Frederik Andersen taking SEL by storm

By Chapin Landvogt

As the Carolina Hurricanes wrapped up their 2010 NHL entry draft, they took a player who appeared to many to be a somewhat unknown quantity, namely 6’3, 238-pound overage Danish goaltender Frederik Andersen. Coming off a marvelous season in his native Denmark, Frederik started twice in the 2010 World Championships, most notably winning his first start 4-1 against Finland. This victory saw Frederik stop 36 of 37 shots. He then proceeded to top his 2009-10 season with yet another outstanding year in his native Denmark – including Goaltender of the Year honors – and a starring role in goal at the 2011 World Champions. There he helped back Denmark to an unexpected second round appearance, despite the fact the team was without crucial NHL forwards Jannik Hansen, Frans Nielsen, Peter Regin, and Lars Eller.

These impressive laurels have however been overshadowed by how Frederik has started off the 2011-12 season, in which he’s been nothing less than sensational. With few expectations or prophecies of success coming from the Swedish media heading into the season, the 22-year old goaltender currently leads the SEL (Swedish Elite League) with a marvelous.943 save percentage, 1.58 goals against average and four shutouts. These outstanding statistics have thrust Andersen into the spotlight, raising expectations that he can help lead the Frolunda Indians to their first championship since 2005. At the same time, he’s already making the Carolina Hurricanes scouting staff look like a group of genies.

Hockey’s Future had a chance to chat with Frederik about his fantastic season, the Danish hockey scene and his future with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Hockey’s Future: You are a 22-year-old goalie playing your first season in the SEL. What were your personal expectations coming into the season?

Frederik Andersen: I actually didn’t know too much about the league, team, etc. before I got here, so I just came in with low and reasonable expectations, ultimately hoping to share the goaltending duties with the other young goalie, Magnus Hellberg (NAS).

My goal was to come in and hopefully start around 50 percent of the regular season games and get used to playing against elite level opponents and competition every night.

HF: After one half of this season, you’ve gotten the majority of your team’s starts, have four shutouts, and lead the league in save percentage and goals against average. In short, you are about the biggest surprise in the Swedish ice hockey scene this season. Does this surprise you personally? What are your impressions of and feelings about this SEL adventure to date?

FA: Maybe it surprises me a little, but I’ve always believed in myself. Still, it’s hard to imagine that the start to this season could have been all that much better than it has been. The SEL is a lot quicker than the Danish league, but it doesn’t really change the way I need to play my game, so I think I was able to make the transition pretty quickly and successfully.

HF: Your statistics this year are actually better than your statistics the past two seasons in Denmark’s AL Bank Liga – where you respectively featured mighty fine .929 and .932 save percentages. How do you explain this, considering the SEL is a considerably stronger league?

FA: There can be a lot of different things factoring into the equation and stats don’t always tell the whole story, but I think the biggest reason for the improvement in my personal stats can be found in the fact that I am playing behind a more structured defense. In addition, our goalie coach, Michael Andreasson, is at just about every practice and that’s something I never really had other than with the guidance my dad gave me growing up, who used to be a goalie himself.

HF: Does your being Danish have any effect on how you are treated or viewed in the SEL?

FA: Not really, but when I initially signed with the Frolunda Indians, there were a lot question marks in the media, because there weren’t many people who knew who I was or knew anything about me other than that I had played a couple of games at various World Championships.

HF: Your backup is the 20-year-old Magnus Hellberg (2nd round pick of the Nashville Predators) and is considered one of Sweden‘s brightest goaltending prospects. How is your relationship with him, especially considering what you just mentioned about how not many people knew who you were and considering that experts weren’t sure which one of you would win over the number one job coming into this season?

FA: I think we have good, solid, competitive relationship and it’s always good to have two goalies that are capable of playing well and can push each other at practice.

HF: Frolunda’s goalie coach is Michael Andreasson, who you mentioned earlier. Coincidentally, he followed Magnus from 2nd league Almtuna to Frolunda this past summer. Naturally, he already had a relationship and familiarity with Hellberg and his game. How has your work with him been to date? What aspects of your game has he spent the most time working on?

FA: I have a really good relationship with coach Andreasson. He’s very good about talking to us and maintaining a regular and healthy dialog about our respective games. He doesn’t try to force anything on us, but we discuss various details and then go with what we feel is best for our game.

My game itself hasn’t changed too much, but he has helped me take greater advantage of my strengths and to play a little tighter and smarter in and around the net.

HF: Speaking of goaltending coaches, you have worked with Stefan Lahde, a goaltending guru who is currently working for Team Sweden. His successor with Team Denmark is Gothenburg native Carl-Johan Klint, who of course is very familiar with the Frolunda organization. How would you describe your relationship with Klint and did he actually play any role in your coming to Frolunda?

FA: I only worked with him last year when we had our national team camps during the season and at the World Championships. I’m not aware of him having played in role in my coming to Frolunda, but the hockey world is small, so Frolunda might have called him and asked about me. Of course, I can’t know that for sure.

HF: Do you feel your performance at the 2011 World Championships in Slovakia played a key role in your coming to contractual terms with Frolunda or did you already know you’d be heading to Gothenburg before the tournament?

FA: I actually signed the contract long before the 2011 World Championships. It was done and all the ‘i’s were dotted right before our Danish league playoffs started.

HF: Ok. As unexpected as your early season success has been, no less than the Carolina Hurricanes have believed in your possibilities for a while now. They chose you 187th overall in the 2010 NHL entry draft. How did you find out about your selection and what was your reaction, especially as someone coming from a country that rarely has players picked by NHL teams?

FA: I actually got a text message from a friend of mine while I was watching the 2010 Soccer World Cup and of course I immediately went to check it out online. That’s when I saw that it was the Hurricanes who had picked me. That’s certainly a moment I won’t be forgetting any time soon, especially considering the low number of Danish players that get drafted. It was really special.

HF: What kind of contact and feedback have the Canes held/shared with you thus far? For example, have they expressed certain expectations or long term plans?

FA: I believe they technically have time until the next draft to sign me, so I can’t really do anything about things on that front now and thus, I’m going to continue focusing on my game here in Frolunda. If I were to think too much about it, I probably wouldn’t be able to play well here.

HF: You attended the 2011 Hurricanes prospects camp. What was that experience like and how did you get along with a bunch of kids your age who are in a similar situation, but who are ultimately competition for a future NHL job?

FA: The camp was a good experience. We all got to meet some of the other prospects and most of the training staff, etc. I had a really great time and we attendees had a lot of fun while we were there.

HF: Young teammates Hellberg (NAS), Henrik Tommernes (VAN) and Johan Sundstrom (NYI) are also recent NHL draft picks currently playing regularly for the Indians. Do you talk much about your NHL experiences to date and the relations you each have with the teams that drafted you?

FA: We shared a few stories and some experiences when we got back from our respective prospects camps, but not a lot more than that because I think we are all keeping our primary focus on this team and performing our current jobs as best we can in this league.

HF: What type of feedback do you get from the Danish ice hockey federation nowadays? Are, for example, coach Backman and the federation closely following your progress?

FA: Yes, coach Backman and I talk every once in a while to check up on how much I’m playing and whether he wants me to attend a given national team camp or stay with Frolunda and maybe rest a little.

And yes, he is of course happy for me about the start I’ve had here this season.

HF: What do think about the ever increasing amount of Danes playing not only in the SEL, but also in the Swedish junior leagues, like Lars Eller‘s brother Mads right there in Frolunda?

FA: I think it’s great that we have a lot of good players in the SEL, Allsvenskan, and also the junior leagues, but I think young Danes have to be cautious about leaving too soon. It obviously depends on each and every individual player and his specific situation.

HF: Any thoughts on Team Denmark at the U-20 WC over the Christmas holidays? They don’t play there every year.

FA: It is going to be a very big experience for the team that goes there and I really hope Denmark can remain in the top division for next year. It’s going to be tough though, but I believe that they have what it takes avoid relegation and I’ll certainly be cheering for them when I’m able to watch the games over here.

HF: Lastly, you’ve been a growing part of the Danish national program for the past few seasons. You’ve represented your country very successfully at the World Championships in Germany and Slovakia, helping Denmark make it to the second round in each of the last two tournaments. What do you personally expect from the Danish ice hockey program in the near future?

FA: I think with the number of players that play at high levels outside Denmark, we’re really ready to take another big step forward towards the quarterfinals and not just be satisfied with simply staying up amongst the top 16.