Red Wings prospect Jesper Eliasson engaged in a lengthy conversation with Hockeysverige.se’s Rasmus Kagstrom, discussing his past season with the Vaxjo Lakers’ Under-20 team, his campaign to come with Almtuna of the Swedish Allsvenskan (the league directly below the SHL) and his hopes regarding playing for Sweden at the World Junior Championship in December.
What follows is roughly translated:
Vaxjo talent will walk in the steps of last year’s successful goaltenders: “Clearly, it has inspired me”
After a strong season with Vaxjo’s Under-20 team, both Jesper Eliasson and the Vaxjo Lakers knew that he was ready for a new challenge. Now the World Junior Championship-relevant goaltender will follow in last season’s World Junior Championship-successful goaltenders via the Allsvenskan in Almtuna, hoping to take a seat as the Junior Crowns prepare for the World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic.
“When I saw them play last year it felt like it would be a good path for me to follow,” Jesper Eliasson says to Hockeysverige.se.
After a spring and early summer spent on dry-land training in Vaxjo and a recently-completed development camp in Detroit, Jesper Eliasson is currently at home in Eksjo for a well-deserved holiday.
Together with nine other Swedes, Eliasson spent a week at the Red Wings’ development camp in Detroit in late June. It was an educational week–on many levels.
“It was fun to go over there and to get to measure up with the other goalkeepers they have in the organization. It was also fun to meet the other Swedes they had in the camp. Then it was good to train a little on the ice and get away from the running track a little bit,” Eliasson says.
“We had practices in the mornings where we goaltenders worked a lot with the goaltending coaches, and then it was focused mostly on the defensemen and forwards. We goalkeepers got a lot of shots on us, so it was fun. Then we had some other activities in the afternoons, like lectures and cooking courses and so on.”
“Yes, we learned everything possible while we were over there, ha ha.”
Had no goaltending coaches with Troja
Before the past season, the junior national team goaltender chose to leave the security of playing for Troja for games with the SHL team Vaxjo Lakers’ junior team. It was a big step, of course.
“There were clearly better conditions for succeeding in Vaxjo than I had in Troja. They have all the facilities you could wish for. And the coaches were a little more educated, maybe.”
“I also got to work with a goaltending coach on a regular basis for the first time last season. I didn’t have a goaltending coach with Troja, so it’s clear that this was a big difference.”
There were also large differences between the games in Troja and Vaxjo.
“It was a bit tough in the beginning to get used to the level because I was only used to the Under-20 Elite and Under-18 Elite leagues from my time with Troja. It took about a month into the Under-20 Elite series games before I started stepping up my game. Then it went well until Christmas.
“After Christmas I felt like I took further steps, and then I also got to go up and practice a bit with the A-team. Then I got some chances with the national team, which was fun. I’m pleased with my efforts both with Vaxjo and the national team.”
There were also large differences between games in Troy and Växjö.
Just practicing with the A-team was extra educational, says the 19-year-old.
“It was great to be tested at that level. I mean, Viktor Fasth, I’ve always followed, and Viktor Andren has shown in recent years how good he is. It was fun to follow them up close and it was really instructive to be with them and engage in exercises. It will be easier to start discussing different situations in the game. It was really instructive to get to work with them.”
Where do you feel that you took steps forward in the past season?
“I feel that I developed my patience in my goaltending game, and at the same time, I became a little faster and so on. I grew up at the SuperElit level and I felt good, and much of that was thanks to the fact that I developed patience and speed.”
In June, it became certain that Eliasson would be lent to Almtuna of the Allsvenskan in the upcoming season. According to the plans, he’ll be a custodian [of sorts] there.
“The plan was always that I would play games in the Allsvenskan this season. It was Vaxjo’s plan that I should play with their junior team during the first season and then the Allsvenskan team in the next one.”
“At first, we talked about lending me to Vasterviks IK, so I was already set to be lent out. Then Almtuna came into the picture and everything went pretty fast. It feels like a good step to come up at the senior level and play Allsvenskan hockey. Hopefully I can play a lot of games there. It feels crazy that everything was resolved with Almtuna.”
Will go to the Junior World Championship goalies’ footsteps
With Almtuna, the 19-year-old hopes to have great confidence and play as many games as possible. The past season, all three of the World Junior Championship goaltenders (Samuel Ersson of Vasteras, Adam Ahman of Oskarshamn and Olle Eriksson-Ek of BIK Karlskoga) spent time in the Allsvenskan. Both Ersson and Ahman had outstanding seasons in the Allsvenskan and will play in the SHL this fall.
Now it is clear that Eliasson should walk in their footsteps.
“It’s obvious that it’s inspired me to follow their journey last year. When I saw them play last year it felt like that would be a good path for me to follow.”
I guess the World Junior Championships are the big goal for you for the upcoming season?
“Yes, I’ve always dreamed of playing in the World Junior Championship. It’s something that you sat and watched as a little kid, so it would be fun to be there and play. The World Junior Championship is one of my big goals for the upcoming season, that’s clear for me.”
Next week the journey to the World Junior Championship begins for Eliasson and the rest of the players who’ve been selected for coach Tomas Monten’s team at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, USA. There, a total of five games await against teams from the U.S., Finland and Canada.
“It will be fun to start the season over at such a high level. I’ll miss the first week with Almtuna, but starting the tournament there feels like a really good opening shot for the season and I look forward to going over.”