Continuing on with Five Days of Fifteen I turn to the person who I strongly considered for the Admiral of the Month for January, Pontus Åberg.
To this point, the sophomore season for Åberg has been hugely successful. The 22-year old Swede looks very comfortable on the ice and has played with far better consistency game-by-game. As the Admirals sit on their AHL All-Star break Åberg sits with the team lead in goal scoring with 13 goals scored in 41 games. In a less flashy but more head coach Dean Evason appreciated territory – his penalty minutes from this time a season ago have been cut clean in half.
Admirals Roundtable: What were your inspirations to play hockey?
Pontus Åberg: Probably my dad. He played hockey when I was growing up and I went to see him play as a kid. That’s probably why they put me on skates. So, probably my dad. (AR: So he played professionally?) Yeah, in Sweden. (AR: Certain team?) They’re called Södertälje SK. They’re in Division I right now. They were in the second division when he played but… he didn’t make it as high as I did, obviously. He was a good defenseman.
AR: When did you realize that you were going to be playing hockey for a career?
Åberg: I don’t know. All of my coaches always kind of told me that I was probably going to make it because I was always.. I was good as a kid – very talented. As I got older all the coaches in junior hockey told me to mature more so that would make me become a pro because I had a talent. I think I matured a lot. So, that’s probably how I knew. (AR: And what’s the moment like when you find out you do get drafted by Nashville?) That was a dream come true. Even my first game back home in the highest league when I was seventeen was a huge thing for me – my favorite team back home – my hometown team [Djurgårdens IF] – and when I got drafted I was even more excited to come over here at once. It was a nice feeling.
AR: Who was the first famous player that you met?
Åberg: We had a lot of former NHL’ers in my hometown team. We had Marcus Nilson – he played in Calgary. Jimmie Ölvestad – he played in Tampa Bay. We had a lot of really good players. (AR: That’s actually the interesting thing that I’m finding with you guys that either played in Sweden or Finland. You guys were playing as up and comers as the lockout was going on so you did get a lot of those imports, too.) Yeah, that was my second-year over in Sweden. We got Douglas Murray, Patric Hörnqvist, and Gabriel Landeskog. (AR: Douglas Murray is a beast.) He’s a big guy! But he’s not that much of a beast if you know him as a person. He’s a really nice guy.
AR: What was your greatest hockey moment?
Åberg: It’s got to be when I won the Under-16 Swedish Championship. Been with the guys the whole year, made it through the whole year, and ended up winning it against the rivals back home – AIK. So I think that’s from playing hockey, and even playing my first game over in the Elite League, and just get drafted.
AR: What’s the most memorable goal that you’ve scored?
Åberg: I don’t know. It’s got to be the first goal I scored in Sweden in my first game and, obviously, the first goal I scored over here in Milwaukee too. [Editor’s Note: Video Highlight. Åberg scored on Opening Night of the 2014-15 season in his North American pro debut in Milwaukee against the Charlotte Checkers. Brendan Leipsic‘s reaction to the goal was all of our reaction.] (AR: I was going to say, you made a heck of an introduction first night here in Milwaukee.) Yeah, it was kind of nice to get that kind of goal. You just dream of that kind of goals. You did it all the time when you were a kid but it’s not as easy on this level – and it worked out. (AR: Does it feel like you’re kind of in slow-motion when you are doing something like that? Because it seemed like you’re going through people and still had enough to finish that one off.) That goal that I scored here just kind of happened. I didn’t even think I would do it. I was just skating and.. (AR: By the end you’re like, it’s still on my tape?) Yeah. When you do get that kind of stuff it’s not like you planned it – it just happens. You don’t even know what kind of move you’re going to make on the defenseman – you just make it.
AR: What’s the strangest game that you’ve played in?
Åberg: Strangest. [thinks] Over here it has to be against Rockford when there was a line brawl in warm-ups. [Editor’s Note: Photo of where it initiated. Photo of the scrum.] You’re not used to it and that was kind of strange. (AR: I only ever got to see the photos of that. You have Rich Clune chatting away.) We got [Mike Liambas]. Yeah, we got some big boys. That was kind of strange for us Europeans I think but, for me, I just talked to their European guys and it was just kind of looking it off. (AR: The other thing that was fun about that. Their goalie at the time was Scott Darling who played with us – he’s just chilling out with Magnus Hellberg – and they’re having a bit of a chat. They were kind of like, “hmm.. whatever.”) Yeah, I think they’re friends from before so I don’t see the point of fighting someone you know in warm-ups. I don’t see the point of that. It’s good to have those kind of guys on the team, to fire up the team, so it’s obviously both good and bad.
AR: What’s the most embarrassing moment of your hockey career?
Åberg: Oh. That’s a good question. [pause] I fell after I missed a penalty shot in Sweden. That was kind of awkward because the whole bench stopped talking back to me. But, that was a long time ago. [laughs] That was kind of weird. (AR: What was the set up? Were you trying to- because I remember Steven Stamkos once was trying to set up a spin-o-rama and just absolutely lost an edge and went flying one way and the puck went the other way.) I think I tried to go backhand and when I was skating back to the bench I skated into the boards and fell. Kind of awkward.
AR: Most painful moment in hockey?
Åberg: It was when we got relegated with my team back home to the second division. We had a really good team and just couldn’t pull it off. All the scouts and stuff thought we were going to end up top-five and have a good playoff. We just ended up second to last and didn’t even get to make it to stay in the highest league so that has to be the worst. (AR: It’s always fun to get to ask that question because I’ve been getting the different responses – injury-wise painful – but you go with the team aspect. Has there ever been an injury that made you–) Yeah, it was when Sweden won the World Juniors in Canada I made the team and the last exhibition game I injured my shoulder and had to go back to Sweden. Then they ended up winning the whole thing – in first time in like twenty-years for Sweden so that was kind of painful.
AR: What are your favorite hockey uniforms?
Åberg: Like, in the game? (AR: Yeah, and like worldwide too.) It’s got to be.. I like our baby blues. And I also like my first team back home when we played in a red jersey. You have to look it up. It’s kind of sick. [Editor’s Note: Challenge Accepted, Pontus. And Challenge Accomplished… with you in the photo wearing the uniform no less.) So, those two.
AR: Who are the funniest players that you’ve played with?
Åberg: Funniest. [pauses] It’s got to be Fredrik Claesson. He plays in Ottawa right now – usually plays in Binghamton. He’s a funny guy.
AR: What’s been your favorite part of Milwaukee?
Åberg: What do you mean by favorite part? Like, as a city? (AR: Yeah, city.. fans.. food.) I like when it’s a full house here. It doesn’t happen that often but when it happens it’s kind of sick because the arena is pretty big and it gets loud. It’s way more fun when it gets loud out there. It gives you more energy and stuff. With the city I don’t think it’s anything like special. I like eating lunch at Beans & Barley by my apartment. I like water that goes through the city. I think it’s kind of cool, too. So those things. (AR: The fans here are pretty die-hard though. We had that first bit of a snow storm here and there were still fans flooding the gates on a Tuesday.) Yeah. (AR: So, they still come out. It’s just so weird because this is building is a pro building – it’s just we’re an AHL team.) Yeah, obviously we have fans. I just think this arena is too big for the Admirals. I think it will be better next year if we go into the Panthers Arena. I think it’s smaller isn’t it? (AR: Yep.) Yeah, I think that’s going to be better for the Admirals and that will probably make it seem more crowded than it is. Like, we have our fans but I just think the arena is too big for us.
AR: What is your favorite food?
Åberg: It depends. I like tacos. We usually do that once a week – me and my girlfriend. I also like just a steak with, I don’t know if you know, béarnaise sauce and just a fresh salad. It’s really good. (AR: How do you take your steak?) Medium, or medium well. It depends on if I want it bloodier or not. (AR: And can you describe to me, because I didn’t do this to him on the spot [during his interview], palt. That was Viktor Arvidsson‘s choice.) Oh yeah. I have no idea. That’s their kind of food up North. It’s not common in Sweden at all. It’s more of a up North food. (AR: Because I threw that out to me and I kind of gave him a stink eye and was, alright.) Yeah, I don’t understand how that could be his favorite food. It’s probably just because he’s from where he is.
AR: What is your favorite non-hockey hobby?
Åberg: I like to watch soccer if that’s a hobby. And I like to play Playstation, obviously. I like Call of Duty, FIFA, and those kind of games. So it’s got to be FIFA or just watch soccer. (AR: I put the word out there last season that you are the best FIFA player on the team.) Still. (AR: Still true?) Still. Still no competition. I’m going to play [Jason Nordby] our trainer. He just added me on Playstation so I have to beat him first but he says he’s pretty good. So, we’ll see about that.
AR: Favorite non-hockey memory – which, for you I think, probably just happened didn’t it?
Åberg: Yeah, I’m going to be a dad in July. So, obviously, very exciting. Wasn’t planned at all but it happened and I’m really looking forward to it. My girlfriend she’s flying back in April and she’s going to get [laughs] bigger and bigger. It’s obviously the most exciting thing for me. (AR: Last year you were adopted by Magnus Hellberg. Did you tell him he’s going to be a Granddad?) [laughs] Yeah! He texted me and asked if he was the Godfather but I have to see about that.
AR: What are your plans after hockey?
Åberg: I don’t know. I haven’t really planned that. Didn’t finish school – I put it all into hockey because I still had one more year left in school when I turned pro in Sweden and I kind of just focused on hockey. I always wanted to get better into that. School will always be there and hockey won’t. When I quit hockey I’m going to think about it after that.
A big thank you to Pontus Åberg for taking the time to do this interview. Also, a big congratulations to himself and his girlfriend on the announcement they’ll becoming parents later this year. Here at Admirals Roundtable-land Five Days of Fifteen rolls on tomorrow with Milwaukee Admirals assistant coach, Stan Drulia. As for the coming weeks – who do you want to have featured in Fifteen next? Please comment down below with your suggestions!