Special to AnaheimDucks.com
|“Of course you want to go as high as possible, but you still try to stay calm the whole draft,” Rakell said. “It’s a happy ending.” |
was one pick away from a potentially sleepless night.
“Good dreams,” said the Swedish forward, after being selected by the Anaheim Ducks with the last pick (30th) of the NHL Entry Draft’s first round on Friday.
Well, there are still no guarantees a first-round draft pick will sleep after an unforgettable night. Maybe he can hit the snooze a few times.
“Of course you want to go as high as possible, but you still try to stay calm the whole draft,” Rakell said. “It’s a happy ending.”
Rakell, 18, learned a lot growing up and playing in Sweden, but one of the most important decisions he made was to leave his homeland. This past season, he transplanted his life to North America – specifically Plymouth, Michigan, where he shined for the Whalers in the Ontario Hockey League.
The 6-0, 191-pound winger scored 43 points in 49 games as a rookie. More ice time and the North American style of hockey helped further his development. He would have been playing a lot less if he stayed to play in the Swedish Elite League.
“It’s done a lot for me. Just to practice every day, play in a small rink, get a lot of ice time and I think that helped me a lot instead of just staying home,” Rakell said. “Coming over here was a real good choice for me.”
|“It’s done a lot for me," Rakell said of leaving his homeland. "Just to practice every day, play in a small rink, get a lot of ice time and I think that helped me a lot instead of just staying home. Coming over here was a real good choice for me.” |
As a 17-year-old, Rakell did return home as the youngest member of Team Sweden at the World Junior Championships this past winter. He notched three assists in five games, which undoubtedly helped raise his NHL Draft stock. Ducks General Manager Bob Murray would agree.
“I saw him at the World Junior a whole bunch. He was a 17-year-old in the World Juniors and he did a good job there,” Murray said. “He’s a good two-way player and a smart hockey player, and he can play center or wing. We’re very happy he was still there at 30."
Rakell started playing hockey when he was four and spoke very highly of his time in Sweden. His brother, Robin, played on many teams with him and Rickard credits him as a big influence on his career. The new Ducks draft pick is considered a character player with a very high work ethic, which he attributes to his home country.
“In every camp, what they teach the most is to compete and practice hard,” said Rakell, who also likes to play tennis and golf. “You can’t be happy to be second or third. You have to strive for being No. 1 all the time.”
|“Every day I’m making good progress to get close to my goal and play here." |
Influencing his decision to leave Sweden was fellow countryman and Friday’s No. 2 overall draft pick (Colorado) Gabriel Landeskog. The two played and worked out together back at home. Landeskog came over to the OHL one year before, and the results spoke for themselves.
Rakell began asking Landeskog questions and the idea of coming over to North America became more and more appealing. Once the decision was made, the transition was easy.
“It was just getting out of my comfort zone. After that, it was very easy for me,” said Rakell, who stayed with a host family in Plymouth. “They took very good care of me. I felt like home right from the first week and that made it much easier.”
The move also did wonders for his dream of playing in the NHL, where hockey is more physical, faster and played on a smaller ice surface.
"He’s very intelligent and he plays more of a North American game than a European game,” Murray said. “I’m very happy about the pick."
Rakell looks up to players such as Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and none other than the Hart Trophy winner, Anaheim’s own Corey Perry
Before he’s on a line with Perry and the boys, Rakell has to work on his speed and strength first and foremost, but he hopes to don the Ducks sweater soon.
“Every day I’m making good progress to get close to my goal and play here,” Rakell said.