After a preseason friendly between the last two winners of LeMat Trophy (SHL Champions) Frölunda (2016) and Växjö Lakers (2015) where Frölunda lost 5-2 after an uninspiring game, I had the chance to talk with Christoffer Ehn. While waiting for Christoffer, Coach Rönnberg walked out of the dressing room and looked like he was about to kill someone; the journalist supposed to interview Rönnberg wondered if it was safe to talk to the coach or if he should wait for a couple of more minutes.
Ehn finally stepped out of the dressing room, shook my hand and asked how my summer had been. Very well behaved young man.
PB: How has your summer been? Did you manage to get any vacation at all?
CE: Yes I got one week off somewhere in the middle, it was good and necessary.
PB: It is obvious you have worked quite hard, you added a few pounds?
CE: A couple of kilos more it feels good I am feeling a bit more stable out there. We, as a team have a lot to work with right now, but personally I feel that I am starting to find the legs and can get the pressure up in my skating, I also feel a lot stronger with the puck, but it feels like we don’t bring our edge into the game and that we just pass the puck in front of the net and hope for the best and that someone else should do the dirty work. It’s like we are flat [as a beer goes flat], and we had some problems with that in the CHL matches we played last week. We didn’t take the work seriously and therefore we didn’t really create the hot chances and the goals that we needed. That’s what we are missing right now.
PB: How was development camp? I heard some really good things about you, both on and off the ice [Thanks Michelle!].
CE: Yeah. Damn, it felt good! There is always that feeling that it is difficult to get into the on ice bit after you have been gone from the ice for so long but I feel I have taken another step forward every time I go there. I feel that I can trust myself and my decisions, my confidence was good this year compared to last season and maybe that gave me a bit of an added strength. It becomes different when things like that happen. Also, I have been there a few times and, you shouldn’t say it is easier, but you feel more secure, that made it a great experience this time around.
PB: My colleagues in Winging It In Motown that saw you there said you took a big responsibility for the new guys, both on and of the ice as well. You helped get them sorted and helped with translations, leadership qualities really. Are these skills down to a successful playoff with a championship at the end or the fact that you have become one of the older guys at development camp?
CE: I think it’s a combination of a lot of things, I have great leaders to emulate here. I have seen the job Joel Lundqvist [Hanks brother] does here when I have been with the senior team, and I have had to take that responsibility in the under 20’s where I have been the leader in many ways. It’s part of my game too, I have always played hockey the same way it is a 100% effort no matter in what end we are playing on the ice. I might not be the one that talks most, so I let my game show how I approach the game and what it takes to reach this level. Typical Swedish and boring maybe, but true.
PB: What really happened in the playoffs this spring? You didn’t take one step forward you took four leaps in one stride.
CE: I really don’t know, it is tough to explain. I have felt for a long time that it has been in there somewhere but I haven’t really gotten it out. The coaches believed in me and I got a good start with some good box play (penalty kill). When I felt that it was working in that section it is so much easier to get it to work in the other end. You can take some freedoms with the puck in your game, and it starts to flow at another level. I think that was what really happened, I dared take charge and lead rather than just adapt.
PB: You have obviously developed a lot of different things during your time with Frölunda, but what do you feel that you have developed most?
CE: I would say out of the ice actually, without a doubt. I have really grown and I have become a better person. I dare to become more involved in the team. That I want to on what is me and my strengths, I come to the campus everyday in order to improve. In the long run that is what will make me go where I want - the NHL.
PB: Coach Rönnberg has obviously been very important, you came in at the same time, he must have been scouting you for the Swedish Juniors, what have you two set up for goals for you personally this season. I know the goals for the team, it is to repeat as champions.
CE: Exactly! But for me it is to take small steps forward all the time, to never stop pushing. Now that I have been part of it once, I might be relied upon to take an even bigger role to help the new guys, to help them with their game and I know how things work here, to show everyone what works and how to do it. Then to help the team to win, with killing penalties and do the real dirty work and hopefully put a goal or two in at the other end when I get the chance.
PB: How much is Detroit in contact with you or Frölunda during a season?
CE: Not much at all when it comes to development. We speak maybe once maybe two times a month. Usually it’s Håkan [Andersson] calls to check in I speak to Jiří Fischer every now and then. I really think they are doing me a favour, they let me focus on my stuff over here. They aren’t pushing me to add weight or “do this”. The let me focus on mine and they know this is a good place to develop, look at Mattias Janmark, Andreas Johnson and Artturi Lehkonen as examples.
PB: Talking about talents, Holmström…
CE: Well, haha!
PB: What is your take on him? Will he go over?
CE: I really don’t know. I know he received a lot of criticism during last season after the playoffs he had the season before. But he is a sick hockey player, I know how hard it is to play against him, and I have seen him in the Junior National team. He has so many things going for him in a small rink too; he is so strong with the puck and he is so damn smart. It wouldn’t surprise me if he can go over already.
PB: Both Frölunda and Skellefteå plays a puck possession game, is this something that you think will benefit you guys as players when you go across the Atlantic to try your game in another rink?
CE: Definitely, but we can’t rely on that to much either. We have to go across and do a really good job. Just like in Frölunda where our game is built on a good forecheck where we can recover the puck early, last week and today we really didn’t do that and then we don’t become that super hard team to play against. But that’s the kind of work we need to take with us when we go over too. We can’t just think that we are nice and smooth we have to do the tough jobs too.
PB: Thanks for taking the time Christoffer it’s always a pleasure. Good luck and see you soon!
CE: Thanks Patrik.
[Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Patrik, who held the interview in Swedish with Ehn and was kind enough to translate for us as well.]