London News & Search
The same word keeps popping up in conversation with Jesper Bratt.
The Knights’ new Swedish winger uses it when discussing the small North American ice.
He uses it to talk about London, the Knights organization, his teammates, billet family, junior hockey in general, and — perhaps most rarely for an import player this early into the proceedings — the English language.
“We have English in school from about fourth grade on back home,” said the 19-year-old, who grew up just outside Stockholm. “We had a couple of Canadian and American players in the pro league in Sweden (he played with AIK), so I’m pretty comfortable with it.”
It impacts the expectation level. Bratt was one of the best players on the ice in his OHL preseason debut last Friday against Sarnia, and the hope from the Knights is there will be few growing pains once the real stuff starts.
“It just fast-tracks everything (when an import player can communicate in English),” London GM Rob Simpson said. “He can get to know his teammates and billets sooner. When you’re talking systems, or in practice, it helps move everything along. You’re not constantly having to think about everything and the comfort level increases.”
The new language — and currency, for that matter — of hockey today is speed.
Bratt figured that out right about the time he started to pick up English text books in elementary school. The video clip that followed him to London was a breakaway chance he produced against Canada at the world junior summer showcase in Plymouth, Mich., in August.
He simply kicked into a higher gear.
“I think I worked on it a lot (when I was younger),” the Devils prospect said. “Hockey is a very fast sport and it will help you if you’re faster than the other players out there.
“I guess I’ve always been a fast player.”
Is he quicker than Knights veteran d-man Victor Mete or explosive winger Alex Formenton?
“They’re pretty fast, too,” he said with a laugh. “Maybe we’ll have a one-on-one competition this year.”
That won’t be for a while, though.
Bratt will be part of New Jersey’s rookie camp, which he hopes leads to a long stay at the main one. The Devils will be playing in a rookie tourney with the Sabres, Bruins and Penguins in Buffalo.
Of course, he wants to be back there again at Christmas, this time with Team Sweden, at the world juniors. His first-half season in London will lead him there.
“I wanted to come over here and play, and when New Jersey wanted me here, too, it was a great opportunity,” he said. “I know London’s one of the best junior organizations in the world. It was nice to win and score a goal the first game.
“I want to make New Jersey and play in the pros. But if not, I’m happy here in London.”
He already has some chemistry with Blues first-rounder Robert Thomas. Dale Hunter immediately put them together against the Sting.
“He gave me the puck in pretty good spots the whole game,” Bratt said. “He’s a good passer and playmaker. Fun to play with.”
That could be a crucial combination, especially if Max Jones, who has a chance to make the Ducks, sticks in the NHL this fall. That would eliminate the potential of a Jones-Cliff Pu reunion.
The only thing Bratt hasn’t been able to do — yet — is convince Swedish star d-man Adam Boqvist to report to London. He was the Knights’ second import pick this year and Bratt is friends with Boqvist’s older brother Jesper, also Devils property.
Those lines of communication remain open, with the hope he reports soon.
“I met with Adam in person in New Jersey,” Simpson said. “We knew it was more long term, but we talk with him and the agent all the time. We’ll see how things go with his team (in Sweden) this year.”
The last Swedish blue-liner to play in London — Julius Bergman — had a strong season in 2014-15.
And if the comfortable Bratt lights it up, that’s the best Boqvist recruiting pitch of all.
London News & Search