COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Anton Forsberg has been a popular topic of conversation among Blue Jackets fans after two consecutive years of impressing at development camp. While they'll have to wait a bit longer to see him play in North America, the next step of his career is no less exciting for him and the organization.
Forsberg, who will turn 21 in the fall, is slated to make the jump from Sweden's Allsvenskan league (second division) to the Swedish Elite League this year. He signed his entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets earlier in the offseason and will suit up for Modo - one of the most successful hockey organizations in Europe and a club that's hosted some of the top Swedish-born players in the history of the sport - in the 2013-14 season.
Whether he becomes the starting goaltender for Modo is purely up to him, but Forsberg is clearly advancing in his development. The Blue Jackets had high hopes for Forsberg, their seventh-round pick (No. 188 overall) in 2011, and he appears to be on the verge of becoming a legitimate No. 1 netminder.
"It’s an opportunity for him to backstop a team at one of the top levels in the world," Blue Jackets goaltending coach Ian Clark said. "Anton is a structurally fantastic goaltender who continues to evolve the competitive and athletic sides of his game. He’s a tremendous worker; if I could pick a goalie that I know works as hard as Sergei Bobrovsky, it’s Anton Forsberg. That’s always nice to have in your back pocket with an organization."
Forsberg wrapped up another development camp at the Ohio Health Ice Haus this past week, but like all goalies in the organization, spent additional time over the weekend working with Clark while most of the prospects headed home.
That slight adjustment in the camp schedule allowed for more hands-on teaching and a chance to further examine each goalie's game, Clark said, which is an important aspect of coaching a position that's such a crucial part of hockey.
"It’s a very unique position relative to the rest of the group," Clark said. "It’s a very individualized coach position, so we can see a lot of things in these environments. At the same time, game environments are critical because of the unpredictability and dynamic nature of the sport as a factor. You get into these structural environments (i.e. development camp) and sometimes it’s a little predictable, but you can see their habits and some of the positional selections they make.
"You see lots of tendencies in these environments, and given the opportunity to get on the ice with these guys, it’s a good opportunity to dig in."
Forsberg made 33 appearances for Sodertalje (Allsvenskan) in 2012-13 and carried a stout goals-against average of 2.04, while also seeing action in eight postseason contests. He's accomplished a lot in his young career - including being named to Sweden's 2012 World Junior team - but has had to buckle down and refine his game in recent years.
At the top of his to-do list: settling down and playing a more composed game. As a goaltender blessed with natural athleticism and a strong work ethic, Forsberg has learned to become more economical with his movement and it has paid off.
“I’m just doing my best, and trying to work and develop," Forsberg said. “That’s true. It’s good to be here and get some instruction from him and take it back with me to Sweden.Last year I got a more calm game, and this year, I know what I’m going to do in every situation.
"That’s a big difference. I know exactly where I’m going to be (and) where the puck is going to be."