Photo Credit: Kamloops Blazers

An exclusive conversation with Vancouver Canucks’ 2020 7th round pick Viktor Persson

There’s a lot to like about what the Vancouver Canucks did in the late rounds of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

I’ve talked about how Viktor Persson was the perfect seventh-round pick for the Canucks at this year’s draft. He is a tall right-shot defenceman who has serious power in his skating stride and is very gifted in the offensive zone. He possesses a powerful slap shot and a wrist shot that often finds the back of the net, typically both taken from the point.

Persson is currently awaiting the final decision from the Swedish World Junior team on if he will be invited to this year’s tournament. Sweden has a handful of elite U20 defencemen, but Persson was on a tear ever since being drafted by the Canucks back in October. He has definitely put his name in the mix for the team and is now hoping to make a dream come true and represent his country at one of the biggest hockey tournaments in the world.

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Another reason why he is the perfect seventh-round pick for the Canucks is that he will be joining the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL this January. This will make it so the Canucks will finally have a prospect right here in British Columbia. He will be playing in a tougher league with more physicality and some excellent coaches.

This past week I spoke with Persson just days after he found out that his Swedish J20 league would be indefinitely postponed. We talked for over 25 minutes and the full interview is available on episode 118 of the Canucks Conversation Podcast. I’ll include the tweet here but have also decided to transcribe the interview into an article for those who don’t want to listen. I highly recommend that you do listen, Persson is a fun guy to deal with and we had quite a few laughs along the way.

Here are some of the questions and answers from the interview. I’ll be using “CF” for my questions and “VP” for his answers.

CF: I want to get started with where you grew up and what your hometown is like for hockey over there in Sweden. What’s the hockey scene like where you were born?

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VP: I grew up in a small town, it’s not that big. We had an outdoor rink that we played on. So I think that’s kind of cool. We don’t have many teams or a senior team like the United States. So that’s it! My neighbour actually played for the Canucks. It was one game but he was a goalie.

CF: So hockey had to be pretty big in your hometown?

VP: Yeah it was, and also soccer.

CF: Did you end up playing both sports growing up?

VP: Yeah, I played both. I think I played soccer until I was 14.

CF: You’re a pretty big guy, were you a striker or a goalie?

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VP: Striker!

CF: How did you score most of your goals?

VP: Tap-ins, haha!

CF: I find it so cool that you guys over in Sweden, you guys stick with the same team. Kind of as you’re growing up. So what’s it been like for you with Brynäs? You’ve been with them for a long time.

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VP: Yeah. I joined Brynäs when I was about to start to play U14 in hockey. You just see it, all the guys and you want to be like them. I mean, it is not just the senior team that you do. It’s the older guys that you try to look at what they do and try to do it myself. And yeah, when I came to Brynäs, it was a pretty stacked team. We had like Victor Soderstrom who is playing in Arizona, Adam Boqvist in Chicago, and also Rasmus Sandin.

CF: So that’s a lot of good guys to look up to. You play a very similar game to Soderstrom. He’s a guy that I was a huge fan of in the 2019 draft. Did you get to play at all with him or play around him?

VP: Yeah, one season and it was crazy. It was nice to look at him to see what he does and learn something from him.

CF: Well, I’m wondering if you learned anything about the powerplay from him, because that’s where I see that you do your best work.

VP: Yeah. I love having the puck and just trying to score, I try to find open passes and just love having the puck. I was doing pretty good and the point started coming in. So it was pretty fun.

CF: And your last goal before the league shut down, that was a pretty nice one!

VP: Yeah, that was nice to get it in. I was pretty angry in that situation, so it was nice.

CF: You’re one of the bigger guys in the league that you’re playing in, when did you really grow the most? Were you pretty young? Or did it recently happen?

VP: Yeah, I think I grew like eight centimetres (three inches) in the summer when I was 15 turning 16. And I grew, I grew a lot. Before I was I think I was like, 170 centimetres (5’6″) and then just blew up one summer. As I grew, I kind of lost some weight and I felt that when I got on the ice, I felt quicker and (had) more endurance.

CF: What was it like for you to play in this J20. League? It’s a league where you see a lot of skill, and maybe not as much physical stuff. But I’ve seen you throw around quite a few hits in that league.

VP: Haha, yeah, I mean, the league is great. I think it’s my third season in the league. So I’ve been there and it’s high level. I mean, the players are skilled. And the fun thing is we face teams where some guys love to hit, and some guys don’t hit. I mean, it’s a big game. It’s great to me, different teams that play differently.

CF: It seems like you’re you’re one of the more physical guys, is hitting something that you love to do?

VP: Yeah, I see it as a good way to get out the anger sometimes and also, I’m pretty big so I think I need to use my body when I have a chance to.

CF: You’ve also had some pretty big celebrations on some of your goals.

VP: Haha! Yeah, I don’t think about it, I’m just really happy. I don’t put much effort into it but yeah, it’s fun.

CF: As I’m looking at your stats, in the 2018-19 season, when you were in the J18 Allsvenskan playoffs, you had 27 penalty minutes in three games. Can you explain what happened there, Viktor? I’m curious about that.

VP: Wow. Oh, yeah, I think I got a, what do they call it? A game penalty? One of my teammates got really hit by the person on the opposing team, and then I felt like I had to do something and he was young that guy.

CF: Ya, I think I saw that fight. You won it.

VP: Haha, yeah… Gotta do it!

CF: You will be coming to the WHL this January. Are you ready to switch leagues? And do you think it’s going to be a different kind of hockey that you’re going to have to play over here in North America?

VP: Yeah, I heard it’s a lot more physical over there and the smaller rinks. I have never played in a small rink. That’s something I have to adjust and try to do my best. Yeah, I heard (Kamloops) is only three hours away from Vancouver. I’m excited about this. To challenge myself, I think to try the hockey style over there. It’s different, I heard. So, that’s exciting. I talk a lot to coaches, probably once a week.

CF: I guess now that your season is cancelled, are you going to try and get over here sooner?

VP: I don’t know. I think I’m aiming for flying over in December near Christmas. Some time, but I don’t know, I haven’t talked much about it when I flying over. It’s something I have to talk about when it’s it’s time.

CF: What did it mean for you when you heard that it was Vancouver that drafted you?

VP: Well, when I grew up, I watched the Sedins and looked at the games, and Elias Pettersson. I mean, it’s a great organization. I only know great things about it and just to be a part of it is amazing.

CF:  What do you remember from watching the Sedin brothers?

VP: One of my strongest memories is probably when they were in the World Cup. Seeing them on the powerplay when they started passing to each other and then all of a sudden, they just found that someone else who had an open net. They were amazing.

CF: Almost makes you wish you had a twin brother eh?

VP: Haha, yeah, they make it look so easy!

CF: Is there a player that you like to watch from the NHL, the way that they play the game that you kind of think you play in a similar way?

VP: Wow, hard question. As I grew up, I watched Erik Karlsson and (John) Klingberg. I think I play the way John Klingberg plays. I don’t think I’m similar, but I like the way plays. I like how he always has the puck.

CF: Yeah, I think it’s it’s cool to watch you play because I think you do some things in similar ways where you’re at your best when you have the puck, whether you’re shooting it or making passes. It seems like something that needs to happen in your game is you need to have the puck a lot right?

VP: Yeah, I always want the puck. I try to work on not having the puck. In the d-zone, I think I’m taking some steps there, but I mean, I’ve got a lot of work to do in the d-zone. But I love having the puck.

CF: Is there something that you’d like to work on with shooting because I think as a defenseman, when you’re working on your shooting, it’s a lot different than a forward right? You’re shooting from different parts of the ice. So I’m wondering, how do you work on your shot?

VP: Well, I’m just trying to get a quicker shot and also try different angles. Like, all over the blue line it doesn’t always have to be hard shots. Just to get it on net, I think is the most important, then everything can happen. Sometimes I go in (the offensive zone) a little too much. I need to work on that too. But it’s fun!

CF: What’s the World Junior situation looking like for you now, you are potentially making the team. Have you been invited to camp? Is there much going on with you guys for the U20 team?

VP: They have (talked to me). They’re taking out the roster on I think December 3. I think they have a big roster then they cut it down and fly over. So, I don’t know. I have done a lot, there are no games I can show someone now. So I think I’ve done what I can. It’s up to them though. It would be amazing, you always watched the tournament. I mean, it will just be an amazing thing that I will be taking with me for my whole life.

CF: One of the things I wanted to kind of close out with was now that you’re going to come over to the WHL and play with the Blazers, is it something that you want to do for the next two years? Or is it just going to be one year and then back to Sweden?

VP: Well, to be honest, I haven’t thought of it that much. I mean, that’s something we’ll have to discuss after the first year. I mean, when I have a feel for it. But, it’s not impossible. It can happen and stay for two years. If it works great for me, hopefully, I stay.

CF: I’ve got some non-hockey questions for you Viktor, do you play any video games and which ones are your favourites right now?

VP: Well, right now, it’s actually FIFA 21 and also NHL 21. I play a lot. Sometimes we play Call of Duty Warzone.

CF: How many wins in Warzone?

VP: Haha, woah, not many. I’m not that great, maybe five or six. It’s normally when my teammates carry me. But a win a win.

CF: Who’s your soccer team?

VP: Liverpool.

The full interview is available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

I had a blast chatting with Persson and am very excited for him to come over to BC in January and begin his North American hockey journey. There’s a lot to like about this kid and his journey is just beginning.

Check out the full interview on episode 118 of the CanucksConversation Podcast. Hosted by myself and Managing Editor of this site, David Quadrelli.