Anaheim calling to the hockey world...
In the summer of 2008, after logging two goals, six assists and 61 PIM in his first season with Vasteras of the Swedish Junior Elite League, Stefan Warg was ready to come to North America. The Stockholm-born defenseman was watching the Entry Draft on the Internet when Anaheim called his name 143rd overall in the 5th Round. He came out west to discuss the team's plans for him, which included the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds, who also drafted him that summer. So far, things have gone as planned.
After just one season in the WHL, Warg sparkled in Anaheim's training camp. He proved himself a smart and tough competitor against the game's next level talent, grabbing the attention of Ducks Head Coach Randy Carlyle and leaving many to wonder just how far the blueliner is from that 'next level.' That question seemed to weigh heavily on the Thunderbirds, as they opted to trade the defenseman to the Prince Albert Raiders at this month's trade deadline rather than watch him leave for the pros at the end of this season.
He's a prospect on the cusp, and we were happy to talk to him about that transition in this email Q&A:
You are turning 20 next month, and many people believe that was a big reason that Seattle traded you to the Prince Albert Raiders at the deadline. Can you tell me if you are leaning one way or another in your plans for next year?
I want to play and try to make the AHL team if that is an option for me. But the WHL is a good league to play in and it is too early to really say which way I am heading to.
What has your time with the Raiders been like so far?
It's been really good! The guys treat me really well. It is a good group of guys that are really close and a couple of wins haven't been bad at all.
Is there anything you can do on this team that you couldn't do with the Thunderbirds?
No. [Playing on this team] takes some pressure off me. There are other older defencemen that carry more of the load.
You came to the WHL from Sweden after the Ducks drafted you. How do you feel the WHL has helped you prepare for the NHL?
It is a way more physical game in the WHL and in that way you have to be ready and make quick plays. You really are practicing in your head for the next level. It's the most similar league to the NHL and the best option you have to prepare for the NHL.
You've had a few big fights since coming to the WHL, and that willingness to fight often helps players stay in the NHL. How do you feel about fighting?
I am never looking for a fight. If I drop my gloves, it is because my team needs me to stand up for them or to change the game.
Tell me about the kind of player you feel you are at this point in your career. What are your strengths and weaknesses, and what skills do you feel translate best to the NHL level?
I have a really solid defensive play. I can play really physical and knock guys off the puck to make plays. My weakness would be my offensive part of the game that I need to work on to get more shots on net. My best part of the game to bring to the NHL is my defensive play and working for my team.
What improvements do you think you need to make to become a reliable NHL defenseman?
I need to get quicker, be a better skater, get stronger and need to improve in every part of my game. The NHL is the best league in the world and to play there I need to improve.
Is there an NHL player that you look to as a model for your game? If not, what NHL player do you think you are most like?
I really like [the way Wisniewski] plays. He plays really tough. My impression of him is that he is a really good guy too.
You had a good camp with Anaheim this year, and you really impressed Head Coach Randy Carlyle. Why do you think you play so well in his system?
He likes the physical game. They like to play tough and as I said I like to play physical too. What I heard they liked most was my work ethic and desperation to win pucks and I think that would fit in in many systems.
Tell us about your experience at camp. What were the best moments for you?
It is always fun to go out and play against some of the best guys in the world and to compete against them and see how you do. Every kid dreams about being on the ice with these guys so it is an opportunity I was really happy about.
Probably standing on the ice during the national anthem in the pre season game against Vancouver was the first highlight! To be on the ice with NHL players is a dream come true.
How much contact have you had with the Ducks since camp ended? Is there anyone in the organization that you have spoken to frequently?
Dave McNab was up visiting me in Seattle after camp to chat about things. We talked about personal stuff, not just hockey. Alain Chainey is the guy I talk to most. He has been up to see me play in Seattle too and advised me about stuff I need to work on to make the next level and improve.
What did you think of the city of Anaheim and the Ducks organization when you visited? Do you think you would enjoy playing here?
Most guys I have talked to that ask about Anahiem I tell them it is probably about the best place you can play in! It might not be a big hockey town but the weather and everything about the city you cannot complain about!
Okay, a few fun questions. Have your teammates ever given you a nickname? If so, what was it?
What is the best practical joke you have seen in the locker room? You don't have to name names.
If you signed an NHL contract, what is the first thing you would buy?
I am in love with cars so I would probably buy a nice new car!
What do you think of Sweden's chances in the Olympics this year?
Sweden always has a chance at gold! But [if] I was to guess, Canada would probably be the winner again!