The biggest adjustment any young European player has when he arrives in North America is playing on the smaller ice surface.
It takes many a while to get adjusted to the quicker decisions and plays that have to be made with the puck.
Red Wings forward Jonatan Berggren, the 2018 second-round pick, seems to like the North American game.
“It’s difficult, you have much less space and time,” Berggren said Friday. “But I like it, too. You need to be 100 percent ready all the time when you have the puck. I like to make hard plays and give my teammates good spots to score.
“I like it when it’s pretty tight and it’s harder out there on the ice. I like when it’s smaller ice.”
Berggren, in his first taste of pro-caliber North American hockey, certainly looked offensively capable, assisting on two goals in the Wings’ 5-4 victory over Dallas on Thursday night in Traverse City in the Prospects Tournament.
Playing on a line with past first-round picks Joe Veleno and Lucas Raymond, Berggren showed glimpses of the offensive skill scouts raved about.
“The first practice is a big difference with the smaller ice, but when you get to the games you just focus on the games and don’t think about it,” Berggren said. “I just play my game that I have played all my life.”
A productive season playing for Skelleftea AIK (Swedish League), with 12 goals and 45 points in 49 games, convinced Berggren, 21, it was time to begin working toward the NHL.
An impressive exhibition season could get Berggren (5-foot-10, 181 pounds) on the opening night Wings’ roster. More likely, he will get some seasoning in Grand Rapids.
“Of course I would be disappointed,” Berggren said of possibly not making the NHL squad. “If you aren’t disappointed it’s like you don’t care. I will do all I can for a spot in Detroit. But if they want me to play some games in Grand Rapids, I would take it and just do the best I can every day to (get a) spot with the Red Wings.
“I have confidence that I can play my game at this level right now. I had a good season (in Sweden) and played good in national team (games). So I feel like I’m ready to take this next step.”
Getting off to a good offensive start last season, and some advice from Wings director of player development Shawn Horcoff, ignited Berggren’s production.
“I had a good start, scored a few goals early, so it was all about confidence,” Berggren said. “Horcoff talked to me about bringing the puck to the net more than I have been in past season. Maybe that was the difference.”
Wings fans enjoyed seeing the line of Berggren, Veleno and Raymond, three of the prized players in the organization’s future.
Berggren enjoyed playing on the line.
“They’re like me, they like to have the puck and play with the puck with speed,” Berggren said. “It’s pretty easy when you play with such talented guys. It’s easy for me to play my game.”
Berggren and Raymond helped Veleno last season when all three were playing in Sweden during the pandemic. Berggren said they taught Veleno useful, everyday words to get around in Sweden.
Now, in Traverse City, Veleno is returning the favor in a way.
“He has a car here so he’s our Uber driver,” Berggren said.