Penguins head European scout Patrik Allvin told Niclas Andersen, a defenseman for Brynas of the Swedish Hockey League, that Pittsburgh was interested in signing him.
Just 24 hours later the 27-year-old blueliner inked his first NHL deal, a one-year entry-level contract, with Pittsburgh.
“It was 24 crazy hours,” said Andersen from his home in Sweden. “When they contacted me and said all these good things, I didn’t have to think that much. They have a good organization, a really good team. I didn’t need long to make the decision.”
Andersen, 6-foot-1, 218 pounds, has played in Europe for his eight-year pro career, which includes a two-year stint in the Kontinental Hockey League. But Andersen felt the time had come to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
“To go to the U.S. and Pittsburgh, I’m looking forward to it,” Andersen said. “It’s always been a goal of mine to play in the NHL. It’s the best league in the world. Since I was a young kid playing in Sweden I always wanted to go there.”
Andersen, originally drafted by Los Angeles in the fourth round (114th overall) of the 2006 NHL Draft, served as Brynas captain last season, setting career highs with five goals and adding 17 assists for 22 points in 54 games.
The left-handed defenseman played in all situations, but is known more for his defensive abilities.
“I’ve had a really defensive role in all the teams I’ve played for before,” Andersen said. “Last year I had a lot of ice time, PP and PK. I played a lot in the end of games where we had the lead or had to score.”
One adjustment Andersen will have to make is playing on the smaller ice surface in the North American game.
“There is a lot less time with the puck and fast decisions,” he said. “The bigger ice surface you have a lot of time with the puck. I heard it’s easier to go from bigger ice to smaller ice.”
Andersen will get his first taste of life in the United States when he arrives in Pittsburgh for training camp. He knows that nothing is going to be handed to him. He’ll enter camp with the same goal as everyone else, earning a job.
“I have to make the team. It’s going to be hard,” he said. “There are a lot of good players in their organization. It’s going to be tough. I’m looking forward to practicing hard this summer and coming to camp in September.
“I’m 27. I want to go to the NHL and see how good I can be.”