LINKOPING, Sweden – American forward Chad Kolarik is adjusting to life in a new environment this season. The 27-year old forward, a consistent scorer in the AHL for much of his career to date, signed a two-year deal with Swedish side Linkoping after deciding a change was overdue.
“I thought it was time to have a change of scenery for my hockey career,” Kolarik said. “I don’t want to lose hope on the NHL, but I just felt becoming an AHL player would hurt more than help.”
Kolarik is eager to buck the trend of those confined to the minor league and he still harbours ambitions of locking down a full-time spot in the NHL someday.
“Some players get labelled as strictly AHL players and I want to break that trend, so I decided to play a couple of years here and then see if I can continue my NHL dream after that.”
Linkoping have made a bright start to the current campaign and Kolarik says he is enjoying his time in Sweden, both on and off the ice.
“Linkoping has been amazing. My wife and I love the city and the country. Linkoping has a small-town feel but also has all the amenities of a big city in Sweden. It reminds us of Ann Arbor, Michigan where we went to college.”
“The league is very competitive from top to bottom and any team can win on any given night. The passion the fans show for their teams is amazing and packed rinks make a change from the AHL.”
“The style of game is definitely different, it’s much more defensive in Sweden. Honestly, I tried to change my game to fit in and did not have much success, so I went back to my North American style of play. It’s worked out pretty well.”
Kolarik singles out established Linkoping forwards Par Albrandt and Simon Hjalmarsson as players that have impressed him and says that he has turned to both for advice.
“I like picking their brains about positioning and certain things they do on the ice, especially on the powerplay. They find the open areas and use the big ice to their advantage and I need to learn to do that. It’s a process but I am expanding that aspect of my game.”
In terms of opposing teams, Kolarik feels the physical North American element to Lulea and Skelleftea’s play will make them stern opposition this year.
“Both teams are at the top of the standings and they play more of a North American style with lots of forechecking and physical play.”
Linkoping’s league-best powerplay has proved to be a difference-maker so far and Kolarik has played his part in their success with the man advantage.
“The powerplay has been a huge success so far and it’s one of the main reasons why we have done so well to start the season as a team. We haven’t been great defensively as a unit, but we are working on that.”
One of the more obvious adjustments for Kolarik has been the no-touch icing system used in Sweden, something he feels limits offensive play.
“I do think no-touch icing slows the game down and keeps scoring chances and goals down. That’s one reason why the SHL should look in to changing their icing rule, this would allow for more goals and we know the league needs more scoring.”
In contrast, he welcomes the introduction of hybrid icing to NHL arenas.
“I think hybrid icing is something that will keep players safe and also keep the game moving. The game is moving in the right direction with player safety and implementing rules that will lead to less stoppages and more scoring chances.”
Before moving to Sweden, Kolarik spent time with the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, two organisations he speaks very highly of.
“Both the Rangers and Penguins are first class. The quality of coaches and facilities in both organisations is top of the league. Nothing but great things to say about my time with them.”
A severe knee injury sidelined Kolarik throughout the 2011-12 season just as many expected him to challenge for an NHL roster spot in New York. Upon return, he was traded to the Penguins in a deal that saw Ben Ferriero head to Broadway.
“I do think the knee injury derailed my shot at the NHL, I think I was close before I got hurt. When I returned I didn’t find my game right away and I think the Rangers lost patience with me. The Penguins took me in and I found my game during my time there, but that was a tough line-up to crack after I got traded.”
“I am concentrating on my time here in Linkoping but I definitely still have a goal of making the NHL.”
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