This interview is from a local paper in Värmland, Värmlands Folkblad.
Nicklas Bäckström is the uncontested number one center for the Washington Capitals. The talk has already started that Marcus Johansson will become the team’s second line center. "It’s an honor to hear that but at the same time I’m not there yet, but I’m willing to do everything to get there," says the nineteen-year old.
VF-sport section meets a tired Marcus Johansson at home in his attic (loft) apartment in Herrhagen [neighborhood of Karlstad, Sweden], where he lives with his girlfriend.
"It's hard to change timezones", yawns Johansson and follows up with a smile.To be perfectly honest; the former Färjestad player barely had time to get out of the shower before he yelled "Come on in." For him [still on US time], it is seven o'clock in the morning and the rest of us just started to think about what we are having for lunch.
Marcus Johansson got back to Sweden a few days ago after attending the NHL team: Washington Capitals first träningsläger or camp as it’s called. The time in the nation’s capital can only be described as a success. He has been built up in the American media and the club's coach and general manager have been singing his praises.
"It was OK. There are a lot of different ways to play, there’s hockey and then there is hockey or how I should put it – but it was still fun even if it’s not so easy to get there and play my best when I haven’t been on ice since March", says Marcus modestly.
One of the reasons the organization in Washington got impressed by Marcus was in the humble and mature way he conducted himself; just the fact that he arrived in Washington one week in advance speaks volumes. "I was there a week before the camp started to get some ice time. They have ice all year-round. They can practice whenever they want to. It is not as easy for me to just jump right into camp. It was just me and and a Russian guy [Ed note: defenseman Dmitri Orlov] and he couldn’t speak English so it was kind of hard to communicate, but it was still worth it."
There's been much talk about the fact that the Capitals haven’t made any moves for a center since the free agent market opened. The club only really has one pure center, Nicklas Bäckström. "They've talked a lot about it over there, that the team views me as a second line center and that they believe in me so much that they haven't recruited anyone else for that role."
What do you think when you hear that?
"It's an honor. But at the same time I'm not there yet, but I will do everything it takes to get there.
We have read that Capitals GM and coach have had some lofty praise for you, what have they told you personally?
"We have just talked a little bit, they said that they believe in me and that they want me to play over there. And that I should believe in myself."
Prior to the weeks in Washington Marcus hadn’t stepped foot on the ice since March and add to that the different style of play and the smaller ice surface. Marcus says, "The actual size of the rink isn't the problem, the problem is more the type of hockey. As a center I'm used to being the third man high, almost like a third defender. Over here it's more about chase, pressure and go-go-go."
It's a special kind of hockey at a camp?
"Well yeah it's not just the most skilled guys that are there you know and it's not as structured. It's more just-go-out-and-play kind of hockey, which makes it even harder in my opinion. People are everywhere and nowhere at the same time, it's much easier to compete against players that think like you. But I learned a lot for sure."
This summer, Marcus continues to train alone, and he hopes to get some ice time with Färjestad in August before it's time for the next camp. "Then it's the rookie camp and that's more competitive; you need to perform to make the team. After that the main camp begins and all the regular players are there some players will be cut and then the team is ready," explains Marcus.
The journey to the NHL began last summer when Marcus got picked by the Capitals in the first round of the 2009 draft. And it became even more real at the end of last year.
"As early as December I got the first contract offer. But I didn't need to decide right away. I could relax and think about it properly. It's a big step and I'm still young but in the end it just felt right."
"What made me comfortable to make the decision was that I could go back home for a year if I didn't make the team. To know that I had that option made me ready to make the decision."
Although Marcus is perceived as a player for the future he will in fact have turned 20 years old before the next NHL game is played. And he has achieved a lot already: two full seasons for Färjestad which resulted in one SEL championship. He played in World Juniors two times and one year as the Captain.
"Playing for Färjestad has been good for me – I learned a lot and had a lot of fun. My time there has helped me become the player I am today. I've been practicing and playing against good players every day."
You usually answer "everything." But after the first [NHL] camp, what do you feel now that you have to improve?
"I think it is about being able to perform every day and in every single shift. That you believe in yourself when you get out on the ice, and think only on what you are suppose to do and not about the other players even if you are facing Crosby and Malkin. You are there for a reason- to perform and to do that you have to concentrate on yourself and what you are doing and nothing else. It's like you said I need to get better at everything. It's a big step it's after all the best league in the world."
The best players in the world are in the NHL and many believe that Marcus Johansson will be a full time NHL player, probably as early as this coming fall.
Even Marcus himself is starting to believe.
"I don't know. But yeah you have to have confidence in yourself. You are there for a reason, to play hockey and to believe in what you are doing, otherwise you won’t get far.
. • Name: Marcus Johansson
• Family: Living with girlfriend, Mom and Dad in Skåne in the south part of Sweden, an older sister and an older brother Martin who plays in Mora (allsvenskan).
• Lives: In an apartment in Herrhagen (Karlstad). "Then we'll see what happens over there. I guess I’m staying in a hotel at first during the camp.
• TV: 2 1/2 men.
• Movie: There are many good movies, so I have to say all sorts of movies.
• Reads: No, I never have. (laughter).
• Video Games: I play Call of Duty.
• Eats: I like to go out and eat preferably a nice steak.
• Drinks: Cola.