OTTAWA - In Swedenís 3-1 tournament-opening win over Finland, Oscar Moller didnít have his finest performance. Even though he led his team with five shots, he ended up -1 on the night and couldnít convert a penalty shot attempt versus netminder Harri Sšteri. But expect the talented, feisty right wing with the wispy blonde mustache and gap-toothed grin to pick up his game as the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship progresses. Moller is the lone member of Team Sweden who has already played in the NHL, recording 13 points (nine on the power play) as a rookie with the Los Angeles Kings this year. Coming to Ottawa to support his native country again is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Moller, who turns 20 on January 22. Last year, the former Chilliwack Bruin star picked up three goals and two assists in six games as Sweden won silver. IIHF.com caught up with Moller after Tre Kronorís Saturday practice at the Civic Centre.
IIHF.com: What did you think of the effort your team put out versus Finland?
Oscar Moller: I thought we came out strong in the first period, but we had a little dip in the second period. We took a couple of bad penalties in the third period as well. But overall, I think we had a strong game and we showed that even though we didnít play our best hockey, we can win hockey games. Itís good to get off to a good start here.
IIHF.com: How does this yearís edition of Tre Kronor compare to the one that went to the gold medal game last year?
Moller: I think weíre probably not as big up front with the forwards, but we have more skill and talent. Itíll be interesting to see.
IIHF.com: Everyoneís talking about Victor Hedman on defence. What do you think is the biggest strength of his game?
Moller: Probably his size, obviously, because heís a really big guy. But he can skate really well too. Those are keys for him.
IIHF.com: How much would it mean to you to get some revenge on Canada on their home ice after coming so close to the gold last year?
Moller: That would be huge for me and for the entire Swedish hockey organization. Huge for all of us.
IIHF.com: When the L.A. Kings management approached you about playing in this tournament, what was that conversation like?
Moller: I spoke to [assistant general manager] Ron Hextall about it. They had obviously talked about it, and they asked me if I wanted to go. I said, ďYeah.Ē They told me to not let my guard down when Iím here, to play my game and be focused and try to be the best player I can be here.
IIHF.com: For you, what does that involve?
Moller: Playing the same way as I do in L.A. Working hard. Here, I have more of a leadership role, so itís also up to me to show that I can be a good leader, help the team win games, and eventually win the tournament.
IIHF.com: With the NHL experience youíve had, whatís the biggest difference between playing games there and competing here against guys your own age?
Moller: I think the game in the NHL is more controlled than at the World Juniors. I think thereís more of a drive in these young players here, too, because they obviously want to show they can get to the NHL or whatever level they want to come to.
IIHF.com: How are you feeling so far with the Kings? Itís a long season in the NHL, and youíll be playing into April or beyond if everything goes well.
Moller: It is a long grind. Youíve just got to make sure you stay healthy, physically sound, and mentally focused there. Youíve got to be on top of your game all the time.
IIHF.com: What kind of questions have your teammates here been asking you about playing in the NHL? Theyíve got to be curious.
Moller: [laughs] Most of the questions are just about how it is living in L.A., what we do on our free time, and stuff like that. I just tell them itís a great life, being able to play hockey down there. For me, itís a dream to make the NHL.
IIHF.com: Whatís it been like to team up with a guy like Alexander Frolov?
Moller: Heís a great player. He can really protect the puck. Youíve just got to get open when youíre playing with him, and heíll pass you the puck. Heís the guy Iíve played with most this year. Weíve switched around a lot with different lines, but when I get to play with him, itís gone pretty well. I like that.
IIHF.com: Youíve gotten to see a lot of North America over the last couple of years. It all started when you came over to play two seasons with the WHLís Chilliwack Bruins. How did you enjoy living and playing in Chilliwack?
Moller: I didnít mind it at all. It was a small town, and I grew up in Stockholm, which is a big city. But it was close to Vancouver, and we could go there and do stuff on our days off. We had great fans and great support in the community there, and I think our team chemistry was great too. I loved those two years, and Iíll always have a soft spot in my heart for Chilliwack, thatís for sure.
IIHF.com: Did you do any of those famous Chilliwack activities like salmon fishing or river rafting?
Moller: Actually, the summer before I played my first season there, they brought me in and showed me around, and we went river rafting.
IIHF.com: Did you manage to stay in the raft?
Moller: [laughs] Yeah. It was fun. But it was cold at the end.
IIHF.com: Who was your favourite player when you were growing up?
Moller: Iíd have to say Vinny Lecavalier, because heís been through a lot. He had some tough times, but heís also had some great times, like winning the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay. Heís a great player. He knows how to protect the puck, and heís a leader.
IIHF.com: Getting back to this tournament, youíve got your second game coming up against Slovakia on Sunday. What do you expect from them?
Moller: I donít know. I think they are probably going to play like the Czechs, really good on capitalizing on turnovers. We need to make sure we eliminate turnovers so they canít counterattack and exploit that.