Flames All-Time Countdown Chapter XXXII: 375-371

Tomas Forslund

Today, we look at right winger Tomas Forslund, defensemen Sami Helenius and Len Esau, center Brian Skrudland, and left winger Chris Higgins.

375. Tomas Forslund

Forslund was a 5'11", 200 lb. right winger from Falun, Sweden. Born on November 24th, 1968, he played five seasons with Leksands IF before joining the Flames, starting in 1986-87. His first stint with the Swedish team yielded 45 goals and 62 assists in 159 contests. The Flames chose him in the fifth round of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft with the 85th overall pick.

In 1991-92, Forslund decided to try his hand at the North American game. He earned an assist in his first contest, a 9-2 Flames win over the Edmonton Oilers in the season opener on October 4th. On October 17th, he scored his first NHL goal as the Flames defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs, 6-4. After totaling two goals and three assists in his first 19 games, the Flames sent him down to the Salt Lake Golden Eagles (22 games, 10 goals, six assists) halfway through November. He rejoined the Flames a month later. He scored two assists on December 29th in a 6-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Then on January 8th, he netted a goal with two assists and an overall plus-4 rating in a 10-3 shellacking of the San Jose Sharks. He would total five goals on 48 shots along with nine assists and a minus-6 rating for Calgary over 38 games.

1992-93 would see Forslund score 31 goals with 23 assists over 63 games with the Golden Eagles. The Flames would only employ him at the NHL level for six games through the season. He took three shots on goal and totaled two assists.

In 1993-94, Forslund rejoined Leksands for three seasons (107 games, 53 goals, 40 assists). He then joined the Cologne Sharks for five seasons in Germany (252 games, 77 goals, 129 assists) before playing with Leksands for a third tour (47 games, five goals, two assists).

All-Time Statline: 44 games, five goals, 11 assists, minus-6 rating, 12 penalty minutes, 0.19 point shares.

374. Sami Helenius

Helenius was a 6'5", 225 lb. defenseman from Helsinki, Finland. Born on January 22nd, 1974, he was chosen by the Flames in the fifth round of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft with the 102nd overall selection. He would soon start his professional career with Jokerit Helsinki for one game in 1992-93. He played 1993-94 with Reipas Lahti (37 games, two goals, three assists).

Starting with the 1994-95 season, Helenius played two seasons with the Saint John Flames, scoring two goals and eight assists in 137 games. He would also earn the nickname, "the Fighting Finn" for spending 448 minutes in the penalty box.

1996-97 would see Helenius play most of the season back with Saint John (72 games, five goals, 10 assists, 218 PiM). He would also join the Flames for three contests around the end of the calendar year. In his second game, he earned an assist on Calgary's only goal in a 5-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks on New Years Eve. Notably, he did not earn a single penalty in his short callup.

Helenius split the following season between Saint John (63 games, one goal, two assists, 185 PiM) and the IHL's Las Vegas Thunder (10 games, one assist, 19 PiM). The first half of the 1998-99 season would see him play 42 games for Las Vegas (two goals, three assists, 193 PiM). In the middle of his time there, he was called up to Calgary for the final time in the middle of November. He would only appear in four contests, earning a plus-2 rating and eight penalty minutes. On January 29th, the Flames traded him to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a draft pick and cash considerations.

Helenius played four games for the Bolts, scoring once. He also played with the Colorado Avalanche (33 games, 46 PiM), the Dallas Stars (101 games, one goal, two assists, 163 PiM) and the Chicago Blackhawks (10 games, one assist, 28 PiM). Starting in 2003-04, he rejoined the Finnish League for seven seasons between Jokerit (149 games, one goal, seven assists, 377 PiM), Ilves Tampere (53 games, 162 PiM), and the Pelicans (154 games, two goals, five assists, 467 PiM).

All-Time Statline: Seven games, zero goals, one assist, minus-1 rating, eight penalty minutes, 0.20 point shares.

373. Len Esau

Esau was a 6'3", 195 lb. defenseman from Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. Born on March 16th, 1968, he was drafted out of high school by the Edmonton Oilers in the fifth round of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft with the 86th overall pick. After his selection, he started a two year collegiate career with St. Cloud State (64 games, 20 goals, 38 assists).

In 1990-91, Esau played 75 games for the Newmarket Saints (four goals, 14 assists). The following season would see him in his NHL debut with Toronto for two games, but he still spent most of the year in the AHL, this time with the St. John's Maple Leafs (78 games, nine goals, 29 assists). In 1992-93, he was part of the Nordiques organization, and played four games with the club (one assist) along with 75 for the Halifax Citadels (11 goals, 31 assists).

Before the 1993-94 season, Esau was signed by the Flames as a free agent. He started and ended the season with the Saint John version of the Flames (75 games, 12 goals, 36 assists, 129 PiM). On December 30th, he was called up to Calgary and earned an assist in the Flames 7-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers. On January 2nd, he tabbed two helpers as the Flames dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to the St. Louis Blues. He played six games with the Flames, earning seven penalty minutes and taking four shots on goal.

In 1994-95, Esau scored 13 goals and 27 assists in 54 games for Saint John. On January 18th, the Oilers claimed him on waivers from the Flames, and he played in 14 games for Edmonton. He totaled six assists and 15 penalty minutes. On March 7th, He was waived by Edmonton, and since one good turn deserves another, the Flames claimed him right back. He only played in one game that season for the Flames, taking four shots on goal and finishing at minus-2 in a 5-0 loss to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. It was his last appearance in the NHL.

Esau later played with the Cincinnati Cyclones (82 games, 15 goals, 21 assists, 150 PiM), the Milwaukee Admirals (75 games, nine goals, 25 assists, 102 PiM), the Detroit Vipers (30 games, six goals, eight assists, 36 PiM), the Indianapolis Ice (55 games, six goals, 33 assists), and Seibu (Japan, 21 games, six goals, 11 assists). He closed his career after two more seasons with the Cyclones (146 games, 11 goals, 33 assists, 125 PiM).

All-Time Statline: Seven games, zero goals, three assists, minus-3 rating, seven PiM, 0.20 point shares.

372. Brian Skrudland

Skrudland was a 6' center from Peace River, Alberta. Born on July 31st, 1963, he played three WHL seasons with the Saskatoon Blades beginning in the 1980-81 season, scoring 77 goals and 115 assists in 208 contests. He made his professional debut with the 1983-84 Nova Scotia Voyageurs of the AHL, scoring 13 goals and 12 assists in 56 games. 1984-85 would see him play in 70 AHL games with the Sherbrooke Canadiens, scoring 22 goals and 28 assists.

In 1985-86, Skrudland made his first NHL appearance with the Montreal Canadiens (65 games, nine goals, 13 assists), adding two goals and four assists in 20 playoff matches on Montreal's way to the 1986 Stanley Cup. He ended up playing eight seasons with Montreal, scoring 78 goals and 139 assists in 475 regular season games. Montreal traded him to the Calgary Flames on January 28, 1993 for Gary Leeman.

Skrudland finished out the season with Calgary. He scored his first goal on February 10th when the Flames defeated the San Jose Sharks 13-1 (not a typo). His biggest positive impact while with Calgary was felt during the playoffs, as he totaled three assists in six games as the Flames lost to the Kings four-games-to-two. Calgary left him unprotected in the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft, where the Florida Panthers picked him up. He would be Florida's first ever Captain when he took the ice for Florida's inaugural match.

Skrudland played four seasons for the Panthers (256 games, 32 goals, 67 assists, 401 PiM). He signed a free agent contract with the New York Rangers prior to the next season (59 games, five goals, six assists), later playing in parts of three seasons with the Dallas Stars (75 games, seven goals, three assists). He retired following the Stars appearance in the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals, a Dallas loss in six games to the New Jersey Devils.

All-Time Statline: 16 games, two goals, four assists, plus-3 rating, 10 PiM, 0.20 point shares.

371. Chris Higgins

Higgins is a 6', 205 lb. left winger from Smithtown, New York. Born on June 2nd, 1983, he was picked by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, with the 14th overall selection. He played collegiate hockey for the Yale University Bulldogs, scoring 34 goals and 38 assists in 55 games.

In 2003-04, Higgins made his professional debut with the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs, scoring 21 goals with 27 assists in 67 games. He also made his first NHL appearance, playing in two games with the Habs in October. He remained with the Bulldogs in 2004-05, through 76 games scoring 28 goals with 23 assists. This would represent his last minor league appearance to date.

In 2005-06, Higgins spent the whole season with Montreal, appearing in 80 games. Through five seasons, he finished with 84 goals and 67 assists in 282 games. The Habs traded him to the New York Rangers on June 30, 2009 with Ryan McDonagh and Pavel Valentenko for Scott GomezTom Pyatt and Michael Busto.

After 55 games with the Rangers (six goals, eight assists, 32 PiM), New York traded him with Ales Kotalik for Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust. On March 9th, he scored his first goal with Calgary in a 4-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. He scored another in his next match two nights later, in a 2-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators. He played in a total of 12 games for the Flames, totaling an assist and an even rating with his two goals (on 28 shots), averaging 16 minutes a night. The Florida Panthers picked him up as a free agent during the 2010 offseason.

After part of a season with Florida (48 games, 11 goals, 12 assists), the Panthers traded him to the Vancouver Canucks. He has played the last three and a half seasons there (204 games, 47 goals, 55 assists) and is signed with the team through the 2016-17 season.

All-Time Statline: 12 games, one goal, two assists, even rating, zero penalty minutes, 0.20 point shares.

Tomorrow, Lance Bouma and Johnny Hockey!

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