The first thing that struck Steve Yzerman was how big Simon Edvinsson looked.
Edvinsson is expected to compete for a roster spot with the Detroit Red Wings come fall, and he made a brief but favorable impression Thursday after travel issues delayed his arrival by several days. The 2021 No. 6 overall pick took part in a prospect-heavy three-on-three tournament at Little Caesars Arena.
“Seeing him here in development camp, he’s very tall, he’s very thick,” Yzerman said. “It’s actually the first time I’ve gotten to meet him in person since drafting him. He’s thicker than I expected in a good way. He looked very strong, his skating is excellent. We’re optimistic. We’ll give him an opportunity, and if he’s ready to play and play a regular role, that would be great for us. We’ll let the whole thing play itself out.”
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Edvinsson’s credentials are sound: He’s 6 feet 6 and 205 pounds, a strong skater and comes to the Wings having posted 19 points in 44 games with Frölunda HC, the same Swedish Hockey League team that begat Lucas Raymond. Edvinsson worked hard to improve all facets of his performance.
“At the start of the season, it was defense,” Edvinsson said. “I had a great mentor in Sweden, Christian Folin, who is a former NHL defenseman, who helped me a lot with the defensive work, how to think in all situations and also build muscle to be able to compete against those guys,” Edvinsson said. “Then the longer the season went, it was more offensive plays, I started to do new stuff and develop my game after that. Everything was just working itself out. It was good.”
It’s a heady path for Edvinsson to follow Raymond and Moritz Seider, who both transitioned from the SHL to the NHL last season, but Edvinsson is deemed ready enough that the Wings have brought him to North America.
“Comparing his situation to maybe Moritz a year ago, Moritz had a year in the AHL and a year in the SHL,” Yzerman said. “Simon is a year younger and coming in just one year out of the SHL. A year less experience, a year younger. We’ll see how he does.”
Before the Wings observe Edvinsson in training camp, they’ll see how he fares in Edmonton at the World Junior Championship, which was postponed from its usual Christmas-time occurrence to August this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“All these experiences I think are fantastic for players,” Yzerman said. “It’s a great experience individually but also as hockey players playing in big games, in do-or-die games, under pressure. This tournament in August, when you look at the positive, what a better way to prepare yourself for training camp than playing in a highly important tournament. I see it as a positive.”
Edvinsson, 19, will stay in Detroit for several weeks before meeting Team Sweden at the tournament. The event runs Aug. 9-20, and once it’s over, Edvinsson said he is “going home to say goodbye to my family and everyone and then I’m going straight here to fight for a spot.”
Edvinsson said he was looking forward to getting to better know Yzerman; so far, their interaction has been limited to advice that Yzerman gave Edvinsson: “That I should work hard.” Edvinsson also has advice from Raymond: “Be confident.”
Edvinsson does work hard, and he is confident his SHL development will help propel him to a spot on the Wings’ opening night roster.
“You always need to have those expectations that you are going to take the place on the roster,” he said. “SHL is a hard league. There are a lot of good players and good games. It’s a good run-up for the NHL and watching Lucas and Moritz do that, it gets you more confidence to do it.”
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.