Defenseman Simon Bertilsson, 19, may only have 2 assists in his 25 games this season, but his defensive play has earned him praise that goes beyond the numbers. Widely considered the 2nd best defenseman on his team, only behind Predators prospect Mattias Ekholm, Bertilsson believes that he can still do better.
"I guess I’m pretty happy with my season so far. Maybe it’s been a little too much up and down. But my last game was good, so that’s great. It went better for me than the games before that. Those were pretty rough."
It might be the perfect timing for Bertilsson’s game to improve. The World Junior Championships are already around the corner. The tournament is one big goal for Bertilsson again this season.
The bitter memories of last year are already fading away. Bertilsson suffered a knee injury in the last Elitserien game before the WJC and missed the whole tournament.
"Nah, it was unfortunate back then, but it’s not something I think about anymore."
"But this is my last chance to play at the WJC and it’s a big goal for me to go all the way this year."
The WJC training camp for team Sweden starts already tomorrow in Väsby, just outside of Stockholm. Bertilsson is on the 31 player preliminary roster.
"We go there on Monday and it’s supposed to get serious right from the start. The roster is going to get trimmed and you can’t expect to get anything handed to you. It’s hard work and we’re going to play three practice games where we get the chance to showcase ourselves."
The games will be on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The roster will be trimmed after that and the final roster will take the trip to Canada already on Saturday. Two more preparatory games there and onto the US for the tournament.
Right now there are ten defensemen on the preliminary roster. Eight will make the trip. Nothing is certain, but Bertilsson has been a mainstay on the junior national team again this season, so his chances to get that final try at the WJC look to be pretty good.
"I’ve definitely had this in my mind for a while and if I get to be there, it’s going to be a memory for a lifetime. WJC is big."
Bertilsson would also be under the nose of Flyers scouts at the WJC, but he says he’s not in a hurry to sign with the Flyers. An extension with Brynäs looks more likely.
"Well, I probably still need a few more years in the Elitserien. My contract with Brynäs runs out after this season, but I enjoy it here and I hope I would get to stay."
This report was based off of a Swedish-language story in the publication Arbetarbladet.