon, who played 10 seasons with the New York Rangers and had 216 points in 556 games.

"It really didn't come into play at all," Sutter said of Erixon's bloodlines.

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