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FEATURE: Ejdsell contributing offensively while focused on development

Blackhawks prospect Victor Ejdsell has contributed offensively early in the AHL playoffs but understands his work is far from over

by Chris Wescott / chicagoblackhawks.com

It's easier when a young European player can wade into the North American game, taking things slow and steady. There's often times an adjustment period.

For Chicago Blackhawks prospect Victor Ejdsell, his numbers in the American Hockey League playoffs would lead you to believe he's jumping right in the water, with little wading necessary.

Video: Victor Ejdsell on 2-0 series lead, special teams

Three goals and two assists in his first five postseason games for the Rockford IceHogs is a solid stat line for a 22-year-old forward, who is not even 20 cumulative games into his professional career state-side. But ask him and he'll tell you his transition has been far from easy.

"It's been tough finding my way into games," said Ejdsell. "It's different."

The Karlstad, Sweden native is a big kid (6'5'', 214 pounds) who is still finding his stride. Overseas, he was able to utilize a larger ice surface to his advantage, a benefit he no longer has in the AHL.

"You need to have more of an (aggressive) game," he said. "You've got to be more direct, crashing the net more and just be fast in your mind… You always have less time. That's why it's been hard for me. In the European rink, if you don't have the time you can just be making a cutback and then you have more time. That's not how it works here. I've got to keep finding my way into games. It's getting better, and I think I'm still improving myself."

Ejdsell's offensive talents were on full display during the 2016-17 season in the Allsvenskan league. The forward compiled 25 goals and 32 assists for BIK Karlskoga, leading the league in scoring and being named the Forward of the Year and league's Most Valuable Player.

Rockford IceHogs Head Coach Jeremy Colliton had good tickets to the show, coaching against the youngster while with Mora IK.

"He looked over there like a guy who could make a difference offensively," said Colliton. "He's got some outstanding offensive qualities. He's got an excellent shot, an excellent one-timer and he's just continued to develop."

Colliton wasn't surprised to see Ejdsell continue his success and development in the highest level of Swedish hockey this season. Ejdsell potted 20 goals and added 14 assists for HV71 in the SHL. Of late, his offensive abilities have shown on North American ice, where he's helped the IceHogs race out to a 5-0-0 start to these Calder Cup Playoffs.

Ejdsell had two assists in only his second playoff game and then erupted for two goals in a series-clinching victory over the Chicago Wolves on April 26. One of those tallies came at 17:22 of the third overtime period, making for an exhausted, but memorable, celebration. He then scored in Game 1 against the Manitoba Moose, the first of a four-goal run that inevitably led to a 4-2 win.

But, once again, there's always room for improvement.

"I'm not surprised he's been able to produce for us here," said Colliton. "It's about getting up to speed and increasing his pace of play. If he does that, he's going to get even more offensive opportunities I feel. Obviously, he's contributing already but I feel there's more to give."

Ejdsell played six games for the Blackhawks at the end of the season, recording one assist. When he left Chicago to join Rockford, the brass had some areas of his game they wanted the young prospect to focus on.

"Keep working on my speed and my strength as well," he said of the to-do list. "If I'm going to be a good NHL player, I've got to be strong on the puck and keep it on my stick if I've got it and make plays from that. That's what I'm focused on after these playoffs and in my offseason workouts."

Speed is a key word with Ejdsell, who will eventually look to make a jump to the NHL full-time. In order to do that, he'll have to keep up with fast-paced, quick-processing opponents.

"I've been a big guy my whole life but my speed has not been my strength," he said. "I've been working on it a lot, for the past year especially. It's what I have to do. If I get better with my speed I'll put myself in a better position in the games so I have more time too."

Speed is physical, but also mental. Ejdsell is working on processing what he sees at a faster pace in order to better his two-way game. It's something that has been put to the test with the IceHogs early on.

"When you get the puck and you're not aware of what is happening around you, they're coming for you. It's coming fast. You've got to know, if you get the puck, what you're going to do with it. That's also something I have to work on, being strong on the boards and stuff like that."

Ejdsell was acquired by Chicago on February 26, in a trade with the Nashville Predators. As with any young prospect, the forward is eyeing a spot with the big club, but he isn't getting ahead of himself, understanding there's more work and more development to be done. He doesn't know if he'll be ready to see NHL action at the start of the 2018-19 campaign, but he knows what comes next in his immediate future.

"I have a very important summer in front of me. I have to keep working on (the things Chicago told me to do) and we'll see where it goes."

In the meantime, Ejdsell and his Rockford teammates are having fun with their current situation - one that hopefully delays the arrival of that important summer.

"That's why you play. You like winning," Ejdsell said. "It's been great. When you're winning, it makes everything easier, off-ice or on-ice. We have a great group of guys who are really taking care of us new guys. Everything so far has been great."

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