Klasen tearing up his new league

by Jason Karnosky || AHL On The Beat Archive

If first impressions are indeed lasting ones, then forward Linus Klasen has left exactly that and more on Milwaukee Admirals fans.

After scoring a pair of goals in Milwaukee’s home-opening 6-2 win against the Abbotsford Heat, number 86 has been tearing up the AHL, scoring eight goals in his first nine games this season.

“I’m happy to be producing right away,” Klasen said. “I want to play my game and contribute to the team by doing what I am good at, (which) is scoring goals, making good passes and producing offensively.”

As a 24-year-old first-year player in the AHL, Klasen is a more mature than many of his fellow rookies, something Admirals coach Lane Lambert appreciates.

“(Linus) is a really smart player,” Lambert said. “He sees plays that maybe other guys don’t see as much, which puts him one step ahead at times on the ice. If he gets some time and space, Klasen can be a pretty dangerous player offensively.”

The reason for that maturity stems from Klasen’s past experience as player. Prior to signing a two-way free-agent contract with the Nashville Predators on April 20, 2010, the Stockholm, Sweden, native spent the past three seasons competing for Sodertalje in the Swedish Elitserien (more commonly known as the Swedish Elite League). Last year the budding offensive star racked up 19 goals and 51 points in as many games, tying for fifth in the league’s scoring race.

Therefore adjusting to the North American style of play was one of the first orders of business in Klasen’s development when he made the move west to play for Milwaukee.

“With the small rinks here, the game is a little bit faster at times and a little more defensive-based than the Swedish Elite League,” Klasen said. “It is harder to get points (over here), but if you are a good player and you see the ice well, it’s an easy transition to this style of play.”

So far Klasen has adjusted well to the North American game, especially as a catalyst for the Admirals’ power play. Klasen leads the AHL lead with five man-advantage tallies.

“(Linus) has a knack for finding people on the ice,” Lambert said. “He is a highly skilled player who helps out our power play tremendously.”

One of the players Klasen has impressed so far is 11-year NHL veteran and Admirals teammate Steve Begin.

“(Linus) is a player to watch whenever he has the puck because he is so talented and has such a sick set of hands,” Begin said. “If you are on the other team you have to be aware of him because he is going to put the puck in the right place when he has it.”

But beyond those evident offensive skills, Begin acknowledges another side of Klasen that is not so well known.

“(Linus) is a big guy in our locker room,” Begin said. “He doesn’t talk much, but that’s not what we need from him. We need him to go out there and make plays and work hard and that is what he does.”
If Klasen’s play has one drawback, it is in his defensive game. But Lambert has seen Klasen make strides in that aspect from day one with Milwaukee.

“In order for (Klasen) to be an everyday NHL player he needs to improve his defensive play,” Lambert said. “He has made good progress during his time here, but I think he needs to make more progress defensively.”

Klasen has been taking advantage of all the insight Lambert can provide to assist him with that weakness.

“There are little things in the defensive zone that coach has been helping me with,” Klasen said. “I have to work on my positioning at times because sometimes I am in the right place, but at other times I do my own thing. I have to keep working on being at the right place and on getting pucks out of the zone.”

As Klasen continues to improve defensively, the accolades keep pouring in for his performance in the offensive end. For the period ending on Oct. 24, Klasen was named the Reebok/AHL Player of the week for his three goals and three assists output.

Klasen’s fast start also earned him an early promotion to Nashville last weekend. His first NHL appearance on Oct. 30 proved a special one for Klasen as the Swede got to take the ice against the Detroit Red Wings, a team loaded with his fellow countrymen.

“It was huge for me and everyone I know back in Sweden,” Klasen said. “It was really fun to play Detroit for my first game with all of those Swedes on the Red Wings.”

Though Klasen saw only 6:22 of ice time for the Predators in a 5-2 loss at Detroit, the game was something the rookie forward won’t soon forget.

“It was a big experience for me to play in my first NHL game,” Klasen said. “Since the time I was born and started playing hockey, I’ve always wanted to play in the NHL. But I didn’t get a chance to play a lot, so when I go back next, hopefully I can play a bigger part with Nashville.”

With his first taste of the NHL still fresh in his mouth, Klasen was sent back to Milwaukee this week. However, Klasen short visit with Nashvillle only makes him that much more eager to improve with the Admirals to make sure his return trip to the NHL is on a more permanent basis.

“My goal is to play in the NHL and to be a productive player there, but I am not going to stop producing here in Milwaukee,” Klasen said. “I am going to keep working hard in practice every day because maybe someday that can help take me to the NHL.”