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WORLD JUNIORS: Broberg brings childhood memories into tourney

Oilers defence prospect remembers Sweden snagging gold at 2012 tournament in Alberta, looks to help his country capture 2020 title in Czech Republic

by Julie Robenhymer / Special to EdmontonOilers.com

TRINEC, CZE - Philip Broberg was 10 years old when Mika Zibanejad scored the overtime game-winning goal to beat Russia and earn a gold medal for Sweden at the 2012 World Junior Championship hosted in Alberta.

In that moment, he decided he wanted to do whatever he could to be on that team and wear the Tre Kronor.

Over the past eight years, he's developed into one of the best defencemen in the world in his age group. Last season, he helped Sweden earn silver at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, gold at the U18 world championship - where he was named the tournament's best defenceman - earned a spot on the World Junior team at 17 and was selected eighth overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2019 NHL Draft.

"He's had a pretty good year, hasn't he?" said Tyler Wright, Oilers Director of Amateur Scouting.

But he, Oilers management and the development coaches are hoping it's just the tip of the iceberg for Broberg's potential.

"There's a lot to like about Phil's game," Wright continued. "He's got tremendous size. He's an elite skater. He's an elite transporter of the puck. He can make plays on the power play. He can walk the blueline. He can find the seams. He can get pucks through to the net. And, he's got a lot of range with a long stick.

"So, even if he's not producing a lot of offence, he can still play against the other team's top players because of his size and his skating ability. The way he can break the puck out of the defensive zone and having that ability to go back and get on your horse and beat that first forechecker and get the puck back up ice and into the hands of your forwards... all of that is what intrigues us about him the most.

"A lot of the qualities he has, we're really excited about. How good is he going to be? We're not really sure yet, but we like what we see so far. We think he's a complete package."

Video: THE DRILL | E12: Philip Broberg

Being a complete player and contributing on both ends of the ice is something Broberg, 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, prides himself on, but as good as he is and as successful as he's been, he's hungry for more.

"There are a lot of things I am working on. First is my skating. I think I have a really good max speed and I think I'm also able to make quick turns and and switch from forwards to backwards and just get around the ice pretty well, but I want to continue to work on that because it's not like it's going to get easier," the 18-year-old defenceman said.

"I want to continue to work on my one-timer," he continued. "My snapshot used to be more of an offensive threat on the blueline and on the power play, so I want to continue to work on that so I can be that guy on the power play for Edmonton one day. I think it's really good right now, but I also think it can still be a lot better too.

"I also want to work on my play in the defensive zone - in the corners and in front of the net and just be a little harder to play against, use my stick more, use my body more to take away those scoring opportunities for the other team. That's what I'm working on the most with my team in Sweden to get stronger and be more physical in the d-zone."

Broberg currently logs an average of 15 minutes per game for Skelleftea of the SHL. He's not on their top pair and doesn't get much, if any, time on the power play there, but that's exactly what's allowed him to focus more on his play in his own zone, earn the trust of his coaches and, ultimately, more ice time.

That seems to be his modus operandi with Team Sweden as well - get an opportunity, work hard, earn more. He was a last-minute call-up for Tre Kronor at last year's World Juniors because of injury, was one of the best players on the ice at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan in early August, and had a great showing at the U20 Four Nations Cup in Helsinki last month.

Video: ASK AN OILER | Philip Broberg

According to Team Sweden Head Coach Tomas Monten, in every tournament he plays, he gets better and better.

"Last year, he was two years younger [than most other players] and he just sucked everything in. He didn't play a lot, but his eyes were wide open watching everything. This year, he is so much better," he explained. "I think in Plymouth he was by far our best defenceman. He's stronger. He's quicker. I think he has a better read of the game. Last year, he took too many chances and, this year, he makes smarter plays.

"For us, he's a dynamic defenceman. He's going to run one of our power plays and be on the PK and a guy we'll rely on 5-on-5 and on defensive zone faceoffs too. He'll have a top-four role and, even though he's still only 18, he feels like a 2000 because he was with us last year and has that experience. He will be a leader for us, for sure, and we hope he's a big contributor for us."

So while Broberg has his eyes firmly set on earning a roster spot in Edmonton next fall, he is doing his best to take full advantage of the opportunities for him to develop as a hockey player, and that continues with the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship starting this week in Czech Republic.

"My dream has been to play in the NHL for a really long time. I don't ever remember wanting to do anything else," he said. "Now that I've been drafted and I have a team, it's easier to see that dream coming true. I know there's a lot of work ahead of me, but I'm going to train hard and play hard and hopefully make the team in the fall. Right now, I am focused on doing my best in Skelleftea and for Team Sweden.

"Last year, losing in the quarterfinals was really disappointing. It really drives us because we expect more from ourselves. This year, we're going to do more to come together as a team and, hopefully, have a better performance. For myself, I'm excited to have a bigger role and be more of a leader too. I have a lot of confidence and I know I can help the team win as long as I play my game. It is our goal to win a gold medal and I want to be a big part of why we do that."

Broberg and the Swedes start their round-robin schedule on Boxing Day against rival Finland at 11am MT on TSN3. He scored during their final tune-up game on Sunday, a 6-4 defeat to the Americans.

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