With their 2nd pick (#34 overall) the Thrashers selected Carl Klingberg a rugged winger from Sweden. I personally watched Klingberg demolish several kids at the World U-18 Championships and I remember thinking "that guy looks like a sure fire NHL 3rd line checker." He is already listed at 6'3" 205 lbs and he's just 18 years old. He will be a freight train by age 25. In the picture below Jeremy Morin is listed at 6'1" and Klingberg looks like he has a solid 2 inches on him to me.
Off the ice Klingberg displays a ready smile and a good sense of humor. He managed to work in a few off the cuff jokes into his post-game comments. I suspect that while he may annoy the opposition, he will be popular with his teammates and fans.
My seat in the Media Section ended up being right next to the Red Line Report guys. Kyle Woodlief, the author of RLR was kind enough to give a short summary of what Klingberg brings to the table:
He's a North American trapped in a Swedish body [chuckles]. He's a big banger who wins all the battles down low below the circles. He doesn't have much in the way of hands or finish around the net, but he brings size and strength and a really really nasty attitude.
In the post-Draft interviews both Don Waddell and Dan Marr commented on Klingberg's NHL potential:
Don Waddell: We were really happy to get him. We had him rated in the first round. We all know the player very well. He played in all the international tournaments. He’s a power forward, he’s a big kid. We think he’s going to be a player [in the NHL]. He’s going to stay in Sweden for a few years away, but we’re really excited adding him.
Dan Marr: Carl brings a different aspect. We wanted some size along the wall--a guy that goes strong to the net and has some size on him--a real power forward. He already plays a North American game--he’ll stay in Europe and work on his skills there—not that his skills are lacking--but that is a good place for him to develop.
NHL Central Scouting ranked Klingberg as the 7th best European skater in the 2009 NHL Draft had this to say:
He has explosive acceleration and is strong on his skates – he is hard to hold off when he’s driving the net. He works hard down low in the zone and is courageous enough to go into tight battles.
Carl Klingberg Post-Draft Interview Transcript
Editorial Note: If I asked a question it is noted as "BWA," if Ben Wright asked a question it is marked as "BW" and if anyone else it is denoted simply as "MQ" for general media question.
BWA: Draft day is very unpredictable, but did you have any idea that Atlanta was interested in picking you?
Carl Klingberg: Well, I only met them two times. I knew that they were pretty interested--they told me that in the interview at the NHL Combine. I knew that they could pick me, but it was a small surprise.
BWA: The Red Wings picked just ahead of the Thrashers and they have many Swedes in their organization, did you think that they might take you?
CK: Well, actually no. They didn't interview me at the Combine and so I didn't think that they were so interested in me.
Ben Wright: How familiar are you with the Thrashers organization?
CK: Not very familiar at all. But they last year they selected Nicklas Lasu who plays in the same organization that I come from, so we're going to have a lot to talk about when I return home.
Klingberg played on Team Sweden's top line for much of the World U-18 Championships.
BWA: Can you tell us about your season in Sweden?
CK: Yes, first I started in juniors and then I had a chance to play with the elite team. It went great, I scored some goals. Then I had the chance to play for the National Team at the Under-20 [World Junior] Tournament and I played with Boras in SEL Division 2 and finally I returned to juniors when the other team no longer needed me.
Editorial Note: Carl Klingberg played 4 different levels of hockey last season. He played juniors--where young men play against each other. He also played international hockey for the Swedish National Team at both the U-18 and U-20 Tournaments and he played against adult professional men at the very top level (Elite League) and for the 2nd Division (Boras). Klingberg must have a nice collection of hockey jerseys after last season!
MQ: Where do you see yourself next year if you stay in Sweden?
CK: Well I hope to play in the [Swedish] Elite League, but I expect to play quite a lot with Boras in the 2nd Division. They told it would probably work out that way, but my goal is to earn a place in the Elite League.
BW: How many years do you have left on your Swedish contract?
CK: Two years.
MQ: Can you talk about playing against men in the Swedish Elite League and how has that helped you progress toward playing in the NHL?
CK: Well I hope so. It is always to play against seniors. You know how hard they are and they always bang you and they are much faster on the ice. So yes it is good to have experience.
MQ: What do you want to work on this summer?
CK: Well I want work on everything I'm good at, but probably my worst area is my stickhandling and puck control--so I'd like to improve there.
BWA: What are your strengths?
CK: I'm fast skater and I have a strong mind--I always want to win.
BWA: And you like to hit?
CK: ...and I do like to hit (smiles) of course! I'm an intense guy who always wants to win.
BWA: When you played in the Elite League did you get any special teams ice time? I know that for young players it can be very difficult to get ice time at that level.
CK: Sometimes when the games were not so close they put me on the power play in front of the net, but when the game was close they didn't use me on the power play. I was mostly a 5 on 5 guy at that level.
BWA: Do you think you might have the potential to become a Tomas Holmstrom who specializes in standing in front of the net?
CK: Yeah, I do. He's a good guy, he makes a lot of room for himself and his teammates. I could play like him and on the left wing on the power play.
MQ: What do you think of the smaller North American rinks.
CK: It fits me very well. I think it fits my style--I'm always looking for the shortest route to the net. [In North American rinks] it is not as many steps from the corner to the goal--so it fits me well.
Ben Wright: Away from the ice what are some things that you like to do?
CK: Well hang out with friends, looking for girls [smiles]. Chill out and enjoy every day.
BW: How big is your family?
CK: We have 5 in our family. I have two little brothers and they play hockey too. There is a lot of talking about hockey in our home. My little brother could be drafted next year if he has a REALLY good season. He needs to get bigger. He's a defenseman--John Klingberg.
MQ: What do you know about Atlanta the city?
CK: Not much. I know that it is warm in June and July. That will probably be good for me because I have a very weak tan. [everyone laughs]
BWA: What part of Sweden are you from? The greater Stockholm area?
CK: Goteborg--to the south and west of Stockholm.
BWA: The first game I watched at the U-18 Tournament, the very first shift you knocked someone over. Then the next shift you knocked someone over. On the third shift the same thing. I said to myself "they are going to love this guy in America!" When you play in Sweden do people talk about you as a North American style player?
CK: Yes, they really do. [big smile] I am famous actually for playing a North American style in Sweden. They say "oh look he can hit and score!" that's not so common in Sweden. It's great!