Carolina Hurricanes’ fans have not had much of an opportunity to see their fifth round draft pick from 2004 play, aside from a few international appearances, but the organization considers Magnus Akerlund on par with their other strong goaltending prospects. They have high hopes for the 19-year-old who was named to Team Sweden’s World Junior squad for the 2006 edition of the tournament. This will be Akerlund’s second appearance in the tournament, as he appeared in one game in his role as backup in 2004.
So far in 2005-06, Akerlund has appeared in 16 games for Nykoping of the Swedish second league and has a 3.16 goals against average and .894 save percentage.
Hockey’s Future spoke with Akerlund as he prepares for the World Junior Championships in British Columbia.
HF: Will you be the starting goalie for Sweden this year?
MA: I don’t know actually. We’ll see what’s happening. We haven’t talked about it yet. Actually, we had training camp last week back home in Sweden and then we had three goalies, five lines. Then the coaches took the players to go with them here. So we haven’t talked about who is going to be the first goalie.
HF: What are your expectations for Team Sweden?
MA: I don’t know, I mean, we have a real good team. It will be very nice to play these games, but we know every country has good teams so every game will be a very tough game. It’s hard to say, but I hope we go to the playoffs and then we’ll see.
HF: What are your best skills as a goaltender?
MA: I think I’m pretty tall. I try to play as big as I can. Use my skates to direct the pucks where I want.
HF: Many goalies being selected are taller, do you think this is something teams consciously look at?
MA: I don’t know. If you’re very tall you also have to be very, uh, bendy? Flexible! A goalie cannot just be tall, he also has to be flexible. I mean all the goalies that are being drafted are good goalies.
HF: What do you need to improve?
MA: Improve? Stop all the shots, that’s all! Of course I will improve and prove I am a pretty good goalie. I hope I can play as good as I can in those games I do play and help the team.
HF: Is it your ultimate goal to play in the NHL one day?
MA: Of course. It’s everybody’s dream who is a hockey player. For me, of course, it is a big dream to play in the NHL. Also I know to be able to play in the NHL you have to be a really, really good goalie and you have to practice very, very hard. And you have to play very good games, a lot of games, and then we’ll see what’s up with that. Of course it’s a dream, and I really hope that I will someday play in the NHL.
HF: Is it difficult for any Swedish player to know that once they reach the Swedish Elite League, it may not be the league they want to end up in?
MA: Yeah, I mean, as I see it, it’s one way or back home. The guys in Sweden or the junior league, they also have the dream to play in the NHL. But of course they have to be able to play the highest elite league in Sweden, I mean the highest elite league in Sweden is also really, really good and there are also a lot of good players. So, as I said, you have to practice very, very hard and you have to start to be able to play in the highest league in Sweden so people see you are a real good hockey player. And then maybe you can play in the NHL.
HF: Carolina has many young goaltenders, including their starter Cam Ward. Does this concern you at all as you work towards the NHL?
MA: Actually, I don’t have that focus on the other goalies that have been drafted by Carolina. But as I said every goalie that goes into the draft is a real good goalie. Even if I don’t know everybody that’s been drafted by Carolina as a goalie I know that they are real good goalies. As I see it, I just focus on myself. Every game I play I do my best and try to play as good as I can.
HF: Did you ever consider coming over to North America to play junior hockey?
MA: I had some thoughts that maybe it would be very nice to play in the junior league in Canada and so on. But I like it back home in Sweden and I have some years left that I have to practice very, very hard and be a better goalie. So, for me, I didn’t think to go to North America, but I like to play back at home.
HF: Who is your favorite goaltender currently playing in the NHL?
MA: Favorite goalie? There are so many good goalies. But I’d have to say Henrik Lundqvist. He was huge back home at Sweden and he’s also a young goalie. He’s been playing really, really good with the Rangers this season, so it’s fun for him. But also I mean, Kevin Weekes the other goalie for Rangers, is really good also. All the goalies in the NHL are good.
HF: Are you able to watch many NHL games from Sweden?
MA: Yeah, I have seen some. We have some channels that send some NHL games. So I’ve been seeing some.
HF: What game are you looking forward to playing the most in the round robin?
MA: I don’t know! (laughing) There’s many teams that would be an honor to play.
Glen Jackson contributed to this article. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.