(Charlottetown, PEI) — Filip Rydstrom is 5,000 kilometres from home, wearing a new jersey for the first time and loving it.
The Charlottetown Islanders’ 18-year-old centre is making a name for himself playing on a line with Ross Johnston and Oliver Cooper.
“I always wanted to play in Canada,” Rydstrom said. “I think everyone in Europe dreams about coming here to play.”
After playing for his hometown Vallentuna squad his whole life, Rydstrom spoke with his agents at Maloney & Thompson Sports Management about coming to North America. The thinking was his game was tailored to the more-physical North American style of hockey and it would help his development.
The day of the Canadian Hockey League import draft Rydstrom was in Toronto for a summer development camp. He was having lunch with his father in the CN Tower when he found out he had been drafted by the Islanders.
He has five goals and 12 assists in 46 games this season. The statistics don’t jump off the page, but they do include a five-point performance against Halifax on Dec. 18.
His teammates and coaches are well aware of his value.
“He does a lot of the little things right,” coach Gordie Dwyer said.
It includes winning faceoffs, killing penalties, playing against other team’s top lines and cycling the puck. Dwyer called him a smart, mature and coachable player.
“He’s been a real bright spot for our hockey team,” he said. “He is a big-body presence that we hoped that he’d be down the middle for us.”
With his play improving, the coaches have rewarded Rydstrom with more ice time, as evident by the 20 minutes he played against Gatineau earlier this month.
“He’s a great centreman. He’s always there for support and sees the ice well,” said Cooper.
The 19-year-old has played with a number of import players during his major junior career. The adjustment for them is not lost on Cooper.
“It’s definitely not easy, moving that far away from home, and the hockey is completely different.”
Growing up, Rydstrom was bigger and faster than most of his peers. He considered himself more of a playmaker than scorer, but said he has a good shot.
“I’ve been a point scorer, I’ve not really been it here, but I have that in me,” he said. “It’s starting to come a bit.”
He called the five-point night a “dream come true” and he will continue to work hard each day to help the team win.
(Article by Jason Milloy of Charlottetown Islanders)