Red Wings prospect Albert Johansson spoke with Hockeysverige.se’s Ronnie Ronnqvist regarding his hopes of repeating or exceeding his father’s NHL successes. What follows is roughly translated from Swedish:
On his way to becoming the family’s second NHL export
“Dad has meant a lot to me as a hockey player”
He broke through with noise and frustration last year. Now 19-year-old Albert Johansson will try to take further steps in his development, and take even greater responsibilities in the difficult competition on Farjestads BK’s blueline. He hopes to follow in his father Roger’s footsteps and become the second man in the family to play NHL hockey.
“I took steps last season and I believe in myself, and Detroit also hopes, that I will make further steps forward here at home,” says one of the Red Wings’ important drafted defensemen to hockeysverige.se
Karlstad (Hockeysverige.se) At the draft in 1985, Ljungby, Sweden’s Roger Johansson was picked by the Calgary Flames. He came over to play three-and-a-half seasons in the NHL. Three for Calgary, and one half for the Chicago Blackhawks. After his last NHL spin, the one with Chicago, he chose to settle in Karlstad, Sweden, and play for Farjestad for the rest of his career.
In the summer of 2019, it was time for Roger Johansson’s youngest son, Albert, to get the chance to be drafted by an NHL team. In the second round, the Detroit Red Wings picked him up and then signed an NHL contract with the 19-year-old, who’s on loan to Farjestad this season.
But we start at the other end with the young defenseman…
“Am I mostly from Smaland or Varmland? I’ve lived in Varmland all my life. Except for the year when I actually lived in Mora,” Albert Johansson says when hockeysverige.se meets him for an interview in “sola,” outside Lofbergs Arena in Karlstad.
“My dad is from Smaland, Ljungby, and my grandma and grandpa live down there. For a while, we were there a lot during the summers, because dad has some friends there. Among others, (Stefan) “Attan” Nilsson. Now, toward the end, it hasn’t been there as much. It was more when I was smaller.”
Roger’s father coached Mora from 2013 to the spring of 2014. This also meant that the then-12-year-old Albert Johansson got to play for the team in Ovansiljan.
“Yes, I played hockey there, but I was only there for one season. Dad came to Mora at the end of the season. Then he stayed there for another season.”
“Then mother (Nina), me and one brother also moved up there and played for Mora.
Two older brothers play hockey
Albert Johansson has two older brothers who play hockey. Gabriel, 27, will play next season for Kallinge/Ronneby in Hockeyettan, and Oliver, 22, plays in Arvika.
“They’ve really been role models for me. When I was little, I looked up to them. Both started playing here with Farjestad. Dad was the coach for my middle brother, Oliver. I got to be part of their training, which was a ‘wow’ moment for me.”
“As the youngest, they’ve sometimes been a little mean to me,” he laughs, “But at the same time, we only laugh about it now. We have had a lot of activities together, and they’ve meant a lot to me.”
As the youngest son in the family, he still got to be with his big brothers and play ball hockey at home, on the street.
“Yes, absolutely so. The youngest always had to be in goal, so I was usually a goalkeeper, but goaltender wasn’t the career for me. Maybe I’m lucky,” says Albert Johansson with a smile, and he continues:
“We’ve played a lot of ball hockey, and I actually have a lot to thank them for. Oliver plays in Arvika now, so it happens that I go there to watch a game during the season. I watched Gabriel as much as I could last season when he was with Forshaga. Now that he’s moved down to Kallinge/Ronneby, I can follow him online instead.”
“Both brothers text me when I play a game, and I text them after their games. We keep an eye on each other.”
Have you ever had your father as your own coach?
“No, I have not. At the same time, it can be nice. There was a bit of talk for a while when I was in the Junior under-20 team that he might be involved, but it’s enough that he’s involved in the hockey gymnasium and skills training. He’s been on the ice, but never coached my team when I played for them.”
“Dad has still meant a lot to me as a hockey player. He had a career and made a journey that I’ve heard a lot about. Of course we talk about hockey, but when we were in the arena and he worked at the hockey gym, of course he was also my dad, but just then he was a skills coach. When I came home, he was just my dad.”
“He has always supported me in everything I do, coming up with tips and so on. I have my style of play and it’s never been the case that he asked me to change as a player.”
There are four “hockey nerds” in the family. How much of a “hockey nerd” is your mom?
“She’s probably pretty used to it. I think mom thinks it’s fun, and she follows all three of us as much as the three of us follow each other. Mom is also very supportive in all three sons’ hockey.”
“She always knows how things are going, and when we’re having a hard time. The first thing I see after a game when I turn on the phone is that my mother has texted, and asked how it went, and all of that. I get a lot of support from both mom and dad, and also from my brothers.”
You have a good understanding of the game out on the ice, what’s that like?
“I would say that I got it from being very small at the time. I’ve met players who have been bigger than me. So I needed to think more when I was smaller than what the bigger players needed to do. They could go into a situation and battle a smaller guy, and know they would win it.”
“At the same time, I had to think, “He’s bigger, how should I solve this?” Somewhere that made me get an understanding of the game, that I already needed to think about how I would go into different situations and wouldn’t get hurt, even as a kid.”
Have you always been a defenseman?
“No, I was actually a forward when I played for Mora, but mostly, I’ve been a defenseman.”
What do you need to develop more in your game to take a bigger role with Farjestad?
“I work a lot on my speed from starting, to get away faster. Then I work on my defensive game, to be able to remove sticks, box out in my own zone and be aggressive.”
“At the same time, I work a lot to put on muscle and become stronger, and resist even better. Of course, there will also be a lot of shots to develop that part, and be a threat up on the blueline. Then of course I work on everything, but what I mentioned is a bit of what is in focus right now.”
GREW DURING LAST SEASON
One thing that Albert Johansson works on is his shots, with the former big league player Pelle Prestberg.
“It’s been a little different. Sometimes it’s been with Pelle, and other times I’ve stood with a goalie who takes part so I can pinch direct shots or take some pucks and shoot myself. Pelle is here, so I would be stupid not to use him.”
During the 2018-2019 season, the 19-year-old made his debut with the men’s team. Then he only played 3 games in the SHL. Last season, he played 42 games and his role on the team grew rapidly.
“Of course there is a difference. I was able to do everything very well and got to play a lot with (Jonathon) Blum in the beginning. He’s experienced and has played games in the NHL. He supported me, as have my coaches and other teammates.
“I’ve received a lot of positive feedback, which has increased my self-confidence. All the time I’ve been thinking that just because I got up there, I shouldn’t change my game. I try to be the same as I was with the junior team.”
“The longer the season went, the more there were points that where I felt that I got better and better. With that, my self-confidence also grew.I think the coaches saw that and I did so well that I got to play on the power play a bit, and so on.”
“I would say that for my own part, I took a good step forward this past season, to go from junior hockey into senior hockey. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t surprise myself. It wasn’t what I thought would happen when I found out that I would start with the men’s team, that I could play and play even more, and, as I said, even play on the power play.”
“The idea was that I had to first and foremost earn my way up there. Of course I want to play, but I didn’t think that I would play as much as I actually did.”
You helped win the Under-18 World Championship the season before, what did that mean for your confidence when you stepped into play last season?
“It meant a lot. That was true for the whole team. It was basically the same team that had been together for several years in different tournaments. When we came to the World Championship, most of the team felt that it was us, Russia, the USA and Canada who were at the top. People still didn’t really believe in us.”
“Then we came together very well as a group. Then it was just chewing it up, and we went all the way. Of course, it meant a lot for my confidence to win a World Championship gold with Sweden.”
How has international hockey developed your game?
“Yes, I think it has, and there’s a difference. It goes faster; there are good players you face, and so on. It’s like a little test. I play that style with Farjestad. Of course I want to play internationally as well, but you notice that it goes faster there.”
“Sometimes I may have had to make some adjustments, but I can’t say that I have changed my playing style much. It’s the speed, and so on.”
HOPEFULLY DETROIT HAS A PLAN
Albert Johansson is now on loan from Detroit for the upcoming season. The Farjestad defenseman does not know much about what happens after that.
“Not much has been said, but what has been said, which we agreed upon when I signed the contract with Detroit, is that it’s best for me to play for Farjestad this season.”
“I took steps forward last season and believe in myself, and Detroit also hopes that I’ll take further steps forward here at home. I don’t know much more than that. It will be playing for Farjestad this season. Hopefully Detroit has a plan and will say what they think about me. Then we have to take it from there.”
The 19-year-old has been to a rookie camp in Detroit, and he was impressed with what he experienced in and around the team.
“My impressions from there are positive. It feels like there’s a bit of new construction in the organization. Detroit has a great facility with rinks, gyms and good locker rooms.”
Have you worked with Niklas Kronwall?
“No, not very much. He was here last week and peeked in a bit. Then I talked to him a little and listened to what he had to say. We haven’t gone much further than that. Hopefully he’ll want to come here again.”