Waterloo Region Record

Rangers training camp

Swedish defenceman the latest in a long line of family members to thrive on the ice

- JOSH BROWN jbrown@therecord.com Twitter: @BrownRecor­d

Hockey roots run deep for import Axel Bergkvist

KITCHENER — The Bergkvist family reunion would be one heck of a pickup hockey game.

After all, the clan — including in-laws — is like a who’s who of Swedish shinny going back three generation­s.

The latest standout is Axel Bergkvist, a slick-skating and offensive-minded defenceman who the Kitchener Rangers selected in the second round of this year’s Canadian Hockey League import draft.

The 19-year-old Arizona Coyotes prospect made his training camp debut Wednesday and looked dominant during the team’s morning scrimmage.

And he should, given his background. “It’s a lot of hockey,” said Bergkvist, when chatting about his lineage. “It’s a positive thing. They’ve all helped me.”

Here’s the rundown. Grandpa Dan Soderstrom, on his mother’s side, played 17 years with Leksands IF on the Swedish pro loop and was a staple on the country’s national team. Grandpa Ulf also had a stint at the Division 2 level.

“That was before I was born,” said Bergkvist. “They would talk about hockey all the time growing up.”

Bergkvist’s dad Per-Ragnar was a pro goalie in Sweden and Norway and was selected by the Philadelph­ia Flyers in the fifth round of the 1996 NHL draft.

“I did shoot on him growing up on our little outdoor rink,” he said. “I tried to do the goalie thing as a kid but it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t my strongest thing.”

And it doesn’t stop there.

Uncle Stefan Bergkvist dabbled while uncle Johan Soderstrom had a good run at various levels in Sweden. His brother Fredrik is a longtime coach in Sweden, Norway and, now, at EHC Olten, a second division club in Switzerlan­d.

There are second cousins and great uncles with hockey resumes as well. Younger brother August also had roots with Leksands before shifting his focus to other sports.

How about his mother Johanna?

“No, she didn’t play,” said Bergkvist, with a smile.

History is important but the Rangers rearguard is ready to forge his own path.

He wore No. 7 during Wednesday’s scrimmage and will adopt Connor Hall’s old digit for the season.

“I’ve worn it most of my life,” said Bergkvist. “There is no story about it. It’s just lucky.”

But there’s nothing lucky about the Swede’s game.

Bergkvist plays with poise and was already commandeer­ing the back end like a polished veteran Wednesday. He also boasts a big blast and is pegged to work the point on the team’s power play, which was tops in the Ontario Hockey League last season.

The Rangers have used five forwards on their top power play unit for the better part of two years so Bergkvist’s presence will be a new look.

“I see myself as an offensive defenceman that likes to handle the puck so that would be really nice to get a chance to do that,” he said.

As for Kitchener, the city, he’s still soaking it all in after arriving Tuesday. He did however get a heads up from a familiar face — former Leksands junior teammate and countryman Rickard Hugg, who was last year’s captain at the Aud.

“At first when Kitchener came up with my agent I called him right away and he told me all the good things about it,” said Bergkvist. “He just told me that he loved it and that I would have the best time of my life here.”

Rangers training camp wrapped up Wednesday. The team hosts a pre-season showcase with Peterborou­gh, North Bay and Saginaw Friday through Sunday at the Aud.

 ?? MATHEW MCCARTHY WATERLOO REGION RECORD ?? Swedish import Axel Bergkvist, left, makes his debut in scrimmage with the Kitchener Rangers at the Aud on Wednesday.
MATHEW MCCARTHY WATERLOO REGION RECORD Swedish import Axel Bergkvist, left, makes his debut in scrimmage with the Kitchener Rangers at the Aud on Wednesday.

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