November 5, 2020

Exclusive: Karl Henriksson on being a full-time pro and leading Sweden at the WJC

Karl Henriksson (NY Rangers)

The 2019 second round pick is a full-time SHL player this season. After spending time in SuperElit (juniors) and Allsvenskan (2nd tier) last season, Karl Henriksson is ready for a full season at the highest level in Sweden and will play his first game of the season for Sweden u20 today.

Rangers involved in Karl Henriksson’s development

This summer, Henriksson had a long off-season and focused on team practices in Göteborg. The Rangers have a vested interest in his development as they talk to him regularly and assist on what to focus on.

Yes, they have been in touch in the summer, sending videos of players that I like, and trying to pick up great things from their games”, Henriksson said. The Rangers are spending a significant time with each prospect individually to try and give them all the tools to reach their full potential.

When asked who his favorite Ranger is Henriksson is quick to answer, “I really enjoy seeing Mika play”. Both are centers, both are Swedish, it makes sense that Zibanejad is the guy Henriksson enjoys watching. Right now, he is trying to get better in several aspects and hopes to one day play with Zibanejad.

Henriksson more like Backstrom

Growing up a Capitals fan, the other player Henriksson looks up to is Nicklas Bäckström. Another Swedish center, Bäckström won a Cup with the Washington Capitals in 2018 and has been an NHL star for over a decade. Next month Henriksson will try to do what Zibanejad could, and Bäckström couldn’t; win gold at the WJC.

Henriksson on preparing for the WJC

Due to the pandemic, the structure of u20 international hockey is a bit different this season. Usually, Sweden, FInland, Czech Rep and Russia each host their own tournament throughout the season but this week, Sweden plays 3 games in 3 days against FInland at the u20 level. All eyes will be on the top-line with two guys picked in the top-10 last month; Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz. The guy centering them? Karl Henriksson.

It was the same line-combination that won Sweden a gold medal at the u18 WJC in 2019 and now, 18 months later, they are gearing up to reach that same goal at the u20 level.

Playing with Froluda

This season Henriksson is a full-time professional hockey player with Frölunda. After missing a couple of games because of the flu he was back in the line-up last week, notching an assist in a 4-1 win over fellow championship contenders Luleå.

Of course it feels good to contribute, the whole team has been playing well so it is easier to raise my game and it has been nice to be a part of this“, Henriksson says about his experience so far this season. With 3 assists in 11 games, the production could be better but he’s coming along.

Playing with Joel Lundqvist early on the 19-year old center got a lot of praise, even from his head coach who Henriksson enjoys playing for, “We have a good relationship and I have gotten to play in tough situations so I think he has shown he trusts me in those moments“.

Lucas Raymond is Henriksson’s teammate in Göteborg but the other winger Alexander Holtz plays for Djurgården. Henriksson tries to focus on the game when they go head-to-head in the SHL with a guy he considers a friend. “It’s fun, but I don’t think about that too much when you are on the ice and we have been up against Djurgården regularly”. Henriksson right now wants to focus on contributing in the SHL and the 3 games against Finland u20 this week.

With the WJC only 7 weeks away, this is the last opportunity for Henriksson and his teammates but I don’t think Henriksson has to worry about his spot on the team. That top-line is Sweden’s strongest in years going into the World Juniors.

Note from the author: After submitting this article, news broke that the u20 games between Finland and Sweden are cancelled

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