Jacob Josefson is coming off his first full season with the New Jersey Devils, who drafted him in the first round of the 2009 NHL Draft, although he had seen time in the previous four seasons. With just 11 points and a zero rating in 62 games, it’s felt that Josefson is showing himself to more likely be a lower-line player for the time being, and that was been the case at the 2015 IIHF World Championship. Still, Josefson scored a goal against France and totaled four points in eight games during this tournament.
Hockey’s Future: You finished the preliminary round against France, winning 4-2 thanks to a couple of third period goals. With that, Sweden is second behind Canada in the group, but will travel to Ostrava to face Russia. What are your thoughts now?
Jacob Josefson: As for France, we knew that they had played tight games the whole tournament. We were expecting more of the same. We knew it wouldn’t be an easy game. They have some skilled players like Damien Fleury, who played in Sweden this season, and we felt we came out of the gate well in the first. We thought we should have scored a few more. They then came out in the second real hard and were rewarded with several goals. But we responded well in the third period, scored the goals we needed, and played well with the lead.
The next round won’t get easier. We’ve known that whoever we’re playing, it’s a do or die situation and regardless of whether it’d be Finland or Russia, there’d be dynamics that’d require us to call up our best effort. Both of those opponents have waves of skill and can beat you several ways. But we do too.
HF: You’ve now played seven games in 11 nights. What kind of a beast is a World Championship for a guy coming off of a long NHL season?
JJ: Obviously, it’s tough physically. It’s very demanding. Over in North America, we’re used to playing a lot of games in a few days, but this schedule can definitely have an impact on a team. As tough as it is, it’s the same for everyone and no matter the difficulties, it’s still a lot of fun.
HF: As an NHL player now representing his national team, what is it like for you and what type of an adaptation do you have to make?
JJ: The biggest change is really the ice surface. Sure, I’m from Europe, but I’ve spent most of my time over the last few years playing in North America and the ice surface is the biggest thing I feel I’ve got to adapt to. It the end though, hockey is hockey, and not too much is different. Just different teammates, goals, and challenges in meeting those goals. You’ve got to do what you do, provide what you can, and give the team the things that make you good enough to be here playing for your country.
HF: You’ve spent a few years in North America, but haven’t really had your big breakthrough yet – not in a scoring sense. What’s been your feedback from the Devils and what do you expect going forward?
JJ: Personally, I think I took another step forward in my career. I think management was happy, too, and sees me as a player who took another step forward. The goal is to build on and further that going into next season. I’ve still got some developing to do until I reach my full potential.
Another young man who took a new step in his budding NHL career was Swedish center Anton Lander. Having played parts of the previous three NHL seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, he managed to get into 38 games this past season and put up 20 points after having 22 assists and 31 points in 29 AHL contests in Oklahoma City. The confidence gained there has led to a first-line gig at this World Championship alongside Filip Forsberg and Loui Eriksson. In today’s game against Russia, his Team Sweden was knocked out of the tournament, but Lander collected three assists and the Player of the Game award for Sweden.
HF: The quarterfinals against Russia are on deck, but how has this tournament been for you thus far after a long season in North America and now so many games in such a short period of time?
AL: You try to prepare mentally for every single game, but on some nights, your legs are not there or your head is not 100% there. You try to make the best of it, recover, eat well, get some solid sleep, but it’s still a tough grind. Then again, you’re playing for your country and we love it.
HF: How would you say this past season has been for you?
AL: I didn’t really make it up to Edmonton until more towards the end of the season, something I wasn’t that happy with, but I did get to play a lot. I had been having a pretty good season down in Oklahoma before I got called up. But once I did get called up, I was getting important minutes. I got to play on the power play and then in the last minute of games, whether we were down or up. The coach kept throwing me out there and this really gave me confidence. This was important, because when this happens, you feel more assured of yourself and trust yourself to do other things. You’re better about taking your game to another level.
All in all, this season was a good one for me and my career and truly a step in the right direction.
HF: Is that also the feedback you got from the organization before you came over for the World Championship?
AL: Yes, it was pretty much. We held closing meetings and discussed how my summer was looking and where I was going to be and all that stuff.
HF: To conclude, Edmonton naturally has a lot of good young players like yourself and others who are at this tournament. Now they’ll be adding another major piece this summer with the first overall pick and it’ll probably be Connor McDavid. As one of the pieces moving forward, do you have any thoughts on that?
AL: I haven’t seen him play, but I’ve been reading up on him. You media guys keep referring to him like Gretzky and Crosby, which really says a lot about the kid. So it’ll obviously be good if the team takes him, which we players are now assuming management will. This being said, we need to finally get it together this year. It’s about time to re-enter the playoff race and not be at the bottom of the standings.
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