Get ready for Helge Grans to use the World Junior Championships as a starting point for the new season

Helge Grans was all set to compete against his native Sweden in the 2022 World Junior Championships last winter. But, just like everything else over the past two years, COVID-19 has delayed that opportunity.

Granz made two appearances for Sweden in December, scoring three powerful assists in victories over Russia and Slovakia before the tournament was suddenly called off. It was a small sample size, but Grans seemed to fit in with a major role in blueline, playing big minutes against offensive prospects from other nations while helping manage the team’s strong playing unit, which took an early success.

Now, with his first professional season in North America behind him, which consisted of 56 regular season games and five AHL post-season competitions with Ontario Reign, Grans is back with Team Sweden and ready to compete at the opening of the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship. Back on Tuesday in Edmonton.

“It was very sad that it ended as it did, but I’m glad to have the chance to play again and it would be very interesting to do so,” said Grans of the odd timing. “I am preparing to the best of my ability. I ski a lot and I just have to keep working on everything.”

The NHL’s 2020 second round selection is one of three potential L.A. Kings players representing his country on the show, along with Finnish forwards Samuel Helenius and Kasper Simontaival. While Grans is the only player to join the Kings in Sweden this year, there have been plenty of other players in the past. To name a few from recent years, like Lias Andersson, Tobias Bjornfot, Samuel Fagemo, Carl Grundstrom, Adrian Kempe and Jacob Moverare Tre Kronor at WJC.

Bjornvot recently joked that he would not give any advice, as his team was eliminated in the quarter-finals. Grans explained that while he was not in daily contact with many of his teammates in the months leading up to the rescheduled event, he is very familiar with many of them from previous tournaments and looks forward to reuniting them.

“I have some good friends there and it’s going to be so much fun,” said the 20-year-old. “Some of the guys were on the team for U-16, U-17, U-18, all the way and some from my area in Sweden, we’ve played together since we were 14 and 15.”

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Grans, from Ljungby, grew up playing forward before moving to the back end about five years ago after getting some advice from his father and two brothers, who all played professionally in their home country. His 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame has always impressed scouts, and now the young pro is working to finish his game.

The recent calendar year has been a whirlwind of fresh trials for Grans, who first arrived in Southern California last September for Rookie Camp and 2021 Rookie Faceoff, playing two cross games in Arizona with the team’s other prospects. He then participated in an NHL training camp for the first time before being assigned to Ontario to start the AHL campaign.

Initially, the plan was to ease the young blueliner into a game while undergoing consistent work and tutelage with Sean O’Donnell and Matt Greene of Kings Development Staff. But that strategy was quickly derailed when top club Drew Doughty and Shawn Walker lost out in the season’s opening month. Grans was pushed into a role every night with Reign, much of an on-the-job training for the right.

He continued in this role for the remainder of the season, scoring 24 points on seven goals and 17 assists, including five strengths (1-4-5). Just two months after the campaign ended, with a year of experience under his belt, Grans returned to the Toyota Sport Performance Center for his first experience with Development Camp.

“Development camp was a very good week for everyone to come and learn a lot,” said Grans. “The coaches have a lot of experience to teach us and it was a lot of things we were doing during the year. Repeat those things and keep working on getting better.”

In addition to the development team, Grans credits fellow blueliner Cameron Gaunce, who has been on him for most of the season, as someone who has made a huge impact on his game and helped him learn quickly.

“We played many games together and he taught me a lot,” said Grans. “If we do something bad on the ice he will tell me what to focus on and how we can improve. He was a great teacher last year and it was very fun to play with him.”

Gaunce returns to Ontario for the 2022-23 season, his third season with Reign, and Grans would be happy to see him.

“This definitely has an impact on the team,” Grans said. “Having a vet like him, he is a wonderful guy on and off the ice. It would be great to have him.”

With the help of his development coaches and teammates who pushed him to new heights last year, Grans expects to gain more confidence next week in Edmonton when he faces opponents of his age. That goes twice when considering that he’s trained and played in over 60 NHL-size ice surface games, on which this year’s championship will be held.

“I would like to say [playing on] “The little rink might make me a little more experienced,” said Grans. “I love little ice. Of course, in the beginning there are some differences, how do you play without a disc and with the puck. But I mean, these guys on the team in Ontario, they helped me a lot and then OD and Greener too. They told me how to play defensively and that was good. It’s going to be a championship Great hockey with so many great players. But a little rink as a Swede could be a good thing for me.”

As a novice to North American playing style, he felt his game improved even more on the defensive side of the disc after he worked hard to learn more about playing the closing role at the AHL level.

He added, “The defensive part about how to control and how to play more defensively, I think that will be the most I’ve learned and improved my game style.” “That’s what I worked on a lot last year and I will continue to work on it this year.”

The tournament will be an opportunity for Jeeran to kick off his next season, as he hopes to make an even bigger impact in the AHL and start competing for a look at the highest level. Grans and Team Sweden begin their tournament on August 10 against Switzerland, with a preview for the tournament next week.