How Jake Walman and Oskar Sundqvist can help the Red Wings now and in the future
Oskar Sundqvist and Jake Walman were on the plane Monday in St. Louis, preparing to leave for Washington, when they received a call from Blues general manager Doug Armstrong telling them they had been traded to the Detroit Red Wings .
It was the start of an eventful 20 hours that culminated Tuesday with the Red Wings’ first practice before their debut tonight at Little Caesars Arena against the Philadelphia Flyers (7:30 a.m., Bally Sports Detroit).
“It’s basically getting out of your seat, putting your suit back on, going from the back of the plane to the front and saying goodbye to everyone,” Sundqvist said. “Come downstairs, find your suitcase and your things and right after that (Red Wings general manager Steve) Yzerman called me and greeted me and said there was someone who wanted to talk to me. I spoke a bit with Nicklas Lidstrom, so that was a nice surprise. It was a hectic day, a lot of stress and emotion to say goodbye to everyone. It’s nice to finally be here and have finished the first practice.
The Red Wings acquired Sundqvist, a 6-foot-3, 208-pound center/winger, and Walman, a decently sized defenseman (6-foot-2, 215 pounds), as well as a 2023 second-round pick, for impending free agent D-man Nick Leddy.
Both are expected to be roster regulars and help the team move forward.
Coach Jeff Blashill described Sundqvist as a “real good hockey player”.
“That’s the term that’s been used when I’ve talked to people who’ve had him, which means he has good hockey sense,” Blashill said. “He is strong on his stick. Because of this, he is a good two-way player who has the ability to play shorthanded and on the power play. We talked about the need to improve defensively and adding a good 200-footer will help. I’m going to start him on the wing tonight, but I could see him move to center eventually, because he’s a real responsible center.
Sundqvist’s size matters.
“We had a hard time getting to the net against Seattle (in Saturday’s 4-2 loss),” Blashill said. “We just struggle in some of these games when we’re up against opponents who have a really big, strong D. Size helps you get to those areas and also matters defensively, especially if you’re long.”
Sundqvist is comfortable in his role.
“I’m thinking mainly of a defensive responsibility but also an offensive contribution,” said Sundqvist, 27. “That’s always been my forte, my two-way game, so I just try to help the team the best I can at both ends of the ice.”
Blashill said he was intrigued by Walman, who is shooting left.
“One of the things I talked to him about is using that skating as a defensive weapon,” Blashill said. “(Former Red Wings defenseman and current Washington Capital) Nick Jensen has done a really good job of that in his career. Because of this, he regularly faces off against the other team’s best.
“I’m not saying Jake will or won’t. But I know we want to get off the offensive blue line, we want to finish the rushes earlier, we don’t want to give up time and space, and a guy who can skate like that can really help. His best attributes are his skating and shooting. From a shooting perspective, we talked more about our D shoot. Make sure he shoots every chance he gets.
Walman, 26, said he was looking forward to “getting his game back” and restoring confidence.
“I think I can play the guys well here, using my speed, getting the puck up fast, making a move and getting it up to the forwards, closing plays in the D zone as fast as I can and by just being persistent. all over the ice,” Walman said. “Being confident is the most important thing for me, confidence and shooting the puck everywhere. If I shoot the puck, that means I’m on my game. I’m going to do it and I’m going to skate and help the team win.
Sundqvist was a huge Tomas Holmstrom fan growing up. He also loved Henrik Zetterberg. He has battles with Niklas Kronwall, who he says was difficult to play, especially in the corners.
And meeting Lidstrom on Tuesday morning was special.
“I think when you come from Sweden everyone knows who Nick Lidstrom is,” Sundqvist said. “It was great talking to him.”
Sundqvist called the past 20 hours emotional and stressful.
“I felt like my head was spinning all over the place yesterday,” he said. “I was at home packing, I didn’t really know what to bring. I looked at the phone and realized that there were only 2.5 hours left before the plane left, so I had to start rushing. It’s nice to finally land here and settle in and meet everyone this morning. It surely calms you down a bit and makes you feel much better.
Said Walman: “It was a bit of a shock. I have never experienced anything like this. Change is good. I’m really excited about this opportunity and sad to say goodbye to the guys from St. Louis, who we’ve been with for a while now. But it’s a new chapter now and we’re ready to start.
Continued: Steve Yzerman postpones his comment on coach Jeff Blashill