COLUMBUS, Ohio – Aside from the fact that he hadn’t been on the ice in a month, Alexander Wennberg was really looking forward to Blue Jackets development camp.
Wennberg, the club’s first pick at No. 14 overall in the recent NHL Draft in New Jersey, arrived in Columbus over the weekend and along with a group of 30 Blue Jackets prospects, got settled downtown over the past couple of days and took part in the first on-ice session Tuesday afternoon.
Lacing the skates up and getting back on the ice was already exciting, he said, but doing so just two weeks after being drafted in the NHL was a pretty cool experience.
“It’s been fun to be around here, see the facilities and hang out with the players here,” Wennberg said. “It’s a good experience and this is where you want to be, so this has been about enjoying it.
“I was a little rusty because I haven’t been on the ice in a month, so it wasn’t the best practice. It’s nice to be back out there, and play against those players because all the players here are good. And putting on that Columbus Blue Jackets jersey is something you look forward to.”
Wennberg is in a unique situation as part of a three-person first-round draft class, but he has enjoyed getting to know both Kerby Rychel (selected at No. 19 overall) and Marko Dano (No. 27 overall) in the days following the draft.
They’ll be growing up in the Blue Jackets organization together, and Wennberg acknowledged that’s something not every player gets to do. But the main thing he aims to take away from this development camp is mostly educational: what it takes to be a professional hockey player, and the expectations that he will have upon returning to Sweden.
“These are people you compete against but they could also become your teammates,” Wennberg said. It’s nice to meet those guys and see how you play against them. This development camp, it’s something you can take experience from (as you try to get to the NHL).
“I feel like I need to get stronger. There are a lot bigger players here and it’s a little different hockey than in Sweden. So for me, it’s pretty obvious that I need to gain some more weight. But in my game, I feel like I need to be a little more aggressive but otherwise, just play my type of game.”
His type of game was evident in Tuesday’s practice. Wennberg, regarded as a smooth and powerful skater, was one of the more noticeable players in the opening session. He said he feels like other aspects of his game have improved over the last year, as well, and taking his development one step further is a goal when the upcoming season begins.
Wennberg is under contract for one more season in Sweden, and he’s expected to play for Frolunda in 2013-14.
“I could maybe go back to Sweden, get stronger and improve my skills because I feel like that’s something you need to do to get ready for the NHL,” Wennberg said. “I don’t have a set number of steps (to the NHL), but I want to take it as it comes. For now, I’m going to do my best here at development and see what happens.”
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