Red Wings prospect Theodor Niederbach is currently on loan to MODO Hockey of the Swedish Allsvenskan from the SHL’s Frolunda Indians, and the promising (if undersized) center spoke with Hockeysverige.se’s Leo Buttafoco Ohlsson regarding his lessons learned at the World Junior Championship, as well as his temporary homecoming to Ornskoldsvik.
What follows is roughly translated from Swedish:
Returned to O-vik after World Junior Championship: “Hopefully [they’re] happy to see me again.”
He has been drafted by the Swedish team the Detroit Red Wings, scored his first NHL goal, played at the WJC and been loaned to Modo. Theodor Niederbach has had an eventful year when Hockeysverige.se talks about the Swedish prospect who has now temporarily returned home to Ornskoldsvik.
“Hopefully they were happy to see me when I got home,” says Theodor Niederbach, jokingly.
The spring of 2020 led to several major changes in everyday life. Vacations became home holidays, conference rooms were closed while Zoom meeting rooms were opened, but, perhaps most notably of all, all sporting events were stopped. 2020 was a year marked by COVID-19, the virus that’s affected everything and everyone.
For Theodor Niederbach, the special year was more eventful than for many others. The 18-year-old was drafted, scored his first goal in the SHL, and played in the WJC in a bubble in Edmonton.
The WJC did not go as the Junior Crowns had hoped, and they had to leave Edmonton after Finland defeated the Swedes late in the quarterfinals. When Niederbach looks back on his adventure, he still sees it as an educational experience.
“It was a special trip that unfortunately ended unhappily, but you learn and it was a good lesson,” says Niederbach to Hockeysverige.se.
Despite the unfortunate outcome of the tournament, Niederbach has had happier moments to look back on in 2020. On October 7th, the Swedish talent was chosen by the Detroit Red Wings in a delayed and distance-adapted draft.
“It was hoped that everything would be in place [for an in-person draft], but it was a powerful feeling to be drafted, it’s something you’ve dreamed of since you were little,” says the prospect who was chosen 51st in the second round.
THE SWEDES IN HOCKEYTOWN
When Nicklas Lidstrom lifted the Stanley Cup trophy over his head in front of a packed Civic Arena in 2008, a third of the Detroit Red Wings’ squad was made up of Swedes.
It’s been almost 13 years since that day, but the Swedish heyday may be heading back to Hockeytown. For the past three years, the Red Wings have drafted 10 Swedish players in the NHL draft. Three of them belong to Frolunda, which is Niederbach’s regular team.
“We don’t talk about it now, but it’s much fun that we have several players. I know (William) Wallinder, who I play with now, but I’ve played some with Elmer (Soderblom) and Lucas (Raymond),” he says.
Do you think that Detroit wants to invest in a new Swedish heyday?
“Maybe that’s what they’re planning, maybe they’re trying to do the same thing again,” Niederbach says happily.
From the team that took home the Stanley Cup in 2008, there are several that the 18-year-old talent has looked up to. But he has stuck to some specifically.
“I must say that Henrik Zetterberg was the biggest role model on that team, and he was a center like me, but all the Swedes in that team were looked up to,” says Niederbach, who continues:
“Then I have quite a lot of contact with Niklas Kronwall. He works as a development coach and helps to develop us who’ve been drafted. We go through different game situations and he was in Ornskoldsvik last week. It’s great that he has a hit named after him over there. You know, ‘Kronwalled,'” he says excitedly.
Is that (Kronwalled) something he’s taught you yet?
“No, that may not be the first thing we get to learn, but it may come later,” Niederbach says with a laugh.
“LOOK BACK TO THE JOY OF GAMES”
After an eventful 2020, Theodor Niederbach, who grew up in Bjasta [near Ornskoldsvik], has returned home to Ornskoldsvik on loan and is playing for the first time in his career in the Modo jersey. Since his debut in Modo, Niederbach has posted 1 goal and 3 assists in 8 games. Now he wants to turn around Modo’s tough season.
“The focus right now is only on Modo and reversing the negative trend. We’re quite far down in a slump, but you just have to look ahead, focus on the present and find your way back to the joy of the game,” he says.
It has been a change to come to Modo, which is currently 3rd-last in the Allsvenskan. Frolunda, which is Niederbach’s regular team, is currently ranked fourth in the SHL and it’s noticeable that the atmosphere is different between the two teams.
“There are two completely different teams, it’s clear that you notice the atmosphere but it’s a matter of not thinking too much about it and finding your way back to the joy of playing.”
The Niederbach family is a hockey family, where Theodor’s big brother plays with Ornskoldsvik IF in HockeyEttan, and his twin brother Adam is on Frolunda’s J20 team. The return to Ornskoldsvik means that the 18-year-old is closer to his parents and big brother, but he left his twin brother, with whom he’s played all his youth hockey down in Gothenburg.
“We’re always in the same place, but he goes home more often now, he also has our sister down in Gothenburg,” says Theodor Niederbach.
Since Niederbach played in the WJC over Christmas and the New Year, his family got to celebrate it without him this year, but he thinks that they are happy that he has returned home.
“Hopefully they are happy to see me again,” he says jokingly, and continues:
“I have an apartment in the city but you’re part of your parents, it’s nto very far to go to practice so it’s good to live here near them.”
“THE DREAM IS TO LIFT THE STANLEY CUP”
The Swedish talent is clear with his goals, the focus right now is helping Modo, but of course he has thought about his future, where he first and foremost sees himself with Frolunda.
“It will be fun to be part of the senior team next season, and I look forward to playing for the men’s team in Frolunda,” he says.
To one day lift the Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal for many 18-year-olds. This also applies to Niederbach, but so far he has not had any direct contact with the team that drafted him.
“No, we haven’t talked so much, there has been no talk of a contract, but most of it goes through Kronwall,” he says.
The aim is to one day do what the idols Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg did when they succeeded in 2008.
“It’s clear that the biggest dream is to one day lift the Stanley Cup trophy, the Stanley Cup is the biggest thing you can win the hockey world, but it’s difficult to say how far away that is,” he says.