Niklas Hjalmarsson is one of 10 Chicago Blackhawks who will participate in the World Cup of Hockey. Hjalmarsson talked with Patrik Bexell of Habs Eyes on the Prize about what it’s like being a top-tier Swedish defenseman, playing with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, his thoughts on Gustav Forsling and how thankful he is Shea Weber was traded away from the Central Division. Patrik was kind enough to share the interview with us so we could post it on the site, and it’s shown below.
Patrik Bexell: You are member of one of the most impressive Swedish defensive forces ever in hockey.
Niklas Hjalmarsson: Of course you are proud to be a part of this squad, it wasn’t something you really could take for granted when you knew World Cup was around the corner and you looked at the other possible Swedish defenders. It is impressive that such a small country as we are has managed to get that many defenders at one at the same time. The fact that everyone has a leading role within their teams, too, there are always a couple mentioned in the Norris Trophy race. We should be proud of ourselves, but also it’s time to put the proof into the pudding. This really is the tournament to prove it in, and show it’s just not a paper plane.
PB: Your own role within the team, you will most likely suit up with Oliver Ekman-Larsson as a partner. (Ed.: The two have played together in the World Cup warmup games)
NH: It would be great if it happened so, to play with someone else from Småland (a county in Sweden). But there are so many amazing players in this team so it would be quite easy to adjust to anyone. But he is an amazing defender, he is an all around, it would be great fun.
Bexell also asked Ekman-Larsson about being paired with Hjalmarsson.
PB: You will get to play with Niklas Hjalmarsson from the looks of it. How will it be to play with such a player? And how are you going to share the responsibilities between you?
Oliver Ekman-Larsson: Things can change during a tournament, we have to remember that. First and foremost, he is an amazingly good defender, but many overlook or choose not to see how good offensively he is. He is really underrated when it comes to the offensive side of the puck. He makes it so easy to play for his partner, he speaks a lot and he is very authoritative on the ice, too.
PB: Do you have any contact with any of the other players from Chicago before this tournament?
NH: Not really, you become tired of them during the season. It’s nice to not see that much of them right now [big laugh].
PB: On another Chicago angle, Gustav Forsling (another Swedish defenseman and one of the Hawks’ top prospects) is coming around nicely, it’s easy to see which team won that trade.
NH: I have never seen him play, but you keep hearing good things about him all the time. And it would be a huge loss for Linköping to lose him this late, if he were to come to Chicago. Personally, I hope he gets to stay, it’s always nice with Swedish players we have quite a few already but another would be great.
You have heard that Forsling is a young, good and interesting, as a player, you can’t have too many of them. It would be great to see how far he can make it over there.
PB: On a side note, Shea Weber is gone from the division, what is his strength as a player?
NH: The power play I have to say, it will be nice to get rid of that shot from the division. He is a great all-around defender, but it will be nice to lose that shot on the power play for me as an opponent.