Mattias Norlinder answers the phone on his handsfree while driving, something that makes the Montreal Canadiens prospect even less talkative than normal, as if that was possible. Frölunda has just been knocked out of the playoffs and emotions are still a bit raw, and the selection to the National team training camp is not the silver lining that it could have been.
“I think my season was good, both in regards to my own season but also the team’s,” he said. “Until Christmas it was really good, it was a good flow.”
Adapting to the SHL was challenging in one way. “My biggest challenge was to have that high constant level of play everyday, and after the injuries it took more time than I expected to get back to that level. I didn’t reach that same level as fast as I thought I would. It was very frustrating. I didn’t reach that level until late into the season,” he said.
A clearly frustrated Norlinder continues, “I reached another level, an even higher level in the playoffs, then I had before [at the start of the season]. Overall I have become a better player this year, the playoffs was proof of that.”
During the playoffs Norlinder was paired up with his old partner, Jens Olsson. It was something that Norlinder appreciated, even if he felt punished by the hockey gods when he played with Jonathan Sigalet. “Jens and had I played together at the start of the season and it was good to get back together for the playoffs. However, I felt that I played well when I played with [Jonathan] Sigalet, but when we looked through the games afterwards all the bounces went against us. It was that kind of year for Frölunda, if the bounce could go the other way, it did.”
Looking forward what does Norlinder himself has as a plan to develop further, in order to become that defensive corner stone? “It’s a lot of the same things as last summer. I need to add more muscle, not just on top but I need to get stronger overall. I feel stronger when I go into the corners, but I should become even stronger in those kinds of situations.”
Frölunda is known for their summer training, and even throughout the season Norlinder has had some good guys to learn from in regards to training. “It is really inspiring to see players like Olsson, Sigalet and Joel Lundqvist, players that are all over 35 and the effort they put in to stay fit and lead the team. They have the drive to practice [more], it gives me an incentive to train even harder too.”
Montreal have kept tabs on their talent all through the year, but have let Norlinder focus on the playoffs with Frölunda. “They are happy with my choice of Frölunda, they think it’s a good choice too,” he said.
At the end Norlinder addresses the Canadiens season. “I hope it goes well and that they can make a bigger impact in the playoffs than we did.”