When the Detroit Red Wings spend a late pick on a small, Swedish defenceman whose hockey sense they compare to Nick Lidstrom you can hear the other 29 NHL teams gulp.
That’s exactly what they got with Adam Almquist, their seventh round pick in 2009. The undersized blue liner (generously listed at 5’11″ and 171 pounds on eliteprospects.com) is in his first professional season in North America after a solid career in the Eliteserien’s HV71 program.
His nine points in 19 games rank him third amongst Griffins blue liners, behind rookie surprise Chad Billins and Brendan Smith and eighth overall on the team.
He is among a very strong group of young Red-Wings-defenders-to-be, which includes 2011 second round picks Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul, former first round pick Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff. Let’s toss new Griffin Max Nicastro in that group as well.
Here’s what Adam had to say…
Rob Benneian: I know you came over from Sweden towards the end of last year to join the Griffins, how has that helped you for this year?
Adam Almquist: Pretty much I learned how it was here, all the guys here and stuff like that. It helped me coming in here this year and play good I think.
RB: What’s the biggest difference you’ve found from playing in Sweden to playing in North America now?
AA: The hockey is different here, it’s more like up-and-down hockey, straighter hockey. Quicker, smaller ice. It’s a little bit more like playing in the neutral zone back home. That’s the big difference. When you get into it, it’s fun to play here.
RB: Has the adjustment been going well? Has it been difficult or easy for you?
AA: I think it’s going pretty good, it’s a little bit different with everything outside of hockey like apartment and pay bills and stuff. That’s different from back home. I got a lot of help from the staff here at the Griffins and the other players so they’ve been great to me so that’s helped me a lot.
RB: Were you living by yourself in Sweden?
AA: Yeah, I was.
RB: Are you living by yourself now?
AA: Yeah, with my girlfriend.
RB: Ok, so she came over from Sweden with you.
RB: Who on the Griffins has helped you adjust? Has there been somebody who has helped you out along the way?
AA: Yeah, the Swedish guys have helped me a lot. They know, they’ve been here some years before so they know how it works. They’ve helped me a lot.
RB: When you say the Swedish guys, that’d be Joakim Andersson and…-
AA: – Yeah Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist.
RB: Who have you been playing mostly with?
AA: Brian Lashoff.
RB: What’s that pairing been like? I know he’s a bit of a different player than you, a big, tuogh stay-at-home defenceman and you’ve got some offensive upside to your game.
AA: Yeah, he’s been awesome, playing really well. We have played good together. We kinda clicked the first time we played and help each other on the ice. It’s been great to play with him, he’s a really good player.
RB: What’s your been like on the team? Are you playing a lot of power play, five-on-five, any penalty kill?
AA: No, not so much penalty kill. We have some good guys there that play penalty kill. I play wherever coach (Jeff Blashill) tells me to play.
RB: You are on the power play though?
AA: Yeah, I am.
RB: How has that been going? I know the team sees you as a power play quarterback now and going forward with the Red Wings. Has that been going well for you?
AA: Yeah, it’s been going well. We have a pretty good power play, we play OK there. I think we can do better, but I think we’re doing OK.
RB: I’ve heard you say before that the Red Wings were your favourite team growing up because of all the Swedes. Who was your favourite Swede growing up, someone you modeled your game after?
AA: Obviously, every young defenceman in Sweden is kinda looking up to Lidstrom. He’s huge. I wasn’t looking at NHL hockey so much back home because of the time difference and stuff. When they showed the sports, they kinda showed Detroit so they became the team because they had all Swedes.
RB: The team loves your hockey sense, the way you think and play the game. The only thing they really want you to work on is getting stronger. How much time to spend in the gym?
AA: A lot because that’s a huge thing I have to work on. Train hard in the summer and now just keep up the work and get to the gym as much as possible. I’m spending a lot of time in there to get stronger and bigger.