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Rookie Berggren Trying to Find His Way Out of Grand Rapids

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Jonatan Berggren, Grand Rapids Griffins

Last fall, Detroit Red Wings prospect Jonatan Berggren had trouble finding his way to Grand Rapids. This fall, Berggren just hopes he can find his way out of Grand Rapids.

The 2018 33rd overall draft pick is one of the handful of Detroit prospects competing for jobs or an improved Red Wings’ roster. Last October, Berggren did drive to Grand Rapids, Ohio, instead of Grand Rapids, Michigan. But once he arrived in the right city, he put up 21 goals and 64 points in 70 games  It was one of the better seasons ever produced by a Griffins rookie. He hopes he’s ready for the move from Grand Rapids to Detroit.

“Skilled as advertised,” new Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde said this week of Berggren. “Probably protects the puck a little better than I anticipated. Hockey sense. And he probably plays at a little better pace than I had anticipated, too. Actually, pretty impressed by him.”

Positive reinforcement from the coach is never a bad thing for a youngster trying to climb to the next level. But having a successful season in Grand Rapids probably helps him even more. Other top rookies, such as Simon Edvinsson, Albert Johansson, Elmer Soderblom, Cross Hanas and Eemil Viro, don’t have the AHL on their resume.

“Had a really good talk the other day in length here with (Grand Rapids Griffins coach) Ben Simon because of what I saw here with Berggren. He’s showing well, which doesn’t surprise. He’s got the year of pro hockey in North America under his belt. I think you can see some improvement in his game.”

Knows What He Has To Do

Berggren, 22, got better and better as the AHL season wore on, particularly in his defensive play and his compete level. By the end of the season, coaches appreciated his consisted.

But he still has work to do to make the Red Wings roster. This is a team that has 13 experienced forwards when everyone is healthy, plus Joe Veleno. Veleno has played 71 NHL games.

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It’s not a mystery what Lalonde wants to see from Berggren.

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“Probably the same as everyone else,” Lalonde said. “Improved play away from the puck. Especially being a skilled player, it’s when he does not have the puck. He improved his play, a little more of a 200-foot game. He can certainly make plays coming downhill. He can make little tight plays, skill plays in tight areas. Again, like the rest of our team, a little more commitment to the team defense side of things and that play away from the puck.”

Fresh Start

Berggren has a blank slate with Lalonde who didn’t see him at all last season. The way Lalonde used him in the Red and White scrimmage suggests he is intrigued.

“He was foreign to me coming in,” Lalonde said. “…Fresh start. He had a really good camp. That was the
management group last night wanted to see him with some different type players and those players were (Dylan) Larkin and (Lucas) Raymond, players we foresee being in our top six throughout the year. So he earned that
opportunity today and I thought he performed very well with it.”

What is unsaid is that Berggren needs to do those things while still producing offensively. He will have eight preseason games to show he can be a complete NHL player.

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