His Danish team had just been pummeled 9-0 by the high-flying Americans at Key Bank Center, but that is the narrow view, and he was accommodating all the same.
The larger perspective is that this 19-year-old from Charlottenlund, Denmark has had a pretty amazing few years as a teenager. He left home at age 14 to live in the U.S. to learn English and play hockey, and now he is preparing to start a four-year term at the University of Maine on scholarship. His hockey skills have shot through the roof, his English is excellent, and his chances of doing something meaningful with his life are increasing with the passing of every day.
“It was supposed to be just one year,” he related of that first trip to Connecticut in 2013. “I was ahead a year in school, so I had a gap year and I just wanted to get away and learn a language. I ended up at a boarding school here. I wanted to go somewhere to play hockey and go to school in one place. I didn’t want to drive around. That’s what I got at South Kent.”
But as often happens, that one year turned into a more extended stay, thanks in large part to Schmidt-Svejstrup’s hockey talents. “I started getting college opportunities, so I decided to come back. I’ve been here ever since,” he continued.
Like any hockey kid, he started skating at a young age and had his heroes. “I always liked the superstars. Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby,” he explained. “I just loved watching those guys. My favourite Danish player was someone who played for the Ottawa Senators for a while, Peter Regin. He plays in the KHL now.”
Schmidt-Svejstrup went from South Kent to Boston and on to the USHL, a now-typical route for Americans who want to play serious teen hockey while preparing for university. In his first year in the USHL, 2016/17 with Dubuque, the learning curve was tough, but this year, with the Fargo Force, Schmidt-Svejstrup is not only adapting – he is leading the league in scoring.
As a result of the last year, college offers have come his way and the next chapter of his life has unexpectedly unfolded before his eyes.
“It’s always been a dream of mine [to play in the NHL], but when I got a scholarship to the University of Maine, I started to think I could go somewhere with hockey. I’ve worked on my game ever since, and this year it’s really taken off.”
For him, Maine was an easy choice. “There were a few options for me, but when I went up there, I loved the coaching staff and saw it was a perfect fit for me.”
In the meantime, there is no letting up. As he says, the USHL is “a fast game, a skilled game. The talent level is really high. It’s a good league for me. I’ve worked a lot on my skating, and I’m playing with guys now who can put the puck on my stick. I’ve been using my shot a lot, but the credit goes to my teammates up in Fargo.”
Asked to describe his game from a scout’s perspective, Schmidt-Svejstrup is precise: “Power forward who can shoot the puck and can also makes plays.”
The level-headed maturity of Schmidt-Svejstrup is evident in his every word, but no more so when he describes that next phase of his life, starting next September. “I’m going to Maine thinking I’ll be there four years and getting a degree. If anything comes up, I’ll think about it, of course. But my goal is to graduate from the University of Maine.”
And back to the narrow view, Schmidt-Svejstrup still has plenty of work to do here in Buffalo. That bad loss yesterday is not the end of the world, and the Danes still have attainable goals for this tournament.
“We played a good team today, but we have to bounce back on Thursday against the Finns. Staying up and playing with the big boys is our main goal.”
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