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Feb. 22, 2012

by Cory Oyama -

Grand Rapids Griffins forward Gustav Nyquist's time with the Detroit Red Wings was brief, playing in five games with the team, but he still can't help smiling when reflecting on his first time in the National Hockey League.

"It's a dream come true to be up there," Nyquist said. "You learn something new every day and it’s a great experience for a young guy like me to get up there and play with the best guys in the world."

Nyquist's first game in the NHL was against the Minnesota Wild on Nov. 1."I had some butterflies before the game, but once I got out there for my first shift I felt a lot better."

Some elite linemates helped Nyquist's transition into the NHL go smoothly. "I got to play with [Johan] Franzen and [Todd] Bertuzzi my first game, so that was obviously a special feeling."

It wasn't until his fourth game with the Red Wings that Nyquist recorded his first point in the NHL. Brad Stuart passed him the puck along the boards behind the Dallas Stars net. Nyquist managed to fight off a defender and thread a pass to former Griffin Cory Emmerton, who banked an off-angle shot off Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.

Nyquist's outstanding rookie season was recognized this January when he was selected to the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic. With this selection, Nyquist became the Griffins first rookie forward since Chris Bala in 2002 to make an appearance at the All-Star Game, which does not come as a surprise when you look at the Griffins’ single-season rookie scoring leaders.

The Halmstad, Sweden, native has 47 points (16-31—47) in 46 games, already landing among the franchise’s top five rookie seasons ever. Nyquist is tied with Kevyn Adams (22-25—47 in 1996-97) for fourth place, trailing teammate Francis Pare (24-24—48 in 2008-09) by one point. He’s also within striking distance of two familiar names on top of the list: Justin Abdelkader (24-28—52 in 2008-09) and Glen Metropolit (20-35—55 in 1997-98).

"We knew last year we were getting a special player," Griffins coach Curt Fraser said. "He was here for a handful of games, and he was arguably one of the best players on the ice every night."

Nyquist was the only member of his team selected to represent the Griffins organization at the All-Star Game.

"You like to see your guys get picked obviously, and it’s a real nice reward for strong play, but at the same time it’s a drain on the players when they go to it and it can be very difficult. In the past, we’ve had some players go, some young kids, and they’ve come back and they’ve been tired for a month,” Fraser said. “It looks like he has come back here and hasn’t been affected by it. He’s a little more mature, and hopefully it won’t slow him down at all and he’ll finish off here real strong."

"It's a big honor. I was actually a little surprised I was the only one selected," Nyquist said.

Since the All-Star break, Nyquist has continued to lead the Griffins offensively. He’s recorded points in six straight games from Feb. 4-18 to tie the Griffins’ second-longest point streak of the season.

"The biggest goal right now is just to get in the playoff spot and go from there," Nyquist said. "I think we have a good team, so once we get in the playoffs I think we can do some damage."

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