Kronwall turning heads

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

Don't look for Staffan Kronwall to be pining for the fjords of Jarfalla the morning after his roughest game in the National Hockey League.

The lanky Swede, the lowest drafted Maple Leaf (285th) to get this far with the club, is not easily discouraged.

"He has decided he wants to play in this league and he has done all the right things to make it happen," said Mike Penny, the Leafs player personnel director. "He's very mature for a 23-year-old. When he has to go down to the Marlies, he doesn't put his head between his legs and feel sorry for himself. He gets focused and he gets right back into it.

"He has prepared to make sacrifices. His brother (Nicklas) was picked first by the Detroit Red Wings and he knows how the NHL works."

The Leafs were slowly integrating Kronwall into their starting six when he suffered a knee injury in late November and missed a month. He returned to using his 6-foot-3 reach to great effectiveness in corner battles and has taken only 10 minutes in penalties.

He was even jumping into the rush like Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle, with coach Pat Quinn's approval. So it will be interesting to see how he reacts after he was beaten on a couple of goals Tuesday night in Vancouver.

Thommie Bergman, the Leafs European scout, said Kronwall has shown uncanny ability to learn from his mistakes.

"He's one of those kids who absorbs everything he's told and is very coachable," said Bergman, who stayed with the Leafs after the recent world junior hockey championship to see some of his projects. "In Sweden, he was a pleasant surprise, even to me. He came right in and played in Djurgarden in the Elite League. I thought he was going to do a season in the American Hockey League, but he's a smart kid. They've been playing the same kind of (pre-NHL lockout) rules at home, where hooking and holding aren't called. But, for a big guy, he is very mobile and he reads the game well.

"He can still be another 15 pounds stronger in years to come. He's a skinny 210 right now and he'll get to 225 or 230 when he's fully grown."

Kronwall was picked 268 places behind Carlo Colaiacovo, his defence partner on Tuesday night.

"I was drafted in the ninth round and maybe a lot of people didn't know about me before I got here," Kronwall said.

"But last year, I had the experience of playing against a lot of guys who were in the NHL (moonlighting during the lockout). Playing against the best guys in the world, you always learn something new. I still feel I can play harder and more aggressive out there."


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