Detroit — Simon Edvinsson knows he wasn’t good enough during training camp in September to make the Red Wings.
In Edvinsson’s estimation, it’s simple.
“If I had (had) a real good training camp, I would be up there right now,” Edvinsson told The Detroit News.
True enough. Edvinsson wasn’t quite good enough, not game to game anyway, and he likely did need the crucial professional seasoning the American League supplies for a 20-year-old like Edvinsson.
Even one as uniquely skilled as the 6-foot-6, 210-pound defenseman, a 2021 first-round draft pick (sixth overall) the Wings were fortunate enough to land.
There have been struggles this season. Especially coming over to a new country, and playing a different and challenging brand of hockey.
But, then, you see a game like Wednesday’s 5-4 Grand Rapids victory over Rockford and see Edvinsson scoring a goal, dishing out three assists, his first four-point game.
If Edvinsson isn’t ready for the NHL just yet, and he probably isn’t, he’s getting pretty darn close. That’s for sure.
“The way it feels like right now, there aren’t the bumps in the road, as you call it,” Edvinsson said.
So, along with the pro hockey, Edvinsson is getting the hang of North American sports cliches, too.
No, the bumps are definitely fewer and farther between. There is a consistency the Wings wanted to see and is needed at the NHL level. Edvinsson is understanding it.
It started around Christmas, after discussions with Griffins coach Ben Simon and Red Wings’ front-office personnel, who advised how Edvinsson could become the type of player he wants to be.
The suggestions have seemed to work.
“I’m starting to play easier all over the rink,” said Edvinsson, who has four goals and 19 assists and an even plus-minus rating in his first 41 games. “I can be more creative in the zone now because it’s easier to play in the defensive zone and be more physical. I feel better now than I did before, better than when I came here at the start of the season.
“I feel better now (with) everything.”
Don’t underestimate the difficulty of leaving Sweden for Michigan at the tender age of 20.
This isn’t like going to college. This is pro hockey, such a competitive business, and playing against men with families and competing for those same jobs.
Edvinsson found out pretty quick.
“It’s been kind of a rollercoaster,” Edvinsson said. “When I first got here, I felt like a little bit I didn’t know what I was going into. I wasn’t really prepared mentally, just to move out, like thinking it would be easy going from where you were born and raised and you have your parents close and you play for your home team and you know the people in the stands. It’s a lot of differences.
“But it’s been a good experience for me coming here and finding my game. I battled my way through it.”
Simon has a 19-year-old who moved into college life this year, so in a way, the Griffins’ head coach knows what Edvinsson is going through.
“She’s calling, crying, she’s homesick, so with a player, it puts it into perspective in that he’s in a totally different country, living on his own for the first time,” Simon said. “He doesn’t have a cozy dorm, he has grown-up responsibilities and this is a career he’s embarking on. We hope it’s a prolific, long career with the Red Wings. He’s a young kid who is learning his way and slowly, surely finding his way.”
It’s just not consistency Edvinsson is playing with right now, Simon said, but an understanding of what it takes to be a professional.
“He’s playing with more detail to his game and more structure,” Simon said. “He’s effective when he’s playing with structure and he’s putting way more time being proactive with video. He’s (41 games played) into his first pro year, and he’s gotten more of a routine developed.
“He’s just in a better place than he was 15 or 20 games ago.”
It helps Simon, as well as the Griffins coaching staff and organization, that they’ve seen this before from young players. Prospects such as Moritz Seider, Filip Zadina and Jonatan Berggren have arrived in North America, gotten placed in Grand Rapids, and learned what North American pro hockey is all about.
“Any kid that comes over there’s an acclimation period,” Simon said. “Not just culturally, but from a hockey standpoint as well. Zadina, Joe Veleno who wasn’t from Europe but on his own for the first time, there’s a list a guys. Mo (Seider) did a couple of years ago. Not just on the ice, but off the ice, but it’s intertwined and if you have distractions off the ice there’s a tendency for it to leak into your game.
“The less problems and distractions you have away from the rink, the way more positive it is at the rink.”
The game has slowed down for Edvinsson from training camp in September, where maybe he was trying to do too much, too fast.
“There were some nights he looked NHL-ready, to be a top-four,” coach Derek Lalonde said of Edvinsson’s exhibition season. “There were other nights you could see he’s going to take some time.”
Edvinsson understands there is a process to be completed before he can reach the NHL.
“Training camp, it wasn’t the speed (of the game), but I wanted to do too much,” Edvinsson said. “Like, my decision-making wasn’t quite there. In Sweden, you have more time with the puck and here it’s a lot quicker pace. I’ve been finding that pace in my game, and feel like I can do my stuff.”
Jakub Vrana, who was playing in Grand Rapids before being recalled by the Wings, was impressed with the way Edvinsson can see the ice for a young defenseman.
“You can tell he has great vision,” Vrana told DetroitRedWings.com. “He’s real mature. He just got to North America and he’s playing on a different ice (smaller surface), but I was impressed. He has great potential.”
Whether Edvinsson gets an opportunity with the Wings this season remains to be seen. The Wings are suddenly in playoff contention, and likely won’t have the room for a young defenseman to get a taste of NHL hockey. It would probably benefit Edvinsson more to play major minutes and help the Griffins, similarly, to a possible playoff berth.
Just as long as the progress continues.
“It feels like it’s falling into place,” Edvinsson said. “I feel like I’m doing the right stuff at the right times.”