As one of, if not the youngest player at this year’s WJC, Danish forward Jonas Rondbjerg has stood out for more than just his age as he served in a second-line left wing capacity for his nation. Back home in Denmark, he’s currently in the middle of his second season of professional play, where he has accumulated eight goals and 12 points along with a +7 in 25 games. He had four points in 30 games for the same team as a 15-year-old.
As is usually the case for a big talent from Denmark, it is expected that Rondbjerg’s next hockey step will take him to another country. At the time of this interview, though, he was concentrating on the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland.
Hockey’s Future: You are 16 and you wear the number 16. Is that your favorite number and if so, why?
Jonas Rondbjerg: No, it’s actually just the number I got from the team. I usually play with either the 24 or the 10, so I really have nothing to do with wearing 16 now.
HF: You are playing your first WJC and you are one of the youngest players in the entire tournament. What does it mean to you to be part of this?
JR: It’s definitely a fun tournament to be part of. Just all the hype and energy surrounding it. The players here are better than the competition back home. That makes it an incredible challenge. It’s one I’ve never had before, so it’s all new and fun for me.
JR: I know who some of those Canadian boys are. Not all of them, but a few were high draft picks and I was aware of that. But certainly, they are all very good. It was great to play against the North Americans.
HF: Speaking of the NHL, there are a few Danish players currently there in action. Do you have a particular favorite?
JR: I really like Frans Nielsen. He can do a bit of everything and I think he’s really underrated. I like how he plays so responsibly, but can be quietly dangerous in the offensive.
HF: The Danish ice hockey scene is fairly small and close. Have you ever had a chance to meet Frans?
JR: No, not actually. But I have been in the same room with him and that was thrilling. Maybe sometime in the future.
HF: Now you play pro hockey for Rungsted just outside of Copenhagen. How is your season there going?
JR: It’s going very well actually. I play on a line with Morten Green, who was the long-time captain of Team Denmark and played many years in Sweden and Germany. He’s a great mentor and I learn a lot from him both on and off the ice.
HF: What are your challenges in playing against professional men?
JR: They are all bigger than me. They weigh more and are stronger. They have more experience and know a lot of the little tricks that I am still learning. I just have to go in there, do my best, and kind of like learn how to survive against those guys while also helping my team win.
HF: Ice hockey is popular in Denmark, but not the most popular sport. You also have a slightly older brother who plays and was one of the last cuts from this team. How did you get into the sport?
JR: Well my brother was the first to discover it when he started going to school. He then got into organized hockey and I would watch his practices. I naturally wanted to play too. I thought it looked fun and the next thing I knew, I was out there also and have loved it ever since.
HF: A lot of good Danish players your age think about going to North America or more particularly Sweden. Is this on your agenda?
JR: I have thought about it and naturally it’s a big question for me. It will be an issue for the end of the season. I haven’t made any decision now and we will see what my best option is after this season is concluded. First I want to win the Danish championship, then I will look at what comes next.
HF: Your teammate Alexander True plays in North America. Have you talked to him about his experiences?
JR: Yes, actually I have. I was naturally curious to find out what life is like for him. But like I said, that stuff will come at the end of the season.
HF: Some of your teammates, like Mathias From, who plays in Rogle, are playing in Sweden. Have you talked to him about what that’s like?
JR: Yes, I have and he really likes it and thinks he has learned a lot there. They have a lot of things there that make playing in Sweden very attractive for a young player looking to develop. It’s an option.
HF: How do you describe yourself as a player?
JR: I’m very good in the defensive zone for my age. I like to be responsible there first and foremost. I know I have to improve a lot in the other direction and my shot needs a lot of work. I think I have pretty good offensive instincts and those come in handy when taking care of business in my zone and moving forward in the other direction.
HF: What would you say you really need to improve on?
JR: Well, definitely my shot. My overall strength on my skates and my general speed can always be improved. I will keep working on those. I also think that my vision with the puck can improve so that I’m making better and more better-timed passes.
JR: He’s put me on the second line and that line has to be responsible in its own zone, but we also have to score goals if the team is going to win. But he expects me to give everything to stop opponents. We are the huge underdogs here and we have to make defense our priority. He expects that of me and my line.
HF: Is any power play time involved?
JR: Yes, and I love it. I get excited to be on the ice during the power play. Every single one is a grand opportunity.
HF: You may be the underdogs, but you opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over Switzerland. What was that like for you?
JR: It was huge. Absolutely huge! We knew going in that it was going to be the one real opportunity to make it to the playoff round. We knew we had to fight hard. It was going to be the most important 60 minutes of hockey for us in this tournament. Now we’re in the quarterfinals and there’s no pressure on us. We can just enjoy the ride and try to cause another upset.
HF: And with that, you’ll be part of the tournament next year…
JR: Exactly. And already now I get excited when thinking about playing this event again, and that in Toronto and Montreal. That will be just unbelievable.
HF: Do you have a favorite team you like to follow?
JR: Yes, the Detroit Red Wings. And my favorite player is Pavel Datsyuk. The way he plays, the passes he makes, the skills he has – it’s just unbelievable. I think he should be most every player’s role model.
HF: To conclude, what is your biggest ice hockey dream?
JR: No doubt, it’s to be one of the next Danish players to make it to the NHL. That’s where I want to spend my pro career.
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