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BLOG: Persson trying to stay sharp in NHL shot

"You need to be on your toes and smart in your mind," said Joel Persson of assimilating to the NHL game

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - Around this time two and a half years ago, Joel Persson was heading back to school in Sweden.

The defenceman served as an instructor with a multitude of roles, including teaching the Swedish language, running physical education classes and assisting older students with their studies.

Persson will be cutting his classes this season, though, as he tackles a new curriculum on the ice. 

The 25-year-old arrived in Edmonton on Monday and has been part of the cohort attending Oilers informal skates to get acquainted with potential teammates, the National Hockey League-sized rink and the League's stiffer competition.

He hasn't exactly been schooled on the ice but Persson is trying to stay sharp mentally and physically when skating. Sharing the surface with elite skaters such as Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has already taught him what he needs to do.

"You see they are really, really skilled players," Persson, who had six goals and 31 points in 50 games with the Vaxjo Lakers of the Swedish Hockey League last year, said. 

"If you give them one extra metre, they're going to score. You need to be on your toes and smart in your mind."

Video: RAW | Neal 09.04.19

Persson's undergoing a similar situation as his compatriot Joakim Nygard. The Swedes are trying to acclimate with their new environment as quickly as they can, to ensure they are ready when they take their first NHL test in a few weeks.

"We played a couple of games last year together on the national team," said Persson Nygard. "Of course, it's easier when you have someone to talk to when you want to."

The two are fighting for spots in the Oilers lineup and remaining modest in their approach, simply trying to showcase their abilities as best they can.

"I know the ice is smaller and everything is going to be quicker," Persson said. "A lot of guys are competing for spots. It's hard work every day and you have to just do your best."

Persson, who rose from Sweden's third division to the SHL, is embracing the practicum.

"I mean two and a half years ago, I worked almost full time at the school as both a teacher and assistant to some students," he said.

"It was a big difference when I came up to the SHL back home. I could just focus on playing hockey. I developed pretty quickly over there. I'm just trying to do things even better here."

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