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Arvid Henrikson happy with his team’s bronze medal win, looking forward to watching Habs in the playoffs

The big Swedish defender looks forward to joining his fellow prospects in Montreal this summer.

It is a happy and relieved Arvid Henrikson that speaks with EOTP a day after the Bronze Medal Game in Sweden’s U20 league.

“It felt so good to win the last game of the season. It’s not fun to finish fourth in a situation like that. It was a great feeling for the whole team after the season that we have had.”

At one point during the season his team, AIK, lost 16 in a row, and finished dead last in the SuperElit North. But AIK managed to get into the playoffs via the continuation series. The 10 lowest-ranked teams from the North and South play a new series, where AIK placed fifth and went into the league playoffs.

In the post-season they went on a roll, winning their best-of-three series over Malmö (2-0) and Leksand (2-1) in order to set up a single-game semifinal, where they hit the wall and lost to Växjö by a 4-0 score. The result sent them to the third-place game.

“We got some new guys, and some guys that came back down from the senior team. Then when you get into winning you get on a roll. There are so many mental things that just change.”

Henrikson got a few games with the senior team himself, and there is a clear sign that he longs for another shot. “I was with the team during the pre-season and I got a few friendlies with them. Then I went over to Montreal for the rookie camp. When I came back to Sweden, Allsvenskan had started, and when I got the call-ups I spent a lot of time on the bench."

After speaking with Anders Gozzi, the GM of AIK, Henrikson was told it was better to get time on the ice rather than on the bench. "I went down to play U20 again, where I got to play a lot more,” says Henrikson, who still feels the brief time with the top team was worth it as the game was faster and the players are both bigger and better.

When it comes to his own development the big defender says “The game has been faster [compared to the U18], but I feel I have started to grow into the player I should become: a stay-at--home defenceman with a good first pass, good zone exits."

Compared to his play last season, where Henrikson felt he could do a bit more on his own due to his size and the discrepancy of talent within the league, it was a big change to move up a tier.

"Since the draft I have spoken a lot with Christer Rockström, and he has said this is how you have to play; this is your chance to get to Montreal and you will have to play like this. So that’s been on my mind the whole season, and that’s what I have tried to achieve in my own development: a good, solid defender with a fast breakout pass, and keep focus on the defensive end of the ice.”

In regards to his season totals, Henrikson answers with a smile. “I don’t give a damn about the offensive output.”

The two assists he got in the Bronze Medal Game did come after good plays, however. “I pinched and thereby created a turnover while still in the offensive zone. I got the puck to a free Valdemar Ahlberg who netted it for a 4-4 score. An important goal to say the least.”

The game-winner from AIK came with only 30 seconds left in regulation and the determination from the AIK players made it impossible for HV71 to even enter the offensive zone in the dying seconds of the match.

Henrikson chooses his words carefully when he speaks about next season and his personal goals. He is still eligible to play for the U20 team, but there seems to be another goal for him to achieve.

“The season ended yesterday, so I haven’t really thought about goals for next season. The important thing is to continue to grow into the player I want to become. You have to think long term not short term, and maybe burn yourself out.

“Now focus will have to be on school, and getting some rest in. I need to catch up and focus on getting the grades I want before I sit down and think about goals for the immediate future.”

Henrikson is already looking forward to development camp in Montreal, and he wouldn’t say no to coming over for rookie camp this fall again as he only has good memories.

Especially when it comes to a certain Artturi Lehkonen, whom he says is a great guy with a quick laugh and someone who really wanted everyone to succeed. “I will do what Montreal tells me to do, but in the end it comes down to what they think will be the best for my development and what AIK agrees to as well. One thing is for sure: it would be great to go across to Montreal again!”

The time spent in Montreal last summer and fall has made Henrikson into a Montreal fan, he says. “I have followed Montreal as much as I can. I have caught a few games that have been early-ish here in Sweden. But I follow the games though the boxscores and the standings table. It has been much better than the last season, thats for sure! Now we all wait for the playoffs!”