31 October 1959|
|Height||5 ft 7 in (170 cm)|
|Weight||161 lb (73 kg; 11 st 7 lb)|
37th overall, 1979|
Näslund was selected in the second round as the 37th overall pick in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, by the Montreal Canadiens. After playing for three more years in Sweden, he joined the Canadiens for the 1982–83 NHL season. He was the first European-born player to play for the Canadiens.
In his rookie season of 1982–83, Näslund scored 71 points in 74 games, becoming the Canadiens' third leading scorer behind Guy Lafleur and Ryan Walter, who had 76 and 75 points respectively. That year, he was recognized as the left winger on the NHL All-Rookie Team.
His offensive abilities quickly endeared him to Montreal fans, and he was given the nickname of "Le Petit Viking" (The Little Viking), a reference to his Nordic heritage and his short stature. Teammate Mario Tremblay jokingly said when Näslund arrived that the Habs only received half of a player and the other half would arrive later.
Näslund had his best NHL season in 1985–86. He scored 43 goals and 67 assists (110 points, eighth in the NHL that season), the first Montreal player to top 100 points since Lafleur had 125 in 1979–80, and the last Canadien to reach 100 points or finish among the league's top ten scorers as of 2019–20. His 67 assists were an NHL record for a left winger until Kevin Stevens of the Pittsburgh Penguins scored 69 in 1991–92. In the 1986 Stanley Cup playoffs, the speedy Näslund was Montreal's top point-getter (with 19), as the Canadiens won their twenty-third Stanley Cup, their first since 1979. He also led the Montreal Canadiens in scoring in 1986–87, albeit with 30 points fewer than he had the preceding season.
During his NHL career, Näslund was an infrequent visitor to the penalty box. Never logging more than 19 penalty minutes in any season during his career, his gentlemanly play was recognized when he was voted the winner of the 1987–88 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, beating Wayne Gretzky in the voting. (He is the latter of only two Habs to win the Lady Byng, following Toe Blake in 1945–46.) During the 1988 NHL All-Star Game, his five assists established a record, and he was instrumental in helping Mario Lemieux set the All-Star Game record with six points.
After a sub-par 1989–90 season, worn down by the relatively long NHL seasons, Näslund left the Canadiens to return to Europe. He played one year in Switzerland, followed by three seasons in his native Sweden. He returned to the NHL to play for the Boston Bruins in the lockout shortened 1994–95 season, and retired from hockey thereafter.
Näslund ranks twelfth on the Canadiens all-time scoring list, with 612 points in 617 regular season games.
Despite both playing hockey, he is not related to Markus Näslund.
Regular season and playoffs
|Men's ice hockey|
|Men's Ice hockey|
|1980 Lake Placid||Sweden|
|1979 Soviet Union||Sweden|
Näslund is one of Swedish hockey's all-time great players, and as such represented his country at numerous international tournaments. As a junior, he represented Sweden at the 1978 and 1979 World Junior Hockey Championship, winning a silver medal in 1978 and a bronze medal the following year.
Näslund would go on to participate in five World Hockey Championships, winning a bronze in 1979, a silver in 1981 and a gold in 1991, his last appearance at the event. Because the World Championships occur at the same time as the Stanley Cup playoffs, Näslund was often not available for the event during his best years in Montreal. His sole appearance as an active NHL player came in 1983.
Näslund did get the chance to play for Sweden against the NHL's best players at the 1984, 1987 and 1991 Canada Cup, the forerunner to the World Cup. The Swedes lost to Canada in the finals of the 1984 event. They reached the semifinal game in both 1987 and 1991, losing to the USSR and Canada respectively.
Näslund also participated in two Winter Olympics, in 1980 and 1994. Sweden won the bronze medal in 1980 and the gold medal in 1994, that year defeating Canada in a memorable shootout. The gold medal in 1994 gave Näslund the distinction of having won the Stanley Cup, World Championship and Olympic Championship in his career, and (along with Håkan Loob and Tomas Jonsson) becoming the first member(s) of the Triple Gold Club.
Awards, honors and championships
- World Junior Ice Hockey Championship All-Star Team, 1978
- Golden Puck (Swedish Player of the Year), 1980
- Swedish league champion, 1980, 1992, 1994
- NHL All-Rookie Team, 1983
- Played in NHL All-Star Game, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1989 (injured, did not play)
- Viking Award (for the best Swede in the NHL), 1985, 1986
- NHL Second All-Star Team, 1986
- Stanley Cup champion, 1986
- Lady Byng Trophy, 1988
- World Champion, 1991
- Olympic gold medal, 1994
- Farber, Michael (July 3–10, 2006). "Lost & Found". Sports Illustrated. p. 120.
- "Mats Naslund appointed temporary manager of Sweden's national hockey team". HighBeam research. Associated Press. July 4, 2005. Archived from the original on May 16, 2011. Retrieved April 22, 2007.
- Collins gem Hockey Facts and Stats 2009–10, p.510, Andrew Podnieks, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd, Toronto, Canada, ISBN 978-1-55468-621-6