Summer is almost over, as Texas Stars training camp begins next week. Episode 16 of our 2013 Summer with the Stars off-season feature, we remain in Dallas for the final installment of summer. Texas Stars broadcaster Owen Newkirk interviewed second year defenseman Patrik Nemeth. Below are just some of the highlights of our conversation with the Stars Swedish blueliner, along with a link to the full audio interview.
Listen: CLICK HERE.
How big of a difference was it for you last season trying to acclimate yourself to playing in North American as opposed to Sweden, which has a much larger ice surface?
It is a big difference. You really think differently, in Sweden, how you play the game of ice hockey. You want to play with more puck possession and you never really dump the puck there. The ice is smaller [here] and the pace is a lot faster. It was a big difference, just to get into the system. “When you get the puck, what do the coaches want me to do with it?” So that was probably the biggest difference, how you really think in the game.
You were paired with Jamie Oleksiak, especially early in the year. Was it easier for you last season to develop alongside a fellow rookie defenseman going through the same growing pains?
Yeah, I think so, a little bit. I think it’s easier if we were two going through the same phase and I’m not the only one. Then, like you said before, I had Nilstorp that also went through that phase. The first 10 or 15 games were a little bit up and down, because you weren’t really used to the game, it is a totally different game. Some games you played really well, some games you had your bumps. After 10 or 15 games, I thought my game became a lot more efficient and a lot more consistent.
You really took a big step forward after the NHL Lockout ended and you were asked to take a bigger role to fill the losses of defensemen like Brenden Dillon and Cam Barker. Was that a good time for you, to have to grasp a bigger role?
Yeah, because if they wanted me to take that role in the beginning of the season, maybe I wasn’t really ready to take that role. But like you said, after I had been playing a little bit more games and had gotten used to the game, I think I was ready when the opportunity came.
On February 12th against Houston you scored your first career AHL goal. You seemed to surprise everybody on the ice because you’re known as being really solid defensively first. Was that a pretty exciting moment for you?
Yeah, it was a little bit of a relief. [Laughs] It was probably around 40 games into the season. I know that my biggest role is probably being solid defensively and all that, but I think I have an offensive upside that I probably want to use a little more. You know, coming in as the fourth guy and joining the rush a little bit more. I think that I have it in me; I just need to get it out a little more.
You suffered an injury the game after you scored that goal and missed the next 24 straight games. I imagine you experienced some pretty low moments during that stretch of time.
Yeah that was definitely not the best part of my career. My concussion wasn’t really that bad, it was more that I had some trouble with my vision after that. I didn’t feel comfortable out there. When I played a game after, I don’t know how many weeks it was, five or six weeks maybe, I just didn’t feel comfortable, so I didn’t want to risk anything so I left the game.
How difficult was it for you to feel pretty much healthy, to go skate a practice one day and then not feel right for a game during pre-game warm-ups? And how difficult was it to watch the team play in the playoffs, the fact that you were traveling with the team and getting close to returning but just couldn’t quite get there?
That was the most frustrating part, just being so close all the time. I was probably about 90-95 percent all the time, but I just never felt comfortable out there and I just didn’t want to risk that I got hit again and got another concussion. That was the reason why I didn’t play. I don’t want to play at 90 percent and be a bad player out there. I just want myself some justice; I want to be a good player when I play. That was really frustrating and it was such a long time too. I just never got rid of it.
I know you’re feeling completely healthy now, how long did it take into the summer before you started to really feel that it was all gone?
It was basically seven or ten days after I got home to Sweden that I felt really good and just consistently good. Towards the end of the Oklahoma series, I felt good too, I started to feel as though I was healthy.
How important was it to have Cristopher Nilstorp, a fellow Swede, on the team last year? He had to really help that transition for you.
Yeah, he did. I think we helped each other there. We basically just understood each other and no one else understands us. [Laughs] No, but it was great, it was great. It’s nice to have someone else that speaks your own language and stuff like that. It was really good.
You have a very unique perspective because you played against Nilstorp in the Swedish Elitserien, now rebranded as the SHL (Swedish Hockey League). What was it like playing against him?
He was one of the best goalies there. He’s a really good goalie and it was great to have him on the team last year because he was so solid in the net. The whole team he played for [Färjestads] was really good too. I mean, we had Victor Fasth that plays in Anaheim right now. We had him on our team, so there was a little bit of competition there in between them.
You went up to Traverse City with Dallas and played in the 2013 NHL Prospects Tournament. You finished in a very respectable third place, but I know there was some disappointment not to win it all.
Yeah, you always want to win. I think we played really, really well in the tournament, it was just that first period against Detroit that caught us a little bit, we weren’t really ready. So we lost that game and that’s why we couldn’t play in the final. Overall it was a great tournament for us.
I’m going to put you on the spot briefly here. What are some of the best things about playing in Texas and living in the United Stars as far as food that you just don’t get back in Sweden?
Well, the good thing is that its large portions here when you order food. [Laughs] I like that! In Sweden you don’t get as much, so that’s a good thing. [Laughs again]
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