Hockey’s Future Conversation with Marcus Nilson and Kristian Huselius
Taking a break from their hectic training camp schedule, Hockey’s Future recently had the chance to have a conversation with Panthers sophomore left wing Marcus Nilson, and highly regarded rookie, Kristian Huselius. Nilson ended last season playing the part as the defensive and physical conscience for Pavel Bure, and completed his season as one of the best of his career on any level.
Kristian Huselius is not only coming off a career year numbers-wise for himself, but a career year for all of the Swedish Elite League, where he swept 6 offensive categories and had what is considered the finest season for any Swedish players ever. Both Marcus and Kristian were able to reflect on their past seasons, what the upcoming season will hold, and what challenges they face. They also deftly avoided my attempts to get them to start the pre-Olympic trash talking well before anyone else.
Hockey’s Future: How long have you two known each other, and how many times have you played against each other or together?
Marcus Nilson: I would say about 9 or 10 years, and against each other not too many times. Maybe like 6 or 7 times….
Kristian Huselius: We played together alot though.
HF: What kind of advice have you given Kristain about playing in the NHL?
MN: Nothing yet, just trying to help him out here and there, but he is doing fine by himself
HF: With Sweden and Finland being rivals on the international scene, have you had a chance to reflect with Niklas and Olli about your past competition against each other?
MN: No, not really.
KH: No, not yet…
MN: But they will find out this Saturday soon enough!!! (laughs) (Editors Note: In place of the cancelled exhibition game vs Dallas, the Panthers will have team scrimmages)
HF:Tell me what your personal goals you have set for yourself this season?
MN:It’s tough to say, I haven’t really thought about it all yet. Just trying to keep going where I left off.
KHNo, It is too early to have those thoughts right now. Of course, I want to make the team, but it is going to be hard work.
HF: Marcus, last year you started out on the lower lines, and than finding yourself on the top line to end up the year, why do you think it came together for you with your run to end the season?
MN: Why? I thought I played pretty well all year, but I got the opportunity to move up to the first line there, and things came together from there. It’s two pretty good players to play with!
HF: Do you think you could have been nearly as successful on a different line?
MN: Not points wise I don’t think, but there is other things you can do. If you are on the third line, you can do a great job and not get as many points.
HF: Marcus, it also appeared that you seemed much more confident and comfortable as well with your play, to what extent did your off-season work on your skating play into that?
MN: Yeah, especially with my skating. I skate better than I did three years ago, that’s the main thing. I still skate bad, (laughs) but it is better than three years ago. But you know, if you just get the chance to play your confidence gets better all the time.
HF: Kristian, your puck-handling skills are quickly evident to all observers, even in this kind of setting. Is your ability with the puck something that have made an effort to develop to this level, or is it something that came natural to you?
KH: No, I had pretty good coaches in Stockholm who tought me a lot, and of course I work on it by myself a lot too. I don’t know, what I…..
MN: (laughing) That’s all he does!
HF: Kristian, before you exploded offensively last season, your previous seasons paled in comparison. What happened and why were you able to have that season you had?
KH: I don’t know, the coach in Sweden believed in me and I had good teammates, on a good line. It is hard to say, I had some luck there too so, good confidence and everything’s going well.
MN: he’s got the opportunity to play a lot too. You had a pretty good year there before, didn’t you?
MN: Not as good, but still was good. I mean you go from not playing and then you come to a team that plays you alot.
HF: Who were your linemates in Frolunda?
KH: Jonas Johnsson, for the most of the year as center. And right winger was all different players.
HF: Do you feel that having no red-line have any affect on you whatsoever?
KH: Of course, maybe a little bit, but it is hard to say. But the teams in Sweden, they know the rules.
HF: After the season ended, you competed in the World Championships, and had some success but nothing like your Elite League season, why do you think that was the case?
KH: I don’t know, of course I didn’t play so much and we had a pretty good team. So it is hard to say, I had a little bit of injuries and stuff like that. Of course it is hard to play in international games against tough teams.
HF: I know you haven’t been here for long and it is only the second day of camp, what are your initial impressions of South Florida and your first training camp?
KH: Oh, it’s nice to be hear and good to play with the guys of course, it’s just fun…
HF: Have you had a chance to look around at all and have a good time?
KH: Marcus showed me some places, but yes its real cool
HF: Have you gotten used to the heat, is this something you ever been around, this kind of weather?
KH: Ohhhh, it is too hot, yeah! (laughs)
HF: Kristian, you have been quoted several times as saying you do not like the physical game. Are you planning to make any efforts or any way to adjust to the rough style of the game?
KH: I have to improve my strength of course, it’s a smaller rink and everything goes faster, but I think you can get used to it. If you get used to it, you can get better and I think you just have to work hard.
HF:I notice that John Jakopin was pretty much hounding you all day in the scrimmages. Do you think that was a concerted effort on his part or was he playing his normal game and were you just the unfortunate guy in front of him?
KH: Yeah! (laughing)
HF: Marcus, does he do the same thing to you in the practices?
MN: Yeah, he isn’t going to go out hitting guys, but just like that you will take hits. It wont be a problem, you just get up and keep going, which Kristian did today.
HF: Kristian, have you had any conversations with Coach Sutter as to what line or linemates he is anticipating putting you with?
HF: Marcus, what about you? Is there any part of you that wants to be paired up with Kristian on a line, or are you happy on the top line with Pavel and Victor?
MNNo, it really doesn’t matter. It is how the coaches feel and what will be best for the team.
HF: Have either of you had any indication that could get a call to represent Sweden in the 2002 Olympics?
MN: No, not me. That’s a longshot! (laughs)
KH: They just talked to me and said they are going to look at me to see some, but, of course they will look at everyone, so Marcus too.
HF: Feel free to boast proudly for our readers in Sweden…..Will Sweden crush all challengers at the Olympics in Utah?
MN: (laughing)Crush? Nah, but anywhere from winning the tournament to sixth place. There is so many good teams. You know how it is in the playoffs, you got to get the momentum going, and if you do you can win it. But everyone can win it. Maybe not six teams, but at least 5 teams can.
HF: Alright Kristian, in your opinion are the Swedes going to crush everybody?
KH: (laughing) No! Of course we will have a real good team. I think if Marcus goes there and joins the team, than we will crush everybody! (laughing)
HF: Alright, that is what I like to hear! The Swedes generally take the International game a lot more seriously than some other teams. So neither of you are predicting that Sweden will win the Gold?
MN: I can predict they will win the Gold, but they are not going to crush anyone! (laughing)
HF: That is good to know. Thanks for your time and have a good training camp.