clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Gnome enters the spotlight: Frederik Dichow’s move to Frölunda

What Frölunda HC sees in the Habs prospect, as told by his coaches and teammates.

Frölunda HC

According to Google Maps, the roughly six-hour drive from Vojens, Denmark to Gothenburg, Sweden covers 573 kilometres. But within the hockey world, the gap between Vojens IK, a decent club in the Danish second tier, and Frölunda HC, one of the most storied teams in Europe, is far greater. It’s taken three years and the journey has hardly been smooth, but Frederik Dichow has traversed the flatlands of Jylland and the hills of Skåne to arrive at the sidewalks of Valhalla. The Gnome now prepares to scale the latest mountain in his path in preparation for one day summiting Mont Royal.

Dichow’s selection by the Montreal Canadiens in 2019 with the 138rd overall pick capped off a great day for Danish hockey, as he and Mads Søgaard (37th overall) were the second and third Danish netminders to ever be selected in the NHL Draft. The reaction in Montreal was a little bit more muted, quite understandably, as very little was known about the newest acquisition. Dichow’s Elite Prospects profile merely contained a list of teams, no regular season statistics, and his numbers with Team Denmark at various levels. Even so, this bare-bones record offered glimmers of Dichow’s potential: extensive national team experience, call ups to adult leagues, a stint (of unknown duration) with SønderjyskE of Denmark’s top league, and a pending move across the Øresund to Swedish hockey.

Generally, it’s not easy for a 6’5” individual to go unnoticed, but the visibility of the Danish League and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic can overshadow most anything. Despite this, an abbreviated 2019-20 campaign with Malmö’s U20 team was enough to place Dichow on Kristianstad IK’s radar. KIK, founded in 1966, is not a historically strong hockey program — the club earned promotion to the second tier on the Swedish hockey pyramid, the HockeyAllsvenskan, for the first time in 2018-19. However, the franchise has recently become well-known in Swedish hockey circles for its goaltender development, according to European Correspondent Patrik Bexell. Bexell cites the example of Rögle BK choosing to loan Calle Clang (drafted 77th overall in 2020) to Kristianstad for the 2020-21 season.

Kristianstad’s gamble on Dichow paid off in spades when Swedish hockey resumed in full in 2021-22. The Danish goaltender closed the regular season with a .930 save percentage — number one in the league for goaltenders with over 10 games played — and a 2.27 GAA in 28 games. Not only did he outplay New York Rangers 2020 second-rounder Olof Lindbom (27 starts, 3.22 GAA, .900 save percentage) by a considerable margin, but Dichow’s play was a major reason that KIK, a team that had barely avoided relegation during its first two HockeyAllsvenskan seasons, made the playoffs at this level for the first time. With a season like that, it was inevitable that bigger clubs would come knocking. While Dichow reportedly entertained several offers from SHL clubs, the young southpaw made his move to five-time Swedish champions Frölunda HC official in May 2022.

Frederik Dichow, goaltender, Frölunda HC
Patrik Bexell

Frölunda HC, however, is not getting caught up in Dichow’s meteoric rise. Sporting director Fredrik Sjöström made it a point to note that the Dane had been on their radar for several years. They are also well aware that the 2022-23 will only represent Dichow’s sophomore year as a professional hockey player. Speaking to Bexell, head coach Roger Rönnberg observed that Dichow still had some adjustments to make in order to reach the 24/7 lifestyle of a professional athlete. Namely, the vaunted Frölunda HC summer training camp presented a bit of a shock to the system. “It’s another world,” remarked Dichow, “it’s so much more professional here and the expectations are higher, but this is what I want to do.” “We have a pretty high standard here [when it comes to summer training camp],” Rönnberg agreed, “so he’s had a pretty tough summer.” However, Rönnberg views all of this as part of Dichow’s natural learning curve: “He’s not unwilling to learn new habits, so he’s a great guy to work with. He’s a happy guy and adjusting really quickly [to training].”

Kristoffer Martin, goaltending coach, Frölunda HC.
Patrik Bexell

Dichow’s Frölunda orientation has featured a lot of work with Kristoffer Martin, who will enter his tenth season as Frölunda HC goaltender coach in 2022-23. Martin comes from a goaltending family. His sister Kim famously backstopped Sweden to an upset victory over Team USA at the 2006 Winter Olympics en route to Sweden’s only medal in women’s hockey. Kristoffer himself was a netminder for several years at the HockeyAllsvenskan level, and then moved on to serving as goaltender coach for Malmö’s U20 program (as well as the Swedish World Juniors team in 2011) for several years. Given Dichow’s prodigious height, Martin’s first priority was to build his strength and core musculature. “I think that it’s important for him to build up his body,” Martin said, “because goalies who are that tall often find it difficult to get that core stability. So we started him off this summer in the gym.”

All of this is music to the ears of resident goaltending guru Dylan Waugh, a coach for The Goalie School who also works with several GTHL teams. Watching him play, Waugh’s biggest current concern is with Dichow’s conservation of motion — or lack thereof. “One of his weaknesses is overreacting. Instead of reaching out and simply catching a puck that’s going right into his glove, he goes into the splits and does the big arm windmill. He winds up in “max effort” too often, and I think that time in the gym will help with that,” Waugh begins. “One thing that people don’t talk about enough is how the gym boosts a person’s confidence in the way that their body moves. The more time that you spend in the gym as a goaltender, it builds and trains the foundations for those movements in your nervous system, so that your body responds more instinctively. This process cuts down on unnecessary movements and motions.”

Talking with Bexell, Martin also mentioned mobility as key for larger goaltenders: “It’s not enough to just be big. You still have to have skating and quickness. So we started with a lot of [work on] skating and lateral movements. We also looked for ways to build athleticism into the skating component.” Waugh believes Dichow to already be a good skater, but his issues with a lack of conservation of motion creep up again when it comes to mobility and positioning. “When he needs a small move to his right, he uses a max effort push instead. I also see him, when the puck goes blocker side, he throws the blocker out with a full extension of his arm and winds up in the splits,” Waugh notes, “and to me, that says he’s out of position when the puck is released. This also negatively impacts his rebound control, because if you’re already at full extension, there’s no way to make a pushing motion with that blocker [as the puck impacts it] to send it into a corner.”

Ice Hockey - Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Day 14
Lars Johansson, goaltender, Frölunda HC and Team Sweden
Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

In addition to more specialized and professional training and coaching, the other big thing that Frölunda HC has to offer Dichow is an experienced mentor. Thirty-five year old Lars Johansson is a club cornerstone, winning both the SHL and CHL titles with the club in 2016. The veteran returns to Sweden after a five-year KHL tenure where he never posted a single-season save percentage below .930. For his part, Johansson is very eager to work with a protégé. “I’ve gotten to know him for a couple of weeks now [over the summer]. He’s a really good guy. We have good chemistry off the ice and he’s a good goalie on the ice,” the veteran said. “He’s a little bit young, naturally, and he needs a little bit of experience, but he can be one of the better goalies [in the league] this year already. We’re already talking about the different situations [that we encounter] to see where we could do better, and I think we’ll both learn from each other.” Beyond that, the mentor will strive to keep Dichow level-headed. “You’re going to let in goals. Don’t focus on that,” Johansson says. “Focus on saving the next puck. But hey, maybe he’s [already] great at that too!”

Johansson’s presence is not just a coincidence for Dichow, but a strategic asset that both Rönnberg and Martin hope to leverage. “Oh, everything,” Rönnberg exclaimed when asked what Dichow can learn from Johansson. “Lars Johansson is the leader of our defence. He holds special meetings on- and off-ice with our defencemen on how to play in front of him. He runs our PK meetings — he’s like a coach on the ice. I think Frederik can learn a lot from that, to not be a goalie who is quiet all the time and just lets the coaches run the show.”

Rönnberg’s comments about the depth to which Johansson integrates himself into Frölunda’s defensive strategy attracted the attention of both Bexell and Waugh, with Bexell comparing it to what former Hab Christian Folin previously said about Carey Price — that [Folin] could push more aggressively towards the shooter because it was Price back there. Waugh’s noticed something similar for goalies like Henrik Lundqvist, who visibly issued orders to his teammates during play. However, Waugh cautioned that it was not mandatory for Dichow to emulate Johansson in this area. “My thinking is that, if you want to look at extremes, that there are two types of goalies in this regard — the Lundqvists and the Jonathan Quicks,” Waugh said, “the Lundqvists read the game at a very high level, while the Quicks limit their instructions to their defenders to “watch the back door because I will be at the hash marks to make the initial save. Looking at him, I think Dichow is more of the latter, I don’t think he thinks about his defenders too much. However, it will be good for him to see [how Johansson operates] because it will embolden him at the very least to start giving orders if he sees something that’s off.”

Frederik Dichow, goaltender, Frölunda HC
Patrik Bexell

The big question for Montreal Canadiens fans is what Frölunda wants to do with Dichow this season, and what that bodes for his development moving forward. Martin is confident that Dichow will get his fair share of games. “Between the SHL and CHL, that’s a maximum of 90 or so games in a season. So he’s going to get his games for sure. I’m not going to give you a number, but what he’s shown us so far is great, and we have confidence in him.” The head coach goes a bit further, saying that Dichow’s ice time is “up to him”, and that he’s really excited to see what Dichow makes of his chances.

Rönnberg values his newest acquisition’s drive and determination above all, saying that Dichow’s “competitiveness level” was the aspect that most impressed him. Both Johansson and Martin have also noticed this aspect of the young Dane. “We have a mini-competition with one another at every practice so far, and I think he’s actually in the lead right now,” Johansson said. Dichow, in response, marvels at how he has had to bring his A-game to practice every day to even have a chance. “He gives me a reason to work hard every day and push myself, and I’m really happy to have him as a mentor.”“[Dichow] says all the time that he wants to suck in every word that [Johansson] says, but that he also wants to compete with him,” offered Martin, “and that’s what we want in a professional.”

That competitiveness will be necessary for Dichow to make it to the NHL. “He’s got every skill necessary to make it in the NHL, but some of his habits right now are exploitable, and if they’re exploitable now, they’ll be exploited ten-fold further at the highest levels of hockey,” Waugh began, before moving onto his belief that Dichow is fortunate to be in good hands: “so many goalie coaches treat everything as a problem to be fixed [through coaching], but sometimes, the only solution is work. I’ve had students where I’ve said “you don’t need more lessons, you need to hit the weight room.” I think [Dichow’s] surrounded by very good people — both [Johansson] and [Martin] — who can recognize that.” Ultimately, Waugh thinks that Dichow is a boom or bust prospect: “He has so much talent, and it’s a matter of harnessing that and putting it into a cohesive bundle. But there’s a Brian Burke quote — “I’d rather tame a tiger than paint stripes on a house cat” — and Dichow is a tiger.”

This article is an adaptation of Habsent Minded episode 5.13 and the latest episode of ‘The Dispatch’. For the full conversations with Dylan Waugh, Roger Rönnberg, Kristoffer Martin, Lars Johansson, and Frederik Dichow, please use the links below.


Monday Habs Headlines: Could Bruce Boudreau provide a boost to the Canadiens?


Owen Beck should have been given one more game in Montreal

Laval Rocket

Rocket @ Monsters recap & highlights: Condotta, Richard lead scoring in big win