After spending two seasons with Tri-City of the Western Hockey League, Swedish winger Malte Stromwall always wanted to return to North America, where he felt his game benefitted from the smaller ice surface of North American Leagues.
He’ll get his opportunity after he inked an entry-level deal with the Rangers in April.
“I always liked the game they play on the small ice,” Malte, 21, told BlueshirtsUnited.com in a recent telephone interview. “I think that fits me better than the Swedish ice. I think [playing in the WHL] was a different step for me, move over and get used to the North American ice style. I like it.
“When I moved home from America last time, I told myself that I want to come back here and play here again,” Stromwall continued. “Now, I get to do that.”
The Lulea, Sweden-native had a breakout season with AIK of the Allsvenskan this past season, registering 25 goals and 17 assists for 42 points in 49 games. His 25 goals were second-best in AIK and his 42 points were tied for seventh. He led all players 22 years old or younger in both goals and points during the regular season.
“For me, it was a really important year because I got to play a lot,” Stromwall said. “The last three years I played in the [Swedish Hockey League]. They wanted to play older guys so I didn’t have a chance. Now, I had a chance to show what I can do. I played pretty good, I think. It was a step in the right direction.”
The 6-0, 185-pound winger played parts of the last three seasons in the SHL, Sweden’s top league. He has nine goals and five assists for 14 points in 87 career SHL games.
Stromwall is an offensive player with size and speed, who, simply, likes to put the puck in the net.
“I like to play with good speed,” Stromwall said. “I shoot the puck a lot and try to make offensive plays, always work hard. That’s the kind of player I am. I like to put the puck in the net and make plays all over the ice.”
Gordie Clark, the Rangers’ Director, Player Personnel, said it was “impressive” to watch Stromwall and fellow Rangers prospect Robin Kovacs play with AIK this past season.
“Malte is a very driven player who uses his speed and tenacity to create turnovers, score goals and successfully back check,” Clark said. “It was impressive to watch Malte play on a line with Robin Kovacs and see the top two scorers on AIK team up with their speed, puck moving and scoring.”
That twosome helped to led AIK to a league championship this past season.
“It was a great year,” Stromwall said of his season with AIK. “We had a good start and just kept going hard, winning games throughout the season. We worked hard as a group. We didn’t have slumps during the year. Some teams had trouble playing against us, and we won a lot. It was a good experience.”
So now it’s onto training and preparation for a busy summer filled with transatlantic flights and training sessions in the weight room and on the ice, starting with the Rangers’ prospect camp in June.
“I’m practicing for that now,” Stromwall said. “Trying to get stronger and develop my body to get stronger. Take it step-by-step.”
After June’s camp, it’s back to Sweden before heading back over for the big camp in September, where Stromwall will look to make an impression on the Rangers’ coaching staff and battle for a spot in New York.