The traveling Viking comes from Skövde, about two hours east of Gothenburg by train. It is a town more known for handball and the army regiment than ice hockey. Still, Max Friberg went for ice hockey in his youth, and was selected to represent the team from Västergötland in the annual TV-pucken tournament for 15 year-olds in Sweden.
Friberg scored two goals in five games, but his team was relatively bad, and were knocked out in the group stage. He continued to develop within the Skövde organisation, making his debut for their senior squad the same year as he played in TV-Pucken (the 2008-09 season).
While still in Skövde, Friberg was selected for the 2011 World Junior squad, scoring two goals in his first year at the tournament. The following year, he returned to help lead Sweden to a gold medal with 11 points in six games. That total was first among Swedes, and good for second in the entire tournament.
He was named to the tournament All-Star team, after outscoring players like Mikael Granlund, Mark Stone, and Nail Yakupov to name a few. He also proved that he is quite the threat in shootouts.
Timrå is a classic team in Sweden; home of Lennart "Lill-Strimma" Svedberg, Henrik Zetterberg, and former Montreal Canadiens Mats Näslund and Kjell Dahlin. They had signed Friberg before the 2011-12 season, and he played next two seasons with them in the SHL.
While Timrå is a classic team, at that point it was in a severe decline, and both seasons he was playing for a team that finished bottom of the table. Surviving the relegation playoff, Timrå was back the next year finishing second last in the table. This time there was no reprieve, and they were relegated.
In regards to Friberg's point production during these years, you have to consider that he was playing for arguably the worst team in the SHL. It seems to me that he took a gamble by going to Timrå, thinking he would play a lot more than he would have on a better team.
It turned into somewhat of a losing gamble, because the team struggled mightily, and this prevented him from playing the type of game that he wanted to. This was at the start of the Skellefteå era in Sweden, and better teams now play youngsters much earlier. Nowadays, he would have gone to one of the powerhouse clubs, and gotten playing time as well as a real opportunity to produce. Even in Sweden, Max Friberg was a bit forgotten.
What kind of player is Friberg?
As a junior, I remember Friberg as a solid offensive talent, possessing loads of skill, quick hands, and his hand-eye coordination was off the charts. You can see a lot of that on display in this video.
The Canadiens organization is one where I can see Friberg succeeding. Whether in Montreal or St. John's, the teams focus on skill and speed to score, which fits his profile. His offensive talent still seems to be there, which is evident by his play with the Gulls. He is being praised for his work ethic, and says himself he has developed both as a player and person in his time with the San Diego team.
Friberg himself says in interviews that he is a fighter; he doesn't give up, and he will push to improve. Reading between the lines in earlier interviews, he isn't shy about criticising himself. I wonder if that has made things a bit tougher for him. While this is a typical Scandinavian trait, it might not be the best in the world of professional sports.
Players and coaches seem to have nothing bad to say about him, praising his skills both on and off the ice. It does seem that not only has Bergevin gotten a player with loads of offensive skills, but a player where character is one of the main advantages as well.
I found this online; an interview with Friberg from the Anaheim Ducks training camp six months ago:
Personally, I like the trade. We had an overflow of goalkeepers, and it seems to me that Anaheim has an overflow of offensive talent. I see this as a positional trade, and I think Montreal won it.
Bergevin got a player he wanted for a player that was surplus, and Friberg seems to relish the occasion to go to both Montreal and St. John's. He is prepared to work for it, and this will be to the benefit of the big club. At the end, this is a low risk high reward trade, something we have seen often during Bergevin's tenure.