Jacob Moverare arrived at Frölunda in at the end of September, having spent some time with the club during summer for some extra training. Rather than try to fit in onto the Ontario Reign’s crowded blue line or spend time in the ECHL, he had asked the Los Angeles Kings for permission to play the season in his native Sweden.
Frölunda prides themselves on ‘being the closest European team to the NHL’, with many NHL players having gone through their ranks, and a few of them having gone directly from the SHL to the NHL (Mattias Janmark, Artturi Lehkonen and Rasmus Dahlin are leading examples in recent years). Moverare was keenly aware of this and chose the club to improve and to find the right path to get to the NHL.
Moverare arrived in Gothenburg as a work in progress; having played in the OHL with Mississauga Steelheads for two years after the draft, the first was a success but the second wasn’t really an improvement. Moverare wanted to improve as a hockey player and the opportunity fell on one of the leading teams in SHL to facilitate the process. Half a year after arriving, Moverare lines up for his second final, having won the Champions Hockey League with the team already, on Easter Sunday.
The big defender is a bit shy when he states: “I really don’t know if I had expected the development I have had since I arrived here. You want to develop as much as possible but in the end it has exceeded my expectations, especially towards end of the season, as well as in the playoffs.”
Moverare looked a bit out of his depth when he arrived, so what really has changed? “I am so happy that my skating has improved to the degree it has. That has helped me and I have gotten stronger. That was my main aim when I got here and I have succeeded with that. I am happy that this experience has had the desired outcome that I was looking for.”
Spending the summer in Gothenburg benefited him, as did the fact that Moverare started to think about his eating habits. This made him come back to the ice after summer with a little bit of better confidence. “If you have a good summer, you will have confidence coming back into training, still my confidence wasn’t good. It was better than before the summer, but not as good as it is now.”
There were some adjustments still to get back into the Swedish game. Before he left for North America, Moverare had been on the bench for four games with HV71 and played one shift in SHL. It was only natural that there was a big jump from OHL to the SHL. “This jump was bigger than I thought and my confidence was not at the top level because of it.”
How can a player and a coach change a players confidence? It is easy when you are in Frölunda. Coach Roger Rönnberg is one of the best coaches in the world outside of the NHL. He really wants to develop players. “I am the gardener,” he once told Eyes on the Prize. “If I do everything right then I can reap in the rewards come harvest time, and harvest time for a coach is the playoffs.”
Coach Rönnberg called Moverare into his office for a chat, together with defensive coach Kristofer Näslund, and in that meeting there were a few things said that the defender still carries with him. Coach Rönnberg told Moverare that “if you enter a test with the attitude that you will fail, then you will fail. But if you go in to the test and remember that you have practiced and remember that you have done your homework and have that mindset [that you will succeed], then you will succeed. The fact that we have all been in that situation made it easy to reflect over, and to benefit from. It adjusted my way of thinking, and my confidence has gotten better with every shift since.” When asked if there was need for a professional sports psychologist, Moverare said “no”, as the coaches helped this time.
The defender, who has sometimes been slighted for his skating, feels that the improvement when it comes to skating and confidence has been massive, and it has led to other benefits too, mainly in his understanding and reading of the game, which have both become stronger during his time in the SHL. According to the young defender this is also related to his confidence boost, “It is a lot of confidence, you dare to hold on to the puck a millisecond longer. You don’t have to only play the safe option. You dare to take the more difficult choice, but the right one that will benefit the team instead of the easy option.”
Did he cross over the Atlantic too early? “Yes and no, it was an experience and I got better in the OHL, I might have gotten over a bit too early, but we can’t second guess ourselves. We should say ‘I tried, I have no regrets, rather than I regret not going over’. I had some great time in OHL, I learned stuff that I wouldn’t have learned in SHL, I am happy with the experience.”
Two scouts from Sweden and Finland, Niklas Andersson and Christian Ruuttu for the Los Angeles Kings, are happy with the development of Moverare. Both have played in Frölunda too, so the connection to Frölunda is strong. How strong remains to be seen as Moverare is loving his time in Sweden and he would be open to stay another season with Frölunda. “I am developing at such a high pace here, and I really love to play here. The Frölunda organisation is world class and I feel it will benefit my NHL career further down the line [to stay]. I will spend the summer with the club and I know how tough the summer training is. It will benefit me whereever I will play next season, but staying another year and pushing for the NHL directly after that would be great.”
In a recent interview with Johan Rylander, who is the beat writer covering Frölunda for the Gothenburg Post, Moverare said, “I might not have become a man, but I am not a boy anymore.” Moverare’s progress is evident in whatever he does at the moment. A lot of it comes from the confidence of finding himself. Sometimes it leads to new situations, as when he recently found himself in the Gretzky position and delivered a puck into the area like the master himself, “That is nothing but confidence! It is only with confidence you dare to do that,” he laughs when asked about it.
Moverare oozes harmony and confidence at the moment. He has no regrets about choosing Frölunda for development this year, and neither should the Los Angeles Kings.
Patrik Bexell is a contributing author and European Correspondent for Habs Eyes on the Prize, focusing on European prospects. He is also the host of the PuckDrop Podcast. You can find him on Twitter or keep up with his work over at Eyes on the Prize. Thanks, Patrik!