Saturday, May 14, 2011

Prospect Pursuit - Max Friberg - How Swede It Is

{Photo courtesy of}
A tenacious little bastard (pardon my French).  Who could have come up with that 4-word scouting report to describe 2011 NHL Entry Draft hopeful, Max Friberg?  Could it have been Jarmo Kekäläinen, the Finnish scouting guru best known for revamping the St. Louis Blues?  Was it Håkan Andersson, the Director of European Scouting for the Detroit Red Wings, best known for finding the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in the 6th and 7th rounds of the NHL Draft, respectively?  Actually, this scouting report came from yours truly.  Having never been to a World Junior Championship before, and having it conveniently located within the US, in Buffalo, gave me the opportunity to catch a few games in person this year.  

Standing, a mere, 5'10", Friberg plays like he's a towering 6'4" forward.  A relative unknown prior to the World Junior Championships, Friberg got the call up to Team Sweden ahead of players who were regulars in the SEL.  If that doesn't attest to just how good Friberg is at getting the job done, then I don't know what does.  Needless to say, Friberg impressed not only me, but many others who had the opportunity to watch him.

Friberg plays for his hometown team, Skövde IK, in Sweden's First Division.  A boy amongst men, Friberg has put up 40 in 34 games.  He knows what it takes to be a good player, but if you get a chance to talk to him, you will realize he knows more about the game than what his stats say on the score sheet.

Prospect PursuitWhen and where did you start playing hockey?

Max Friberg I started my career at home in Skovde and I was about 5 but I have been on skates since I was two years old! 

Who was your favorite hockey team growing up (both NHL and Sweden) and who were your favorite players to watch and why?

MF: In SEL it was Brynas and in NHL it was Montreal both because they were classic teams with a lot of history. My absolute favourite player was a guy named Tom Bisset who played in Brynas and was a right shooter just like me and a great scorer!In NHL I always followed all the swedes and didn't really had any specific favourite.

PPWhat style of game do you have and who, in the NHL, do you compare your style of game to? Explain in a few short sentences.

MFI play with speed and creativity but not afraid to get my nose dirty. I would see myself as a team player who work hard and do my best for the team to win! I don't really know a player I can compare my game to, that is up to others to decide.

PP: What is your take on the differences between European hockey as compared to North American hockey?

MFMy strengths are my shot, hard work and my will to take the puck to the net. My weaknesses are that I can get quicker and stronger, I'm not that big so if I want to be NHL material i will improve these things.

PPWhat is your take on the differences between European hockey as compared to North American hockey?

MFI think Europe hockey is more tactical and North American got more speed and I enjoy the North American way of play more.

PPHow do you plan on changing your game to play the North America style? Explain in a couple sentences.

MFI will not change it that much just skate even harder and take more pucks to the net.

PPWhen was the first time you realized that playing in the NHL was a possibility?

MFI still haven't realized that but during the World Juniors I realized that I could compete with the best juniors in the world.

PPDo you have any special pregame ritual that you do? (listen to certain type of music, eat a specific meal, etc.)

MF: Yeah I have lots of them but no one that makes me go crazy if I don't do it so not really but I like to go out and dangle with the puck before the warm-up. 

PPWhat has been your favorite moment in your career up to this point?

MFWhen we won against Canada on New Years Eve , that was amazing.

PPAre there any players that you have played with/against who you think will make the NHL and produce very well? Name some and give a reason why if you can.

MFI think all of the players in our Swedish U20 team have a great chance to make it to the NHL. If i have to name a specific person I think that Anton Lander will be captain in an NHL team someday.

PP Your name has been floated around as being a possible first or second round pick in this years draft. Do you pay attention to that kind of stuff? Why or why not?

MFNo not really , but I will be really glad if any team would decide to draft me. 

PPIf you get drafted in this years draft, what are your plans for next season? Do you plan on staying in Europe or coming over to play in North America?

MFI have already decide to play for Timrå in Sweden.

PP: Besides hockey, what are some of your other hobbies?

MFNot so much else...(winking) maybe chasing girls.

PPSweden obviously lost a stunner against the Canadians in this year's World Juniors, but they definitely put a mark as one of the top teams in the tournament. What do you guys have to do next year to win Gold?

MFBring our luck and be better prepared for the playoff stage

PPWhat do you like most about playing for Skovde?

MFThe ice-time I get and the incredible fans, they are not so many but very dedicated!

PPDo you think you are ready to play in the NHL next season? Why or why not?

MFNo I don't think I am since its a step to big to go from Skovde to the NHL. I see it as a great challenge to get ice-time in SEL! 

PPAdam Larsson and Gabriel Landeskog, teammates of yours at the WJC, have their names being thrown around as going top 3. Who do you think will get picked higher and why?

MF: It depends which team that gets the first pick but I think they will go as number 1 and 2. 

PPWhat is the highlight of your career up until now? Explain.

MFDefinitely the World Juniors, I never had so much fun! Playing for my country is the best thing I know!

Check out Friberg's goal versus Canada on New Year's Eve, below:

I watched the Swedish team defeat the eventual champions, Russia, in a 2-0 win in the Preliminary Round.  The Swedes controlled every facet of the game from beginning to end, and while I came away impressed by the way they played, I was enamored with Friberg's style of play.  For a Swede, he shows little trace of the European style of play that us, North Americans, are used to seeing.  On the contrary, Max brings his grit and tenaciousness to every game and has a top-notch work ethic.

Friberg possesses a quick shot for a "smaller" player, but even with his lack of vertical size, he still packs 185 pounds of solid foundation and uses every iota of that frame to make it difficult for defenders to take the puck from him.  His size also gives him an advantage in speed, acceleration, and agility.  He is just as capable of shooting as he is handling the puck which benefits his offensive game.

Max Friberg's name has been thrown around in various mock drafts, but the consensus is that he is a likely 2nd round pick.  However, if he falls past the 2nd round, there will be one lucky NHL team who will have a steal on their hands, for sure.  Max said, himself, that it is for others to decide what type of player to compare him to.  Think of Max as a more offensive and consistant Sean Bergenheim, if you will, or possibly a Ryan Callahan type.  

The point is, it doesn't really matter who people decide to compare him to.  Max Friberg is his own player.  When Friberg will be ready to make his NHL debut is yet to be determined, but whenever that day comes, Friberg's hard work will have paid off and hockey fans will take notice.  


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