Helge Grans was set to compete for his home country Sweden at the 2022 World Junior Championships last winter. But, as appears to have been the case over the past two years, COVID-19 delayed that opportunity.
Grans appeared in two matches with the Sweden national team in December, recording three power play assists in a pair of victories over Russia and Slovakia before the tournament was abruptly cancelled. It was a small sample size, but Grans looked to be in line for a leading role at the Blueline, playing big minutes against top offensive prospects from other nations while helping drive the team’s power play unit, which was recognized as early success. was found.
Now, with his first pro season in North America behind him, which included 56 regular season games and five postseason competitions in the AHL with Ontario Reign, Gran is back with Team Sweden and the opening of the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championships. ready to compete. Again Tuesday in Edmonton.
“It was so sad that it ended like it happened, but I’m happy to have the opportunity to play it again and it’s going to be a lot of fun doing it,” Grans said of the awkward timing of the postponement. “I am doing my best. I’ve been skating a lot and just have to keep working on everything.”
The 2020 second-round NHL draft selection is one of three prospects from the LA Kings representing their country in the showcase, along with Finnish forwards Samuel Helenius and Casper Simontaval. While Grans is the only player with the Kings in Sweden this year, there have been plenty of other players in the past. In recent years, to name a few, Lias Anderson, Tobias Björnfot, Samuel Fagemo, Karl Grundstrom, Adrian Kempe and Jakob Movarare have all represented Trey Kroner at the WJC.
Björnfot recently joked that he would not give any advice, as his team was knocked out in the quarter-finals. Grans explained that he hasn’t been in daily contact with a lot of his teammates in the months before the rescheduled schedule, but he is familiar with a lot of past tournaments and is looking forward to reconnecting.
“I have some great friends out there and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” the 20-year-old said. “Some people have been on the team under-16, under-17, under-18, and all the way up and some are even from my district in Sweden, we’ve played together since we were 14 and 15.”
Hailing from the town of Ljungbi, Grans grew up playing forward before moving to the back end about five years ago after taking some advice from his father and two brothers, who all played professionally in their home country. His 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame has always impressed scouts, with young supporters now working to up their game.
The past calendar year has been a whirlwind of new experiences for Grans, who arrived in Southern California last September to attend the first-ever rookie camp and the 2021 Rookie Faceoff, where she played two exhibition games in Arizona, among other team prospects. He first attended NHL training camp before being assigned to Ontario to begin the AHL campaign.
At first, the plan was to ease the young Blueliners into sporting action, with Sean O’Donnell and Matt Greene from the King’s development staff under constant work and training. However, this strategy was quickly derailed when the big club lost Drew Doughty and Sean Walker early in the season. Grans was pushed into an nightly role with the regime, a job training for the right wing.
He continued in that role for the rest of the season, posting 24 points on seven goals and 17 assists, including five power play points (1-4-5). Just two months after the campaign ended, with a year of experience under his belt, Grans was back at the Toyota Sports Performance Center for his first experience with development camp.
“The development camp was a really great week for everyone to come and learn a lot,” said Grans. “The coaches have a lot of experience to teach us and it was a lot of stuff that we were doing during the year. Repeat that stuff and keep working to get better. ,
In addition to the development staff, Grans credits fellow Blueliners Cameron Goons, with whom he was paired for most of the season, as having made a big impact on his game and helping him learn quickly.
“We played a lot of games together and that taught me a lot,” Grans said. “If we’re doing something bad on the ice, he’ll tell me what to focus on and how we can get better. He was a great mentor last year and it was a lot of fun playing with him.”
Gaines is returning to Ontario for the 2022-23 season, his third with Reigns, and Grans will be happy to see him.
“It definitely made an impact on the team,” Grans said. “Having a vet like him, he’s a great guy both on and off the ice. He’s going to be great to have.”
With the help of his development coaches and teammates to take him to new heights last year, Grans hopes to have even more confidence in Edmonton next week when he goes against opponents his age. This doubles when considering the more than 60 games practiced and played on the ice surface the size of the NHL, on which this year’s tournament will be held.
“I would say [playing on] The smaller rink can make me a little more experienced,” said Grans. “I like the little ice. Of course, in the beginning, there are some differences, how to play without the puck and with the puck. But I mean, the people in the team in Ontario, they helped me a lot and then OD and Greener also helped me a lot. He told me how to play defensively and it has been good. It is going to be a great hockey tournament with many great players. But a rink as small as a Swede can be a good thing for me.”
As a rookie to the North American style of play, he felt that his game improved most on the puck’s defensive side after working hard to learn more about how shutdown roles played at the AHL level.
“The defensive part on how to control the defense and how to play the defense, I think that’s going to be what I learned the most and improved my game,” he said. “That’s what I worked on a lot last year and I will continue to work on it this year.”
The tournament will be an opportunity for Grans to jumpstart his next season, where he hopes to make a big impact in the AHL and start competing for a look at the highest level. Grans and Team Sweden will make their tournament debut against Switzerland on 10 August, with a tournament preview next week.