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Red Wings Make Brandsegg Nygard’s Dream Come True



Michael Brandsegg-Nygard, Red Wings

LAS VEGAS —  Years from now, when Michael Brandsegg Nygard tells his story about being drafted by the Detroit Red Wings, it may sound embellished.

Here’s the tale: He’s Norwegian who plays in Sweden. He flies to Las Vegas, to be awed by the glitz and glamour of the gambling capital of the world, and to be drafted 15th by the Red Wings. The event is in the Sphere, a phenominal  high-tech concert hall shaped like a ball. Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom announced his selection. Celene Dion was in house to announce the Canadiens pick.  A couple of picks before, legendary ring announcer Michael Buffer came on stage and announced the Philadelphia Flyers draft choice. He delivers his signature line: “Are you ready to rumble?”

Forgive Brandsegg Nygard if his memorable night seems surreal.

“You’re trying to see everything, but it’s hard,” he said. “But it’s pretty cool.”

Norwegian Hockey History

The Red Wings made Brandsegg Nygard the first Norwegian player ever to be drafted in the first round of the NHL draft. Before Friday, no Norwegian had gone earlier than 42nd. But no Norwegian is quite like Brandsegg Nygard.

“It has been my dream for so long and now I’m living the dream,” he said. ” So I’m going to just work hard and do what I always do and hopefully I’m going to be an NHL player soon.”

Brandsegg Nygard said he dreamed of being drafted when he was young. He decided to use the better competition in the Swedish league to help turn his aspirations into reality.

“It felt like so far away, but after the first season in Sweden it felt closer,” he said. “And I felt like it was possible to get drafted in the first round, so it was a big motivation and it was so cool.”

Coincidently, the Anaheim Ducks drafted another Norwegian Stian Solberg with the 23rd. He’s a defenseman who plays for Oslo in the Norwegian League.

Plays at World Championships

Brandsegg Nygard is talented enough as an 18-year-old that he was selected to play with the Norwegian national team at the World Championships. He had three goals and five points in a tournament field that included many NHL players. He played on a line with his idol, Mats Zuccarello.

“It was just a good experience to play with him,” Brandsegg Nygard said. “He said to me just to keep my shots down. He’s gonna pass the puck to me so I can shoot. That was the only thing he said.”

Brandsegg Nygard learned plenty going up against NHLers.

“I learned that you have to move your feet all the time,” he said. “Just keep your speed. Especially when we played against Canada. They always got to the puck first and they’d always be first on the rebounds.”

Joining Skelleftea

Scouts like Brandsegg Nygard’s shot and his speed. He had 18 points playing for Mora in the Swedish second division. Next season, he will play in the Swedish Hockey League for Skelleftea where last year’s first round pick, Axel Sandin Pellikka plays.

Brandsegg Nygard also likes to play a physical game. The Red Wings are hunting for players who blend skill with a physical presence. This is the culture the Red Wings would like to develop.

“I feel like I’m pretty good to get in the defenseman’s body and push him away,” he said. “Bump him so that somewhere in the offensive zone, I can get the puck and shoot. And then the forecheck, too. I feel like I’m built to be quick up on the defenseman and him them and take the puck back so we try to stay in the offensive zone. I feel like I’m comfortable to try to protect the puck as well. ”

Former NHL general manager and scout Craig Button, now a TSN analyst, compares him to Zach Hyman.

“Not the 53 goal scorer Zach Hyman,” Button said. “But the 25 goal scorer that he was. Dog on a bone. He can play with good players and help them. He’s a really good penalty killer, good defensively.”