There likely wasn’t a team in the Canadian Hockey League that had an easier time recruiting their top import draft pick to play in North America than the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
With the 17th overall pick in the 2012 CHL Import Draft, the Hurricanes selected Axel Blomqvist with the extreme confidence they would have him on the roster for the 2012-13 season.
That’s because the team already had a Blomqvist on their roster to persuade him – Axel’s brother Albin, whom they selected 12th overall in the same draft a year earlier.
With Albin already in Lethbridge, the 2013 NHL Draft eligible Axel didn’t hesitate to follow.
“Not at all,” declared Axel, one of five boys in the family. “My brother was here. It made it easy. It’s been really big. He’s been great. He helps me a lot with my game and off the ice.”
After notching 19 goals and 31 points in 20 games last year while playing in the U18 Swedish Elite League last season, Blomqvist made it easy for the Hurricanes to opt for a brother duo to take up their pair of import slots.
It didn’t hurt that Lethbridge was also getting a monster, as Blomqvist’s six-foot-five, 194-pound frame will attest to. According to the Osby, Sweden product, it’s one of his greatest assets.
“I’m obviously a big body and like to play a powerful game,” Blomqvist said, already boasting a pair of fighting majors in the WHL this season as part of his 34 penalty minutes in his rookie campaign.
It’s his power game that have scouts excited about the potential of the Hurricane, according to Future Considerations Western Hockey League scout Zenon Herasymiuk.
“His biggest asset is his gigantic frame,” Herasymiuk said. “He is willing and able to throw the body around and isn’t afraid to mix things up in the high traffic areas of the ice. With his mix of size and smarts, Blomqvist could be a sleeper for the 2013 NHL Draft.”
And while the hope of being drafted at least in part brought him to North America, it’s Blomqvist’s unique blend that could have him staying here well beyond his junior days.
This being your draft year, do you feel pressure in your draft year?
It’s in the back of my mind. I try not to think about it, just play my game.
What’s been the biggest adjustment to the North American game?
Probably just playing more games. Last year I played 30 games and now we play 70 games, so that’s probably it.
How has Lethbridge Hurricanes coach Rich Preston helped in your development this year?
He’s helped me so much. We’ve played 23 games and I’ve learned so much. He’s been really good.
The other way, is there any particular area you’d like to improve on?
My defensive game. Defense is so important right now in this game, so for sure.
Are there any NHL players you look up to or model your game after?
I like Ryan Getzlaf a lot. He’s a big body and he can make plays so I try to model myself after him.
With files from Zenon Herasymiuk