If I spoke even a speck of Swedish and could have approached Canucks prospects Anton Rodin and Peter Andersson
with a few questions in their native tongue, the floodgates might have opened as to what makes these guys tick.
Instead we bumbled our way through English interviews, me trying to keep it simple while they focused on processing a language they’ve been taught sparingly since the fourth grade.
The cream that rose to the top from all of this is that even though Rodin and Andersson, both 2009 draft picks, struggle with a foreign language, they are at home with skates on, sticks in hand.
Really, that's all that matters.
Rodin, Vancouver's second round choice who was summoned 53rd overall this year, admitted it took him a few days to get comfortable with his surroundings having only been to Canada once.
By Wednesday his first trip to Vancouver was already a memorable one because he could feel his skills sharpening.
For Rodin to admit that after putting together a brilliant first season playing for Brynäs IF, a pro Swedish team from Gävle, is pretty impressive.
The 18-year-old right-winger scored 29 goals and added 26 assists for 55 points in only 37 games. Naturally that led to draft attention for the 5-foot-11, 169-pound Stockholm product and as luck would have it, he ended up with the Canucks, one of two teams he had his fingers crossed about snagging him.
Since Rodin was 6-years-old and his dad, a computer programmer, introduced him to hockey, he’s been doing everything in his power to progress his way to what he has always viewed as the best league in the world, without question.
“My goal has always been to play in the NHL,” said Rodin, the eldest of three children, between during lunch at UBC on Wednesday.
“I was watching Mats Sundin and Peter Forsberg and those guys ever since I started playing and that made me want to play in the NHL.”
Oddly enough, while visions of suiting up alongside his hometown icons in the NHL fluttered in his head, Rodin chose to emulate his game after an American born player in New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise.
Like Parise, who finished third in goals and fifth in points after a breakout 2008-09 campaign, Rodin accesses himself as a “fast skater with good stick handling and a pretty good shot who plays intense.”
His biggest weakness right now is that he’s light on his skates, similar to what Parise went through as an 18-year-old at the University of North Dakota.
“I’m focused now on improving my strength to gain a few pounds,” said Rodin. “The nutritionist [we met with on Tuesday] was good and I have one back home too. That helps.”
Andersson, the other half of the Swedish contingent at camp, was picked in the 5th round, 143rd overall, by the Canucks and the moment he got the call informing him he was with Vancouver, time stopped.
Like Rodin, Andersson was holding his breath that a team with a nice Swedish flavour would select him and the defenceman certainly got his wish.
The stocky 6-foot-3, 194-pound blueliner speaks of coming to Vancouver with such pride that you’d think he bribed Canucks GM Mike Gillis to nab him.
He doesn’t know much about the internal workings of the organization, but he’s learning on the fly and Andersson has been pushing himself this week to improve his biggest weakness.
“The most important for me is the stick handling and working with the puck, that’s what I try to work on the most,” said Andersson, a native of Kvidinge, Sweden, a municipality with just over 2,000 people – or as he puts it “it’s not so big, you drive by and miss it.”
“I start in hockey at age 3 and I have two brother that always played hockey and I was always in the arena running around and my dad would be chasing me.
“Since then I always have fun in hockey but stick handling always needs work.”
This week Andersson has been paying extra attention to the teachings of stick handling guru Dusan Kralik, senior instructor with Endure Sports. Whether his dedication pays off or not won’t be known until he returns to Sweden for his second go around with Frölunda HC, a pro team based in Gothenburg.
If deft hands become part of Andersson’s repertoire, look out.
The 18-year-old already sees himself as a “good two-way player, I can get on offence and then get back on defence, and I have a good shot and I like to play physical;” mix in a quicker pass out of the zone and this prospect's stock will rise even more.
The son of a firefighter and a nurse, Andersson has great work ethic and similar to his idol Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings, he prides himself on using it to gain an advantage over the opposition.
As prospects camp rolls on Thursday and Friday, Rodin and Andersson will continue taking in as much as possible en route back to their teams in Sweden.
Another year or two and both players will likely be making their way to North America and the significance of that certainly isn’t lost in translation.