Despite the fact that Carolina Hurricanes prospect Lucas Wallmark hails from Umea, a small but growing city in the otherwise sparsely populated northern Sweden region, competing at USA Hockey’s National Junior Evaluation Camp in New York’s more rural and mountainous Adirondack region didn’t necessarily remind him of home.
“It’s a big difference from home,” said Wallmark of the Lake Placid, NY area. “We are high up, now, in the mountains, so it’s really good to be here. It’s really amazing to be here. It’s fantastic here, and good teams we’re playing against, so it’s real fun to be (in Lake Placid).”
Along with the other five countries competing at both the NJEC and Hockey’s Canada’s Summer Development Camp, Team Sweden has completed the week-long training session that will be used to help the coaching staff make some decisions on which players will compete at the 2015 World Junior Championship that begins after Christmas.
Given the fact that he already competed for his country at the 2014 WJC held in Sweden, it seems like a safe bet that Wallmark will be a part of this year’s squad, too. He was productive at last year’s tournament, scoring three goals and adding five assists to finish among the top 15 scorers at that tournament.
But despite the solid numbers, Wallmark thinks he can contribute in more ways at this year’s event.
“Personally, I have a bigger role and play much (more) on the special teams – power play and penalty killing – so take more (responsibility) this year, so it’s fun,” said Wallmark.
Wallmark added that he and others from last year’s silver medal squad will be tasked with showing some of the newbies the ropes in Toronto and Montreal come December.
“We have a few guys that played last year in the World Championship, so we are seven, eight guys that will be team leaders,” stated Wallmark.
For the 2014-15 season, Wallmark will return to Sweden to play in the SHL for Lulea. Last season, he saw his first extended action in Sweden’s top league, appearing in 41 games for that club. Despite limited ice time, Wallmark managed to produce three goals and seven assists for 10 points.
The offensive side of his game is something that Wallmark embraces, but he sees himself as more than just a one-dimensional player.
“I’m a two-way center, but I (score) a lot of points and play in the offensive and defensive zones,” Wallmark said of his style of play. “So, I’m a two-way center and have good play sense and a good shot, so that’s me.”
While the skill aspect of the game seems to come naturally to him, Wallmark would like to improve in a couple of areas in the coming season.
“The most, be stronger in my body and more muscle, and take a bigger (role) in the team at home (Lulea),” Wallmark said succinctly.
Wallmark was passed over at the 2013 NHL Draft despite being ranked 16th among European skaters for that draft by Central Scouting. But 2014 was another opportunity for the talented forward to show the NHL scouts that they made a mistake last year, with Wallmark making the most of the second chance. The Hurricanes took notice of his ability this time around, selecting Wallmark in the fourth round, 97th overall, of the 2014 draft.
In July, Wallmark had a first-hand look at some of the younger talent in the Hurricanes’ organization when he took part in that team’s development camp. Not surprisingly, the experience of both being drafted and taking part in an NHL camp was an enjoyable one for Wallmark.
“It was really fun,” enthused Wallmark. “I was there (in Raleigh) the week before I go to (the WJC) camp in Montreal, so it was fun to be there and see how it works. I had a good training camp before this, but it was just really fun to be drafted this year.”
Wallmark will not be taking part in the Hurricanes’ formal training camp in September, returning instead to Sweden to compete for Lulea. Still, he is mindful of the fact that the team seems to be in rebuilding mode and will take any guidance provided by the Hurricanes as he works towards an NHL career.
“I need to talk with Carolina first and hear what they say,” said Wallmark of a future move to North America. “But that’s my goal, to one day play in the NHL, it’s the best league in the world, so that’s my goal.”
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