The message to prized defense prospect Simon Edvinsson during his first training camp with the Detroit Red Wings is to fully utilize his 6-foot-6, 207-pound frame.
“The guys are on me, (Dylan) Larkin especially, to be harder, win my one-on-ones,” Edvinsson said. “I have a pretty big body, pretty long reach. In Sweden you kind of time everything. It’s different kind of one-on-one duels along the boards. Here you need to be more aggressive and that’s what I need to be better on. If I work on that and feel comfortable with that the game is going to step up and I’ll build my confidence.”
Edvinsson has an ideal role model in Moritz Seider, who is nearly as big (6-4, 205) and showed last season how tough he is to play against on the way to winning the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
“He’s playing the kind of hard game I want to develop,” Edvinsson said. “I try to see the practices when he’s on, how he plays. We have a different kind of play style but a lot of things he does I can do as well, to play hard and play the puck.
“He’s one of the best defensemen in the league. I need to earn my spot. I try to look at him as much as possible to develop my game from there and maybe reach that level some time.”
Edvinsson, the sixth pick in 2021, is trying to earn a spot on the NHL roster after flourishing with Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League.
His strengths are his skating and puck-moving ability. But even the smaller Lucas Raymond, Edvinsson’s former Frolunda teammate, showed him how to compete in drills.
“He likes to battle. It’s fun. It gets everyone else going,” Edvinsson said. “One thing I really learned is you need to be so aggressive and harder on the player.”
At the same time, coach Derek Lalonde’s message to Edvinsson is don’t try to overdo it.
“It’ll be our goal to simplify things for him,” Lalonde said. “What’s really important for Simon is hard reps. Play within yourself, take it all in stride, take a very hard approach to practice and get those hard reps is what we’re going to look for from Simon.”
Many expect Edvinsson to be in the Red Wings’ lineup opening night, Oct. 14 against Montreal. General manager Steve Yzerman said he is tempering expectations, noting Edvinsson is only 19 and a year removed from the draft.
“Moritz had the benefit of playing a year in the American League and then going over during the pandemic and playing a year in Sweden, so he got that extra year of development before he stepped in,” Yzerman said. “I think Simon has a good luck. I can’t sit here today and tell you he’s definitely going to be in the lineup on opening night. But we’re pleased with a lot of the things we saw in the prospects tournament.
“In watching him last week, Simon looks pretty comfortable on the ice. He gets (the puck), he moves it. …He’s a good athlete. He had a great season and a good offseason.”
Edvinsson said Nicklas Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall, former Red Wings now in the front office, told him he looked good at last week’s prospects tournament, but Edvinsson was not happy with his play.
“I have higher expectations on myself,” he said.
“You need to earn your spot. That’s what they told me. That’s what I want to do. I don’t want it given because of some hype. I want to feel I can play my game in that league.”
Off the ice in Traverse City, Edvinsson has built a rapport with veteran Ben Chiarot. Olli Maatta and Gustav Lindstrom, his defense partner in practice, have helped. A fishing expedition failed to produce a big haul, but Edvinsson won the mini-golf competition against some fellow Swedes.
“I would say I’m the best mini-golf player here,” he said.
The Red Wings’ top defense pairs appear set with Chiarot-Seider and Maatta-Filip Hronek. Edvinsson might be competing for a third-pair spot with Lindstrom and veterans Jordan Oesterle and Robert Hagg (Jake Walman and Mark Pysyk will start the season on injured reserve).
“I want him playing regularly, don’t want him in and out of the lineup, don’t want him not getting an opportunity on special teams, at least one of the units,” Yzerman said. “We’ll kind of let his play dictate — No. 1 in the preseason, how much he plays — and then we’ll decide at some point. Most importantly, I want him playing a significant role.”
Preseason games will determine whether Edvinsson makes the team or starts the season with the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins.
“Is it possible for him to step in and play in the NHL and be an impactful player? Yes,” Yzerman said. “But let’s wait and see. If he’s ready, great. If not, that’s OK. I think he’s going to be a real good player in the league. Is it this year? Is it Christmas? Is it next year? We’ll see.”
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