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Klingberg has high expectations heading into quarterfinals

The defenseman has his eyes set on gold as Sweden heads into elimination rounds at the World Championship

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers /

COLOGNE, Germany -- John Klingberg is hoping for a golden finish to head into his summer on a high note.

Klingberg, who had 13 goals, a career high, and 49 points in 80 games with the Dallas Stars this season, is chasing a first-place finish with Sweden at the 2017 IIHF World Championship in Cologne, Germany through May 21.

It's an experience he jumped at the chance to have.

"I knew we had a chance to get a real good team together," said the 24-year-old blueliner. "I know a lot of guys from before and I had a chance to play against them pretty late into the season. We were kind of talking when we were playing against each other…(Victor) Hedman and (Oliver) Ekman-Larsson and the Carolina guys (Eddie Lack, Elias Lindholm, Victor Rask) asked if I was going.

"'I think I'm going, are you going?' 'Yeah.'

"I think everyone was feeling like we were getting a really good team. The coaches showed a lot of interest in us and wanted us to come. It was an easy choice to come for sure, with the disappointment we had with the Dallas Stars. It was a tough season.

"It's a lot of fun playing with this team right now. I know a lot of guys from before. A couple guys have the same agent. A couple guys played in the World Juniors together. It's a great team, and fun to be a part of."

Sweden finished third in Group A in the round-robin portion of the World Championship and will face Switzerland in quarterfinal action at AccorHotels Arena in Paris on Thursday.

Leading into the quarterfinal, Klingberg has impressed in his time in Cologne.

"What stands out is his mobility," Swedish head coach Rikard Gronborg said. "He's really smooth the way he moves around the ice. He jumps into the attack real well. He's always a threat on the ice. He's maturing as a defenseman too. He takes quite a bit of responsibility defensively. But especially his offense stands out to me."

It's much of what stood out for Stars forward Antoine Roussel on a regular basis this season.

"He's the quarterback of our power play and to win you need a good puck-moving defenseman," Roussel said. "You see Ottawa with (Erik) Karlsson. He's one of them. You need that kind of d-man. He makes a huge difference to your team."

But Klingberg is striving for more than just pushing the puck up ice.

He's working his way towards being a more well-rounded defenseman.

"I've been taking a lot of pride the last couple of years, even before I came over, to be really good defensively and trying to be an all-around defenseman," he said. "That's something I'm working really hard with. I've been working on my strength, too. I want to be a better player and I want the coach to trust me on the defensive game as well. That's shown last year and this year over in Dallas. I got to play a lot of minutes and I played a lot of big defensive minutes as well. 

"I want to be a player they can trust. I think for me, I think I'm just trying to be as good as possible all around."`

He's certainly trending in that direction.

Gronborg has seen that progression.

"He's taken his steps," said Gronborg, who helped coach Klingberg to gold at the 2012 World Junior Championship, and once more at the World Championship in 2015. "He's competitive at what he does. He wants to take a bigger responsibility on the Dallas team, especially on the defensive side of the puck as well.

"That's the biggest thing that he's developed over the last couple of years."

Klingberg is still working on that development.

The World Championship is helping, too. 

"Of course," he said. "I think if you go play here at the World Championship there's a lot of really good, skilled players. You can see Canada and the USA as well and obviously a lot of skilled European players. It's just a lot of experience playing both sides.

"It's just a positive thing."

So too would be ending his season with a golden note.

It'd take the sting off a season that still smarts for the blueliner.

"Oh yeah, for sure," Klingberg said. "That would end a real tough season on a positive note.

"That would make me feel better for sure."

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