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Wild's Johanssons share surname, common goal at development camp

Swedish defensemen were each drafted by Minnesota last month

by Dan Myers @DanMyers / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- Rest assured, Filip and Simon Johansson are most definitely not related.

Both are Swedish defensemen selected by the Wild at the 2018 NHL Draft. Both are visiting Minnesota for the first time this week as the team holds its development camp at Xcel Energy Center. Both have happy-go-lucky personalities that will make them popular teammates in the future.

But until a few days ago, when both flew in from Sweden, the two had never met each other. They had only played against one another back at home, but had not shared as much as a "hello" until their arrival at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Sunday.

"We shared the same flight, but had never met before that," Simon Johansson said. "Everybody thought we were related at the beginning. But Johansson is a very common name in Sweden."

Despite having never met until a couple of days ago, the two Johanssons have become fast friends. The two are each a part of Team Green at this week's camps, which means they are on the ice together, complete drills and their off-ice work together and often eat and hang out together.

The two even went to the Mall of America earlier this week.

"I know him well now," Filip Johansson said. "He's a great guy."

Despite sharing many similarities, including a surname, the two Johanssons have some major differences.

Filip was Minnesota's first-round pick last month, selected by the Wild 24th overall. Simon was picked in the fifth round, No. 148 overall.

Filip, a lefty, stands 6-feet and 175 pounds. Simon, a righty, is closer to 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds.

Filip has wowed scouts and player personnel with his ability to think the game from the back end, with Wild General Manager Paul Fenton praising his hockey IQ and ability to make even difficult defensive plays cleanly and quickly.

Simon is new to the position, having transitioned from center to defense just three years ago, something reflected in his more robust offensive numbers last season with Djurgardens IF, where he scored 16 goals and 20 assists in just 43 games.

That history as a forward makes Simon extremely comfortable with the puck on his stick. 

Simon's transition from forward to defense was a long time coming; his dad, Thomas, was a left-handed defenseman for years in Sweden's professional leagues, skating 16 seasons with Djurgardens, the same club with which he currently serves as director of hockey operations. When Simon was a kid, Thomas pleaded with his son to follow in his footsteps on the blue line.

"'They're always looking for right-shot defensemen,'" Simon said Thomas always told him. "'So you should be a defenseman.' And I just said, 'No, no, no.'"

The turning point came in a came when he was 15, in a game where he got injured and was forced to sit on the bench by the defensemen. 

"I said, 'This looks like fun,'" Simon said. "I asked the coach and he said he'd put me on D next training camp."

The rest is history.

After an adjustment year in 2015-16, Simon broke out for seven goals and 21 points with in 41 games Djurgardens IF J20 in 2016-17, then followed with an even better year last season while also wearing the 'A' for the team.

"At the beginning, I was more like a fourth forward than a D-man," Simon said of his transition. "Everything around [the change] is a challenge because it's a whole new position. But I really love it. I think I have the puck so much more and I want the puck a lot."

Filip had more modest offensive numbers last season, but was also a 17-year-old playing against, in many cases, much older competition. 

"I think Filip has a little more offense than he's shown," said Wild Vice President of Hockey Operations Brent Flahr. "Simon has an offensive flair but he has to work on some of the things Filip does very well. But I think both have offensive update."

Improvement is the name of the game for Simon, Filip and more than three dozen other prospects at this week's development camp

Minnesota's entire eight-man rookie class, including both Johanssons, is in attendance, as are a number of undrafted invitees from around the country. Many of those players have local ties, either from their days playing collegiately or because of their hometowns. 

For players like the Johanssons, who are potentially several years away from reaching the NHL, it's about learning the area, the team, its prospects, the coaches and about making a good first impression on those that selected them in the draft last month. 

The city is also making a first impression on Filip, who commented on the warmth and humidity on display in the Twin Cities this week.

"I'll have to get used to that," Filip said with a laugh.

Warned that it will -- inevitably -- get colder, Filip grew comfortable.

"Like Sweden," he said.

That comfort level on the ice is expected to rise this week as the prospects undergo a battery of tests and practices while also participating in two free-to-the-public scrimmages on Thursday and on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center.

It will offer fans a first glimpse of the team's most recent first-round pick and his first look at a building with plenty of Wild fans.

"It's huge, compared to Sweden," Filip said of Xcel Energy Center. "It's a dream come true. But now I need to work hard. I will work even harder than before."

Video: Becoming Wild Webisode: Draft Day with Johansson

Video: Fenton and Flahr on drafting Johansson

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