Carl Hagelin was a part of a New York Rangers team that appeared in three of the past four Eastern Conference Finals (with one trip to the Stanley Cup Final) — his first four NHL seasons — was coming off of a career year and was set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, so it was not a big shock when the 27-year-old Swede was traded to the Anaheim Ducks on the second day of the 2015 NHL Draft this past June; for some. It seemed Hagelin’s style was a perfect fit on the Blueshirts in the new NHL where speed is paramount; they had a handful (12) homegrown players on their roster and as sometimes happens when players get paid, some others end up being cap-casualties.
Now, he’s not only on a new team, in a new conference, on another coast, but his current team is not having any of the successes that it’s predecessor’s have had over the past few years as one of the West’s elite. With the calendar about to turn to 2016 and NHL teams nearing the halfway point of the season, the Ducks are in serious jeopardy of missing out on being a participant in the postseason if they don’t get their act together soon.
“We need wins,” Hagelin bluntly said after Anaheim’s 2-1 win in Newark over the New Jersey Devils. “We played solid tonight and didn’t give up too much; at the same time we spent too much time in our own end there in the second and third periods, we have to adjust that. Once we have a 2-0 lead we have to keep pushing the pace.”
With only eight points in his first 33 games with the Ducks, Hagelin is being out-pointed by one of the players he is replacing in Anaheim — Kyle Palmieri has already matched his career-high in goals with 14 in New Jersey and has 27 points. “Wins give you confidence, it’s just a matter of us building off of this,” he went on to tell The Hockey Writers. “It’s not good enough. We need to play better.”
Coming back to the East Coast for the first time during the holidays was a gift from the NHL schedule maker as a the kid with wavy, stringy blonde hair who grew up as an NHL player returned to his old stomping grounds. “It’s definitely a good time. It brings back a lot of memories. Obviously I played a lot of games in this building (Prudential Center) as well. You get to see some friends from back in the days. That’s always a special feeling. I keep in contact with a lot of them. Not only hockey players, but people around the city as well. It’s fun to be back.”
Carl Hagelin leaves behind a lot of friends on and off the ice in New York City as told by our friend Sean Harnett:
Mats Zuccarello on former #NYR pal Hagelin: "He’s a friend I’m going to have for the rest of my life." More here: | https://t.co/1QMn2olQCA
— Sean Hartnett (@HartnettHockey) December 24, 2015
“It’s been good,” he said when asked what the many changes he’s gone through have been like. “I like it a lot here (with Anaheim); obviously hockey hasn’t been the way that I wanted things to go — from a personal standpoint and from a team standpoint. Everything is easier when you are winning games, that’s just the way it is. Hopefully we can string a few together soon.”
Hagelin had a hand in a some Rangers’ wins over the past few years, like this elimination of the Penguins:
Travel is one major difference going from East to West because none of the teams on the left coast are nearly as close together geographically as the teams in the northeast region are. That’s one thing though that Hagelin said hasn’t been a factor in his slow start in California. “Obviously the road trips are a little bit longer, I think that would be the only thing; that you’re on the road a few days longer.”
Then again travel should be nothing new for the native of Södertälje as he made the journey from Sweden to North America and then attended a major university to not only pursue his hockey dream, but to get a solid education. Hagelin was the first Swedish player to ever play on the University of Michigan hockey team and during his four years there he was not only drafted by the Rangers (2007 NHL Draft, 6th round), but he was also won the CCHA Best Defensive Forward Award this senior season and helped lead the Wolverines to the CCHA championship in his junior season, where he was also named as an Academic All-Big Ten team member.
“Four of the best years of my life,” he recalled when THW asked about his time with the maize and blue. “I met a lot of great people, I was able to get a degree and I was able to play some good hockey with some good players. I learned a lot from Red Berenson. It was a good time,” he added with a slight grin, “I definitely miss those days, but it feels great to be a Michigan alum.”
Dan Rice can be reached via Twitter: @DRdiabloTHW or via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.