When right-winger Jonatan Berggren was assigned to the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins at the start of the 2021-22 season, the issue wasn’t that his game was in need of tweaking.
A major overhaul of the way he played were the marching orders he was given.
“My message was he’s got to change his game to have success in the NHL and really in pro hockey in North America,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said bluntly.
The path through which Berggren found success last season in the Swedish League – he finished seventh in league scoring – wasn’t going to be a route to the NHL.
— Griffins Nest (@GrGriffinsNest) January 15, 2022
“He has to play faster and he has to not take the puck back and wind it up and try to beat five guys,” Blashill said. “He’s got to know what he’s going to do with the puck before he gets it, dart to areas, get the puck back.”
But wait – there’s more.
“I think this next part would be something our management group told me as well,” Blashill added. “He’s got to play inside the middle of the ice more. He’s got to get inside the middle of the ice.”
Berggren Displaying Signs Of Progress
Berggren has displayed signs that he’s figuring things out in GR while fashioning 11-20-31 totals in 39 games. He engineered a three-game goal streak and six-game point streak in late October-early November. There’s been seven multi-point games for the 21-year-old Swede. They include a four-assist performance last month against Cleveland. Last week, he scored twice against Iowa, netting the overtime winner in that game.
Another overtime, another Jonatan Berggren goal🚨 pic.twitter.com/drKi3ZDRyL
— Grand Rapids Griffins (@griffinshockey) February 11, 2022
Red Wings forward Joe Veleno got an up-close view of Berggren’s progress while on assignment to GR during the NHL All-Star break. Veleno, who started the season in GR and was the center on Berggren’s line, supplied a scouting report on Berggren’s progress.
“I think just his confidence,” Veleno said. “I think confidence is a huge thing and he certainly has it for sure.
“He came down here, his first couple of games he definitely showed some flashes. You could definitely see his creativity, his poise, his vision. But I think he’s just taken it to a new level.”
Veleno was seeing the signs that Berggren is making the adjustments he was tasked with undertaking.
“I think everything’s a lot quicker,” Veleno said. “He’s learned a little bit more of the North American style game, playing north, kind of attacking the D and not just staying on the perimeter.”
Berggren’s Future Remains Bright
“It might seem from the ask of him that Berggren is far away from being an NHL prospect but that simply isn’t the case. He’s not the first European player to need extra time to adapt to the NHL. He won’t be the last.
“Not all points translate equal,” Blashill said of Berggren’s SHL production. “Points in the European game sometimes come over here and translate and sometimes they don’t.
“I thought part of his game wasn’t going to translate. He needed to change part of his game to have success here and I think he’s working towards doing that.
“Most guys don’t come over here and just step into the NHL. That’s just the reality. I think he’s making progress. I think we’re in a good spot with him.”