Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states that an object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. Simply put: it’s easier to keep moving once you’re moving than it is to start or stop moving. This concept can be applied in many ways; for Simon Edvinsson, the Detroit Red Wings’ top prospect, this concept applies to how he’s preparing himself for his first NHL training camp.
Hockey in August is a concept that usually only applies to video games and recreational leagues. This year, however, the 2022 World Junior Championship (WJC) Tournament is taking place after it was postponed back in December due to COVID concerns. A number of top prospects from all around the world have gathered in Alberta to represent their countries, and Edvinsson is one of them. Entering the tournament as the undisputed top defenseman for Team Sweden, this is an opportunity to play meaningful hockey games at a time where some players are just getting back from their summer vacations.
This is especially important for a player like Edvinsson. The 19-year-old is expected to push for an NHL roster spot this season despite the moves general manager Steve Yzerman’s made last month to add depth to Detroit’s blue line. After spending time in Detroit from mid-July to the first week of August, familiarizing himself with the area and even some of his potential teammates, Edvinsson has the opportunity to build some pre-training camp momentum by playing a starring role for Team Sweden.
Edvinsson is Key Player for Team Sweden
As per usual, Team Sweden boasts one of the deepest and most talented teams at this year’s WJC. Edvinsson is just one of seven players that were selected in the first round of their respective draft years. However, he is the only defenseman among that group, and while Sweden’s defense is certainly not bereft of talent, the Red Wings’ top pick in the 2021 draft stands out in a big way. Because of that, the 6-foot-6 defender has been tasked with playing big minutes for his team – a challenge he certainly hasn’t backed down from.
In Sweden’s first official game, Edvinsson played north of 26 minutes and recorded an assist against Team Switzerland. Wearing an alternate captain’s ‘A’ on his sweater, the towering Swede was omnipresent on the ice. While his stat line wasn’t super flashy (he also had three shots on goal), he made things happen for the Swedes at both ends of the ice. He used his size to help him win battles for loose pucks, and he moved the puck quickly and efficiently throughout the contest.
In Sweden’s second contest, this time against Austria, Edvinsson added his second point of the tournament – a seeing-eye type of shot where he moved in from the blue line and let loose a wicked slap shot:
Edvinsson logged a team-high 18:30 in ice-time during this game. It’s safe to say that he is Team Sweden’s top defenseman, but you could probably make the argument that he’s been their best player, regardless of position. Then, in Sweden’s final preliminary game, this time against Team USA, he was held pointless but still led his team in ice-time (22:44). That being said, a failed clearing attempt by Edvinsson almost directly resulted in a goal from Team USA forward Brett Berard. In a game that ended with the Americans winning 3-2, Edvinsson can look at that one mistake as the deciding-factor in the game. These are the types of mistakes the Red Wings will want him to make now rather than in the preseason, when decision-makers will decide whether or not he joins the Red Wings to start the season.
The experience of playing that kind of role for his team is irreplaceable and would be entirely impossible to recreate under normal circumstances. The ability to handle the curveballs that life throws is something that every NHL player needs to have. If Edvinsson didn’t have that ability already, the 2022 WJC certainly is teaching it to him.
Now the trick becomes making it out of the tournament without any bumps, bruises, or sicknesses that may slow him down as he enters training camp….
Edvinsson Needs Strong Training Camp to Crack Red Wings’ Roster
In an attempt to remedy some of the Red Wings’ porous defensive play last season, general manager Steve Yzerman signed four free agent defensemen to address the team’s lack of depth on the blue line. Considering the team was already returning the likes of Moritz Seider, Filip Hronek and Gustav Lindstrom, it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that defensive roster spots are going to be hard to come by when the Red Wings begin training camp next month. An instant reaction to the team signing the likes of Ben Chiarot, Olli Maatta and Robert Haag was that players like Edvinsson were on the outside looking in on the roster. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the Red Wings were known for making their prospects “overripe” before giving them a taste of NHL action.
Edvinsson knows it’s not going to be easy for him to grab a roster spot. But, to his credit, he welcomes the challenge.
“It motivates you more,” Edvinsson said of all the additions Detroit made to their blue line. “It’s gonna be harder and if you really want to take [a roster spot], you need to work really hard because [there are] great defensemen in the lineup. Looking forward to [getting] to work.
“It’s going to be a hard competition. It’s just going to be fun.”
Iron sharpens iron, and for a team whose best points-percentage over the last six seasons is .482 (2016-17), the Red Wings can use all the iron they can get their hands on. As my THW colleague Logan Horn noted on a recent episode of THW Grind Line, good teams don’t gift roster spots to young players – good teams make them earn it.
This is not unlike the situation that Lucas Raymond faced heading into training camp last year. As a 19-year-old, the Swedish winger arrived for his first season in North America and most people – including Yzerman – anticipated that the Red Wings’ top pick in the 2020 draft would start the season in the American Hockey League (AHL). Of course that’s not what happened. From the very beginning of the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, Raymond was just on a different level, and he stayed at that level through the end of the preseason. It was enough to impress former head coach Jeff Blashill’s wife, as well as Blashill and Yzerman, and the young forward found himself on the Red Wings’ opening night roster.
It takes a special kind of player to come over from Europe and play a starring role in the NHL right away. Edvinsson’s play so far at the WJC sure looks like that of a special player, but no matter how excited the hockey world gets about his potential arrival in the NHL, he remains laser-focused on what he calls his “main goal”:
“To be in the lineup of the first [regular season] game.”
From the WJC to Detroit
Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. The WJC is a tournament that features some of the very best prospects the world has to offer, but the competition level isn’t the same as what Edvinsson will face when he returns to Michigan for training camp. It’s always best to exercise caution with teenaged hockey players as their play can be a bit sporadic as they learn the ins and outs of what it means to play at this level.
But there is something about this player that makes him stand out, literally and figuratively. He is not immune to making mistakes, just like the vast majority of 19-year-olds, but he possesses the ability to rebound and make a positive impact on the very next shift after making a mistake. This is reminiscent of Seider’s rookie season; the German defender had his moments where he looked like a rookie defenseman, but the good far outweighed the bad, and he showed that he can learn from his mistakes. Once Edvinsson arrives in Detroit, that skill will have to be on full display if he wants to begin the season in “Hockeytown”.
But first and foremost, Edvinsson has a medal to win – a medal that he’s been dreaming about winning since before anybody was excited about his NHL future.
“When I was a little kid, I always wanted to play a (WJC),” Edvinsson said. “I always have wanted to win one too.”
|Team Canada||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team USA||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Austria||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Czechia||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Finland||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Germany||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Sweden||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Switzerland||Players to Watch||Roster|
All Your THW 2022 World Junior Championship Coverage
I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.