Canucks prospect Anton Rodin just wants to play. Plain and simple.
When Anton Rodin plays, he plays well. The only problem is, he doesn’t play very much.
Rodin scored a goal on his first shift, and added an assist and a penalty as Sweden’s national junior defeated the Carleton Ravens 5-1 in their first of three World Junior tune-up games earlier this month.
Not bad for a night’s work, one might think. Try again. Rodin’s first shift came in the third period. He wasn’t even supposed to play at all. He started the game as the 13th forward, but was forced into action after Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson left the game with a concussion. Rodin spent the first two periods sitting on the bench, cheering on his teammates. And he’s been doing a lot of that this year over in Sweden.
After putting up 55 points in 37 games with the Brynas junior team last season, Rodin made the jump the men’s team in the Swedish Elite League this season, where he is averaging just over six minutes of ice-time per game. And he’s found it to be a big change.
“It’s been like upside-down, I think,” said the Canucks second-round draft-pick in last summer’s entry draft. “It’s hard to get the ice time. It’s frustrating, of course. You want to play as much as you can. But I’m doing my best and that’s all I can do.”
And his best has impressed Canucks scout Inge Hammarstrom, who lives on the same street as Rodin in Gavle, Sweden, the city in which Brynas plays.
“When he plays, he’s been good, and at times sensational,” said Hammarstrom, who is currently in Finland scouting a tournament of 1992-born players.
Hammarstrom talks to Rodin on a regular basis, with the goal of mainly just trying to keep his spirits up.
“I try to just give him advice, cheer him up, and keep pushing him to work hard,” said Hammarstrom. “If he can battle through this, he will come back to North America and produce.”
Hammarstrom says that he has been in contact with Brynas’ management, and if Rodin doesn’t start to see more ice time, he might be sent down to the Allsvenkan league, where he would likely see 20-25 minutes per night. The Allsvenkan league is also a men’s league in Sweden, just a lower level, equivalent to the AHL in relation to the NHL.
Although Hammarstrom says coming over to play in North America is not being considered as an option at the moment, Rodin admits that he’s thought about it.
“I’ll take it one year at a time,” said Rodin, who tries to follow the Canucks as much as he can. “But there are thoughts about that. Right now, I’m just focusing on playing as well as I can in Brynas.”
Judging by the fact that he was named to Sweden’s preliminary roster for next month’s World Junior Championships in Saskatchewan, he must be doing something right. Rickard Gronborg, Sweden’s team manager, says that there may be a difference of two or three players when the final roster is named, but he likes what Rodin brings to the table.
“Anton is obviously a very smart player with the puck,” said Gronborg. “He’s an intelligent hockey player and I think that’s the biggest thing for him. I mean his skills and everything else are very good, but what sticks out for me is that he’s a smart player out there.”
By all accounts, there’s a very good chance he’ll be in Saskatchewan next month when Sweden goes for gold, and he’s looking forward to the opportunity.
“Of course, I’m excited,” said Rodin. “It’s fun. You know, coming here to play more than 10 minutes like I do at home.”
Rodin just wants to play, and he continually proves that he can. So, just let the kid play.
Farhan Devji is a freelance journalist based in Ottawa. Find out more about him and his journalism dream here.