Defenseman Johnny Oduya joined the Thrashers last February after being acquired from the Devils where he had been having a fairly quiet season as a defensive defenseman. After coming to Atlanta he instantly meshed with new defense partner Ron Hainsey and established himself as one of the team's most reliable defenders. He also contributed on the offensive end, scoring a goal and adding eight assists in his 27 games as a Thrasher compared to just two goals and two assists in 40 games with the Devils. The 28-year-old Stockholm native also played four games for Sweden at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver where he was teammates with fellow Thrashers Toby Enstrom and newly signed Fredrik Modin.
With training camp a week away Oduya is back in Atlanta participating in voluntary workouts with more than two dozen other players who are holding daily scrimmages and drill sessions. Here is what he had to say about his summer and the changes the team has undergone since the end of the season.
How was your summer?
ODUYA: It was good. Very good. It was nice and warm back home in Sweden so it was a very good time.
Did you do any traveling or did you spend all of your time in Sweden?
ODUYA: I went to Spain for eight days. Other than that I tried to stay home as much as possible, especially with the weather being so nice. I was just hanging out with family and friends. We try to catch up in the summer since you don't get to see them much during the year.
What do you think of the changes that have been made to the team since the end of the season?
ODUYA: Any time there's a change it's always a new start for everybody. I think there's going to be a lot of competition for roster spots and that's always a good thing. Some of the additions are guys that won the Stanley Cup and that's a big positive. There are a lot of young guys that are hopefully going to keep getting better. I think it's a pretty good mix.
It sounds like Craig Ramsay plans to play an up-tempo style that involves a lot of offense from the blueline. Does that excite you?
ODUYA: Yeah, for sure. I want to get better in all aspects of the game. I think that last year I took a step back offensively. Now I'm trying to get my skating going again after the summer break. They want me to join the rush and score some goals and I think that's something I can do. It's going to be fun for sure.
You played with Fredrik Modin on Team Sweden in the Olympics. How well do you know him and what does he bring to the Thrashers?
ODUYA: I don't know him very well. Like you said I played with him in the Olympics. I'd met him a couple of times before. He's a great guy though. He's an older guy with a lot of experience and he has some leadership to him. He's Swedish, so he must be a good guy, right? Seriously though, he's one of those guys you like to have around. He'll be good for the younger Swedish guys that we have- especially the forwards. I think he'll be a key for them.
How about Fredrik Pettersson? Do you know him at all?
Yeah- We're both actually staying at Toby Enstrom's house right now. We're hanging out pretty much every day. He's a good kid with a lot of energy on the ice skating and shooting He's skilled but he also has that bit of grit which you need playing over here. It's going to be fun to see everyone compete in camp. There are a lot of good players- young players- who are fighting for spots. Competition is good so it's going to be interesting to see for sure.
How has Toby been to stay with?
He's a pretty good host, believe it or not. Right now Freddy has been cooking on the nights when we eat at home, which isn't too many. It's been a lot of fun though. It's good to hang out with your fellow Swedes. As the year goes on we'll get settled in and have our own routines, but for the time being this is fun.
It must be nice to come in to camp and be familiar with everything versus arriving late in the season like you did last year after the trade.
ODUYA: For sure. It was tough mentally to come in and switch teams one day to another. Now you come back and you know the guys and know your surroundings and you're more comfortable. It's a much different feeling now.