Call him ‘Jonny Burgers?’ No matter the name, Detroit Red Wings lovin’ Jonatan Berggren

Detroit Free Press

The only question remaining for Jonatan Berggren’s teammates is his nickname.

“Jonny Burgers,” Dylan Larkin said, his laughter evidence of the fun the Detroit Red Wings had in their last game at Little Caesars Arena for nearly two weeks. They head out Sunday on a five-game trip that will take them across the border and coast-to-coast, packing a nascent winning streak. One of their top forwards is day-to-day, but that is easier to deal with when a rookie such as Berggren is in the lineup.

“He’s a smart hockey player,” Larkin said. “His vision and his skating is really good. We are going to really need him this season and in the future. He’s made a great impact so as he gains more experience, he is just going to get better and it’s going to help our team a lot.”

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Berggren, 22, didn’t start the season with the Wings. He was called up in early November, after the Wings lost Filip Zadina to injury. Berggren had an assist in his NHL debut and a goal in his third game. It wasn’t long before he showed he belonged, that his skill set complemented any line and helped the power play. It was a good moment for the organization; rebuilds depend on draft picks making a difference. Berggren was selected at No. 33 in 2018, but he endured significant injuries early on that hampered his development. Now he’s a regular, while the player the Wings took that year at No. 6, Zadina, is still trying to show if he belongs, despite having played 170 career games to Berggren’s 38.

So it goes; drafting is a gamble. But having a pick pay off like Berggren is is huge. He scored his first of two goals in Saturday’s 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks by angling Ben Chiarot’s pass into the net from along the goal line. On his second, Berggren stepped out from behind the goal line and twisted his body as he fired the puck on net. He’s a great example of the maxim, just put the puck on net and good things happen.

“It’s good hockey sense,” Larkin said. “You watch a lot of his goals he scored this year, it’s finding soft spots on the ice where he is not covered and he’s got good hands around the net. It’s impressive what he has done and we need him to keep going.”

Lucas Raymond wasn’t available Saturday because of a lower-body injury that has left him in the day-to-day category. The second-year forward is the team’s second-leading goal scorer, with 15 in 50 games. But Berggren already has 10, and is growing in confidence.

“I’m feeling pretty good that I have, how you say it, not so much downs in my games,” Berggren said. “It’s coming to the rink every day and trying to be a little better than yesterday and just keep working hard.

“In the beginning, I was pretty nervous. I didn’t know so much the guys, but everyone has helped me a lot, like, take care of me on ice and off the ice. The more games I play, the more confidence I get.”

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The Wings told Berggren last month to move his belongings from Grand Rapids and get a place in metro Detroit, but coaches don’t want players to get complacent, so coach Derek Lalonde cautioned the move can be reversed.

“He makes plays in tight areas, he makes plays on the rush, he helps our offense with his ability to make plays, gain some space,” Lalonde said. “Like the rest of our guys, though, we want him to keep growing away from the puck and in some other areas.

“His play away from the puck, his wall play, some of those winning habit-type things. We still want to hold him accountable and grow. We’ll see how the next month goes, he is still being evaluated, and this is a very sensitive development and important time for him. We want to push him along the right way.”

While the coaching staff prods Berggren’s growth, his teammates have time to coin a nickname for the affable Swede. “Berggie” is what they usually call him, but Larkin likes “Jonny Burgers,” a play on how often Berggren’s first name gets pronounced as Jona-THAN, not Jona-TAN. Asked his thoughts, Berggren laughed and said, “I like burgers.” Bottom line: Like his development, his nickname, is, as Berggren put it, “a work in progress.”

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

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Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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