By Warren Kozireski
“I’ve been learning a lot from last year, I’m more confident in my game and I feel like I can do more,” Rakell says.
Special to AnaheimDucks.com
Two years ago, Rickard Rakell
made the decision to leave his native Sweden and move to North America to play junior hockey with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League and he hasn’t looked back.
With his team immersed in a quarterfinal playoff series against regional rival Kitchener after defeating Guelph four games to two in the first round, the soon-to-be 19 year old has built on his solid rookie campaign with an even better second year in 2011-12.
The 2011 Ducks first-round pick (30th overall) had 28 goals, including eight on the power play, with 34 assists over 60 games, which bettered his 20 goal-25 assist season from a year ago. But the highlight of the year was winning a gold medal with Team Sweden at the World Junior Under-20 championships in Calgary/Edmonton this past January.
“I’ve been learning a lot from last year, I’m more confident in my game and I feel like I can do more,” Rakell said late in regular season. “I miss my friends and my family and this (Plymouth) is a different spot. But I wanted to learn because I want to play in the National Hockey League. It’s been working out great and we have a great team to make a long run in the playoffs.”
The 6-2, 190-pound center hails from Sollentuna, Sweden, which is 20 miles north of Stockholm inland from the Baltic Sea.
As for the World Juniors, where he netted two goals with three assists in the six games, “That was amazing. I felt like we had a good team and to go and do what we did that was just…it gets like that when you haven’t won for 31 years, but we always knew ourselves and I think that’s what made us strong.”
The latest edition of The Hockey News Future Watch lists Rakell 36th on list of 50 top prospects -- one of three Swedes among the Ducks' top 10.
“I’m very happy to be with Anaheim," Rakell says. "I feel like they are taking good care of me and making sure I’m making progress too. I want to work hard this summer and see where that takes me.
“I want to play in Anaheim as quick as possible, but I have so many things to do. It’s a long way there so I just need to work harder to make the road shorter.”