It may only be June, but Linus Ölund could be sending a message for what’s to come next season.
Ölund was one of the stand-outs during the first ice session at the Pittsburgh Penguins 2018 Development Camp at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pennsylvania. Ölund tormented the Group A goalies by picking the top corner time and time again in every single drill the Penguins prospects partook in on Wednesday. His release was hard and heavy in addition to its accuracy, and he flashed some skill in puckhandling drills, as well.
The Swedish forward certainly passed the eye test in practice, but things might not come as easy once he has to make a big adjustment in-season. Ölund has spent his whole life playing on the expanded ice surface in European rinks. Expected to start the 2018-19 campaign with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, this season will be his first stab at trying to make his game translate to the smaller North American ice surface.
“I don’t think it’s going to be too hard,” Ölund said with some bravado in his tone. “Of course it’s going to take a few games to get to know the ice, but I’m going to use my head a lot when I play.”
Perhaps Ölund’s confidence carried over from his homeland’s surprising showing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Before Ölund took the ice in Cranberry, he and his fellow countrymen at development camp watched Sweden dispatch of Mexico, 3-0, and win their group to advance to the knockout stage for the first time since 2006.
Understandably, the 21-year-old was a little excited by the result.
“We were jumping up and down,” he said. “I wouldn’t think they would go out and get this kind of results, but they kicked out Italy in (qualification) playoffs. Yeah, I’m really happy.”
Sweden’s performance has been fun viewing for fans of all countries, but if Ölund can adjust to North American hockey and play as impressively as he did at the first day of development camp, he should be a joy to watch this season, too.