Elitserien starts today. There's a ton of hype built around the 20 year old Skellefteå goaltender Joacim Eriksson. Not a single game in the season has been played yet, but hockey experts around the nation are already suggesting that Eriksson could start for Team Sweden at the World Championships next spring. He hasn't even started his first career game in the Elitserien yet.
Eriksson keeps his feet on the ground and doesn't think about the hype. He rather moves the focus on the team, away from himself.
"I can't think about just myself", he says. "Now I'm up in the Elitserien with Skellefteå, so it's just about taking the chance and not think too much. I want to show what I can do and focus on what I'm good at; play hockey. I don't think of myself as a talent. I'm just one guy on the team."
But the hype hasn't come out of nowhere. It hasn't come without a reason. Eriksson's career so far has gone up like a rocket.
"I played a lot of junior hockey in Valbo and then I went to Brynäs", Eriksson recalls his career this far. "There me and [Jacob] Markström played every other game a lot. Then things started going really well for him and he got the call up. After that it started going really well for myself, too. We came second place in the league and I was drafted."
Eriksson says that being drafted by the Flyers gave him extra motivation in his young career.
"It was very special to get drafted. It really gave me something to push for. You couldn't give up at that point."
Eriksson says he had a choice to make before the start of last season. He had the option to stay in Brynäs, behind highly talented Panthers prospect Markström, or go play for Leksand in the minor league Allsvenskan.
"It was a tough choice, but I chose Leksand. I signed for one year to get to see what would happen next. I took a little risk there since I could've been injured for example. But I'm glad that I took that risk."
Now one of Eriksson's dreams is about to come true as his first Elitserien start is just around the corner.
"It's going to be cool, I've missed having this chance. Elitserien has always been my dream. It reminds me of the time when I was a little kid and got to see Brynäs play. It was awesome."
In Skellefteå Eriksson will battle with veteran goalie Andreas Hadelöv for ice time. The two goalies played every other game in the preseason and the battle is expected to be hard and equal all season. Eriksson calls the situation perfect.
"It's the perfect situation for both of us. We know that we have to work hard, but also that we both get to play. It's tough, but good."
Many consider this goalie tandem to be the best in the league, but if you mention that to Eriksson, he quickly dodges all possible praise again.
"I don't know about that. We don't waste our energy on thinking about things like that. We both just focus on the things that we're good at."
Eriksson says he's overall much more calm and relaxed today compared to how he used to be, on and off the ice.
"It used to be the end of the world to me if I let in one goal. Now I'm more about getting over it as fast as possible and just move on."
This report was based off of a Swedish-language story in the publication Norran.