GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. –Consider it a North American test drive.
Detroit Red Wings prospect Calle Jarnkrok took part in his first practice with the Grand Rapids Griffins and will join the team for the next nine games. The goal for both Jarnkrok and the Red Wings is for the 21-year old playmaking center to get used to the North American-style of hockey after spending the last three seasons playing for Byrnas IF in Sweden.
“It’s smaller ice and the speed is much faster,” said Jarnkrok when comparing his first AHL practice to his time in Sweden. “I have to make all of my decisions faster. I think that’s the biggest change (I need to make),”
After just one day of practice, Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill saw some of what had been advertised regarding the Red Wings second round pick in the 2010 draft.
“He’s real, real smart. Competes real hard, strong on his skates for not a big guy, can really pass the puck and actually showed an ability to shoot the puck out there,” said Blashill. “He’s got lots of tools. Now it’s putting it together and showing you can be productive on the smaller sheet.”
Jarnkrok has been compared to Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg and that’s just fine by him. Jarnkrok’s favorite team growing up was the Red Wings and his favorite player was Zetterberg. “When I watch him play, I try to take after what he’s doing good.”
The Griffins will get a good opportunity to know their newest teammate. They are set to be away from Grand Rapids for the next two weeks as they embark on a six-game road trip. Jarnkrok was centering a line with Landon Ferraro and Tomas Jurco during today’s practice. With the Griffins holding a nine-point lead in the Midwest Division, Blashill can ease Jarnkrok into his role which will include time on the power play.
“We want to give him an opportunity to succeed,” said Blashill. “We’ve got lots of other guys that have helped as well. But I think everybody understands, you give certain guys opportunities and see how he does. We don’t want to give him too much too soon, but we also want to make sure we are utilizing his skills.”
The Griffins will have the services of Jarnkrok for the next nine games. Afterwards he will have return to Sweden to prepare for the World Championships, but Jarnkrok hopes to be making a return trip to North America as soon as next season begins.
“We will see about that but I hope to play here next year,” said Jarnkrok. His first North American stint begins Thursday in San Antonio.