By Matt Calamia
What began as a challenging 2013-14 season ended nearly as positively as Carl Hagelin could have dreamed of.
After missing the first 10 games of the season due to offseason shoulder surgery, Hagelin posted a career-best 17 goals and was just four points shy of tying his career-best with 34 poitns. Hagelin carried over his strong regular season into what was easily his best postseason of his career, scoring seven goals and 12 points in 25 games, making him one of the most consistent Blueshirts in the tournament.
Those two accomplishments book-ended his first appearance in the Olympics as a member of Team Sweden, adding another checkmark to the young players’ career bucket list.
After starting the series in the press box, it would have been hard to write a better script for Hagelin’s third season in the NHL.
“You definitely developed as a player,” Hagelin said of his year. “You grew as a player and as a person. You got to play with the National Team. Form me being the first time and being part of this team with so many great guys. Definitely grew. Definitely a great experience and something I’ll remember the rest of my life.”
The motivation for the young Swede is certainly there. Hagelin, along with Henrik Lundqvist, had to endure defeats on the game’s biggest stages, as both lost to Team Canada in the Gold Medal game in February, and again in the Final against Los Angeles.
While Hagelin didn’t match his career-best 38 points from his rookie season in 2011-12, he took on a major role in the team’s makeup, namely as one of the squad’s go-to penalty killers. Hagelin averaged 1:40 of short-handed ice time per game, which was tied for second-most on the Rangers.
Hagelin shined in the playoffs, scoring big goals at big times, including in his first ever Stanley Cup Final match.
No. 62 also had a strong Olympic Games despite being used in a limited role, scoring two goals in six games with the National team.
“It’s something you dream about your whole life, you know, winning the Stanley Cup” Hagelin said Tuesday at the team’s breakup day. “When you’re that close, you realize how hard it is to get there. But you also realize how much fun you have on the way there and how much you really want to get back in that situation.”
The 25-year-old’s best days are still ahead of him, and this surprising run to within three wins of the organization’s first title in 20 years only adds fuel to the fire that’s already burning bright.
“This [season] just gives me that much more to work hard this summer and try to improve to help this team win it all next year.”