Islanders prospect Johan Sundstrom is taking steps toward putting on a blue and orange jersey this fall. The 6’3, 191-pound forward is in Prospect Camp this week, fresh off his second professional season in the Swedish Elite League. He signed an Entry Level Contract with the Islanders earlier this summer, after scoring 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 49 games with Frolunda last season.
While the Gothenburg, SWE native is used to playing on the wider international-size rinks, which are 197x98 feet, he is excited about playing on the North American-size sheet, which is 200x85 feet, and has larger attacking zones.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Sundstrom said. “It’s a faster game. There’s more play in the offensive and defensive zones.”
Eric Cairns, of the Islanders Player Development Staff, has watched Sundstrom’s game over the last few years and believes the young forward’s skill set will be a fit with the North American style of play.
“He is a taller centerman/winger that has high-end hockey sense,” Cairns said. “He has great speed with a skill set to score points, plus play smart defensive hockey.”
Sundstrom, who will celebrate his 20th birthday during Training Camp in September, is a veteran of two IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. In 2011, Sundstrom scored one goal in the tournament as the Swedes lost in the bronze medal game to Team USA. In 2012, Sundstrom was an assistant captain on the Swedish squad that won the gold medal in overtime against Russia.
“It was the highlight of my career,” Sundstrom said. “The second year in Calgary was an amazing trip. We played really well.”
Sundstrom knows there is still work to be done in order for him to reach the NHL. Following this week’s camp, he will head back to Europe to bulk up a little before coming to Training Camp in a couple of months.
“When I go back to Sweden in July, I’ll work hard and get stronger,” Sundstrom said. “You can always get better at everything, but I need to put on a few more pounds.”
Cairns agreed, adding that with the style Sundstrom plays, a few added pounds will make him a more complete player.
“He will mature as a person physically and mentally,” Cairns said, referring to playing in North America, “and get bigger and stronger leading into the year. He likes the bumping and grinding of the smaller ice surface along the walls. He’s going to learn to work in those areas this year.”
Sundstrom will compete during Training Camp for a spot in the Islanders lineup, but may need a year of seasoning with the organization’s AHL affiliate in Bridgeport or in Sweden to continue his development. While Sundstrom knows he won’t crack the roster at this week’s camp alone, he recognizes the importance of learning everything he can while he is here.
“We’ve had some really good workouts with the coaching staff,” Sundstrom said. “I think the camp is more about learning and seeing how the Islanders want us to practice so that I can be here one day.”