It's not quite Sven-sanity, but it certainly has the city of Calgary jumping.
Rookie Sven Baertschi and his goal-scoring antics have helped the Calgary Flames stay in the Western Conference playoff race and created an undeniable buzz among local hockey fans. The 19-year-old Swiss-born forward scored again Thursday in Calgary's 4-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes and will once again be in the line-up when the Flames take on the Oilers in Edmonton on Friday.
So far, Baertschi has three goals in four games as an emergency call-up from the WHL's Portland Winterhawks. According to NHL rules, the Flames are obligated to return Baertschi to Portland the moment one of their injured players is cleared to return. Calgary has several regulars on the mend, including Lance Bouma, Lee Stempniak and Tim Jackman, who could be the first to rejoin the team.
All of Baertschi's three goals have highlighted his deft skills with the puck. Eighteen seconds into the Phoenix game, he jumped on a loose puck and easily sniped it past goalie Mike Smith. Baertschi also made a fine defensive play later in the game, diving to knock a puck away from a speeding Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Afterwards, a smiling Baertschi told reporters: "It's something you dream of as a little kid. To come here and just play three games at home and then you hear the whole crowd is crazy. That's special."
The hoopla over the 2011 first-round draft pick is understandable. The Flames haven't had an impact player since they drafted defenceman Dion Phaneuf in 2003. The organization has especially been stumped when it comes to drafting skilled forwards. The last one of note to step in as a raw rookie and start scoring immediately was Jarome Iginla.
Calgary coach Brent Sutter has been delighted with Baertschi's play and even had him on the ice in the team's recent overtime win against the San Jose Sharks. Asked why he did that, Sutter replied, "I wanted his skill set in OT." After beating the Coyotes, Sutter gave Baertschi a seal of approval.
"He's ready for this level, although obviously he has to go back (to Portland) at some point."
The Winterhawks have carried on quite nicely without their second-leading scorer with 48 wins in 70 games for 100 points. They begin their WHL playoffs on March 23.