2012 fourth-round pick Calle Andersson returned to the Malmö line-up on September 21, scoring in a tense 4-3 derby win over Allsvenskan opponents Rögle as his club continued their strong start to the season.
Andersson was relieved to be back on the ice after a seven-month absence, though the 19-year old defenseman admits to a few teething problems after being away from competitive action for so long.
"It was a very big game for us with nearly 10,000 fans in the stands. It was fun, but it was tough and I was exhausted after the game. I had been training with our fitness coach but it was hard to beat cramps so I could not play during the final 10 minutes."
Andersson, a smart two-way blueliner with offensive upside, damaged ligaments in his hand at the tail-end of last season. He talks of "great fun" when recalling his goal, but confesses to frustration with his rehab.
"Late last season I got hit in the back. I flew in with my hand first and hurt the ligament. Unfortunately I had to have surgery and ligament damage takes longer to heal, so that was a tough period for me."
"I had surgery in April and needed plaster for about 2-3 months," he continues. "Then the cast came off and I began rehab with my hand while seeing a doctor three times a week. In August we agreed on a date for my full return to training, but unfortunately I got struck by a team-mate on that particular hand and needed plaster again for another three weeks. It was incredibly frustrating."
Andersson speaks fondly of his time with Färjestad in the Swedish Hockey League, for whom he iced 34 times last season. It was a beneficial learning experience for the young defenseman and one that saw him cross paths with a number of familiar names.
"The SHL was a very good league to play in. There are so many good players and you learn a lot as a young man getting to train with the best in the country every day and by playing against them. It was the NHL lockout too, so I got to face Alexander Steen and (in the European Trophy) Erik Karlsson."
Senators defenseman Karlsson is a recurring theme during our conversation. Andersson singles out the high-scoring blueliner when asked which of his fellow countrymen he admires the most.
"My big idol is Erik Karlsson," he says. "If an Ottawa game is on then I look only at him. You learn a lot by watching him, he can always find something on the power play and he moves so much. It’s fun to see how he plays."
On his return to hometown club Malmö where Andersson shares the blueline with promising 16-year old brother Rasmus, he says; "I thought it was nice to come home to my family after living alone for two years. I thought playing in Allsvenskan was the best way for me to develop and I still think it is."
"It is important for a young player like me to get ice-time," he continues. "My goal is to develop as much as I can and to also fight for a place at the World Junior Championships."
Andersson’s father Peter, who recently guided Örebro back to the SHL after 35 years away from Sweden‘s top flight, was drafted 73rd overall by the New York Rangers in 1983. Andersson admits that his knowledge of the organisation is limited, but adds that he does keep in "pretty good" contact with Blueshirts scout Anders Hedberg.
"Dad played a few games for the Rangers many years ago, so it has always been that we have followed them."
Andersson has played a key part in the early-season success of Malmö's red-hot powerplay, posting four points in just five games since his return. He tells me that it is hard to retain core PP time given the abundance of offensive talent on their books.
When asked about specific areas of improvement, Andersson cites his skating as something he is keen to work on this year. "It’s mainly my skating that must be better," he says. "I want to be faster. I also want to be able to shoot even harder and to place the shots better. That I work on every day."
He admits to having thought "occasionally" about the prospect of playing in North America, but concedes that for now his focus is set a little closer to home.
"Right now my focus is on playing in Malmö, to do well and to help the team to an SHL location."