Rasmus Bengtsson (black) and Victor Rask (red) are part of the next wave of prospects coming out of Sweden. (Photo courtesy CAA)
Had Victor Rask and Rasmus Bengtsson been home in Sweden last week, they might have been running with their club teams. Instead, they were working out with some of the best kids their age in Los Angeles and learning how to be hockey pros.
Rask, a 6-foot-2, 194-pound center with Leksand and Bengtsson, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound defenseman with Rogle, were both in California thanks to their agency, CAA (home of Sidney Crosby, John Tavares and Jonathan Toews among others).
The agency runs a camp each summer for its young clients and this year’s crew included high-ranking prospects such as Shane McColgan, Ty Rattie and Slater Koekkoek, not to mention a flock of Swedes.
While the 2010 draft had a dearth of Tre Kronor talent, expect next year’s podium to see a parade of gold and blue boys, with defenseman Adam Larsson a potential No. 1 overall pick and Rask and Bengtsson soon to follow. For now, though, the pair were just happy to be honing their skills at the L.A. camp.
“It’s pretty warm,” Rask said. “Not like Sweden, but I like it.”
Along with on-ice tutelage from Anaheim Ducks assistant coach Newell Brown and media training, the players also got to take in the L.A. experience.
“It was great to see the whole town,” Bengtsson said. “The famous stuff: Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive.”
Along with learning the ropes in California, Rask and Bengtsson will also get a chance to show the world what they can do in August when they travel to Slovakia/Czech Republic for the Ivan Hlinka tournament.
“I’m really excited,” Rask said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Rask certainly had fun the last time he was in the spotlight. At the World Under-18 Championship in the spring, he tallied five points in six games for silver medal-winning Sweden, adding a plus-6 rating and racking up one of the best faceoff percentages in the tourney.
Bengtsson is also primed for the Ivan Hlinka, which brings together hockey’s premier under-18 competitors.
“It will be fun to meet all the best players in the world,” he noted.
Once the August tournament concludes, the two Swedes will shift their attention back to their club teams, where both hope to be impact players, even at their young age.
Rask has already experienced top-level play with Leksand, where a brief run with the men’s squad put him in the company of hot-shot Phoenix Coyotes prospect Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
“He took good care of me when I was up there,” Rask said.
The big pivot cites his ability to find openings, passing and scoring as his best assets, while noting he would like to get faster.
“The first step I want to get quicker,” he said.
At the under-20 level, Rask dominated, putting up 41 points for Leksand in 39 games.
Bengtsson, who played up with Rogle’s under-20 team for most of last season, notched an impressive 23 points in 42 games with the squad. And while his saintly 14 PIMs could be seen as smart hockey, he would still like to get a little nastier.
“I want to get better at everything,” Bengtsson said, “but mostly my speed game and my aggressive game.”
Bengtsson believes his strengths lie in reading the play and passing – and considering all but three of his points with Rogle’s under-20 team came off assists, it’s fair to say he knows what he’s talking about.
The next goal for the slick blueliner is cracking Rogle’s men’s team this season.
“I want to find a spot with the six defensemen and play every game,” he noted. “It is a great opportunity.”
With the Ivan Hlinka traditionally serving as a coming-out party for prospects, look for both Rask and Bengtsson to seize their latest opportunity to impress.
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