Carl Dahlstrom driven to leave better impression with Blackhawks

Carl Dahlstrom spent the majority of last season playing in Sweden. Getty Images

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks defenseman prospect Carl Dahlstrom has put more time into thinking about his stint with the Rockford IceHogs last season than he actually spent on the ice.

Dahlstrom played all of two games with the IceHogs in April after arriving from his season in Sweden. He felt the first game went fine, but he struggled in the second one. That was it for him. He didn’t return to the IceHogs’ lineup, and Dahlstrom and the Blackhawks agreed it was best for him to return to Sweden.

“My team back in Sweden started the offseason, so we came up with the decision since I wasn’t playing that’s it better to go back to Sweden and keep working on my offseason and keep focusing on that,” Dahlstrom said during this week’s Blackhawks prospect camp. “Of course, I wanted to play. Just didn’t work this time. I’ll play a lot better next time I have the chance.”

Dahlstrom, 20, has put a lot of thought into what went wrong with the IceHogs. While it is a lot to ask for a 20-year-old European defenseman to make a seamless transition in his first few games to the AHL and the smaller ice surface, Dahlstrom believed his downfall was overthinking the situation.

“I think I started off good and the second game I was just thinking too much,” the 6-foot-4, 223-pound Dahlstrom said. “It’s just that easy. You just got to play. You can’t just think what the coaches or whatever everybody wants you to do. You just got to play your game. That’s why you want to be over. That’s why I’m here right now.”

Dahlstrom’s motivation for the Blackhawks prospect camp has been to leave a better impression on the Blackhawks’ front office. Prior to last year’s prospect camp, he hadn’t been on the ice much in Sweden. He made sure to be more prepared this season.

His focus this offseason has been to improve his shot and become quicker. He thinks his first couple strides need to come off faster. He said he has found keeping a solid defensive gap to be easier on the smaller rink.

After trading prospect Mike Paliotta and Stephen Johns, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman recently said he was still comfortable with the organization’s defenseman depth because of the players he had in Sweden. That group includes Dahlstrom, Robin Press, Robin Norell, Gustav Forsling, Andreas Soderberg and Erik Gustafsson.

Bowman didn’t pinpoint which Swedish defensemen were at the top of his list, but Dahlstrom is trying to get there.

“Obviously they must like Swedes over here,” Dahlstrom said. “I’m just trying to work as hard as possible to be the Swede they like the most. That’s what you got to work for.”

Dahlstrom has one year remaining on his contract with Linkoping in the Swedish Hockey League and will return there for next season. After that, he’s unsure of his future.

“Then, I don’t have a contract anywhere, so we’ll see what happens next year,” said Dahlstrom, who was drafted in the second round in 2013. “It’s a big year for me. I just try to do the best with it.”