Q&A with Dennis Persson

By Matt MacInnis

Dennis Persson was the second Swedish player selected in the 2006 Entry Draft and the first selection of the Buffalo Sabres who also selected countryman Jonas Enroth with their first of two second round picks later in the day. Persson comes from the Vasteras system, although he recently signed a two-year contract with Djurgarden. Persson is a very talented player with tremendous puck-handling skills and an uncanny ability to read the ice and make plays that lead to offensive chances. He possesses a solid shot and works well on the point during the power play. At 6’1, 180 lbs, he needs to get stronger and on the ice he needs to be more physical.

Persson split the 2005-06 season between the junior and tier-2 teams of Vasteras. He was spectacular and dominated in the junior ranks, notching 26 points in 28 games, but struggled to put up points when playing against older and stronger competition, registering just two assists in 19 Swedish tier-2 games. It’s unclear at this point where he’ll be spending next season, as it is unlikely he will crack Djurdgarden’s roster as an 18-year old. He will likely be loaned to a tier-two club to allow him to hone his game.

With his offensive talents, Persson could be a top-pair defenseman if his defensive game evolves and he’s able to build his strength. He is likely several years from reaching the NHL and Sabres GM Darcy Regier told the media at the draft that they will not rush Persson into a Sabres jersey.

Hockey’s Future caught up with Persson after his selection.

HF: Did you get any indication from the Sabres management and scouting staff that they were interested in you before the Draft?
DP: I spoke to them two times and they showed a big interest. But I mean, they always said I was going to be picked like second (round), late second. So I was surprised to be picked so early.

HF: Was it important to you to be the second Swede taken in this year’s draft?
DP: Absolutely man, I think it’s huge.

HF: Do you know Niklas Backstrom (WAS) well?
DP: No, we’ve been to a couple of camps together, but nothing more.

HF: What about Patrick Berglund (STL)?
DP: Yeah, absolutely. We were teammates for two years. It was wonderful to see him picked.

HF: How stressful has the entire draft process been for you since you landed in Vancouver?
DP: I only had two interviews yesterday, and the rest has been a vacation. But I mean, I’ve always been nervous. It was all done, and all I could do was sit down and wait.

HF: How would you describe your style of play for the fans of the Buffalo Sabres who have never seen you play?
DP: I’m an offensive defenseman. I’m a blueliner who sets the play.

HF: Do you expect to put up a lot of points in the NHL?
DP: Yeah, I think so. I’m a power play defenseman, that’s what I do, I’ll carry the puck.

HF: What do you feel you need to work on in order to be able to make the NHL?
DP: I think my forward skating. They say my backward and sides are the best, but my forward skating, I need to improve my forward skating.

HF: What are you doing to improve your forward skating?
DP: Trying to get more power in my legs so I can get down and find the power when I skate.

HF: Do you know much about the Buffalo Sabres organization?
DP: No, actually I don’t. I haven’t seen so much NHL at all. The games are on in the middle of the night so I see them when I can.

HF: Who will you be playing with next season?
DP: Next year I signed two years with Djurgarden, a team in Stockholm.

HF: Do you think that playing for a team that has produced a number of quality NHLers in the past will help your development?
DP: (laughing) I hope so!

HF: You mentioned the two-year contract you signed with Djurgarden. Does that mean you will definitely be spending the next two years playing in Sweden?
DP: No, that’s not for sure. Maybe one year, maybe two years, could be more, could be less, never know.

HF: Do you expect to represent Sweden at the upcoming World Junior tournament?
DP: The coach at camp, my camp in the summer said no, so I couldn’t go. He’s going to give me new opportunities in September, so we’ll see.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.