When the two countries met earlier this year at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Kamloops, Ginning flattened Hughes in the Swedish end, taking an interference penalty and jawing with Hughes’ brother Quinn.
“I didn’t see him there,” the 193-cm, 93-kg defenceman said afterwards with a laugh. “I just skated into him. It’s not my fault he’s a little too small.”
It may not surprise you to learn that Ginning was selected in the second round (50th overall) by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2018. The Flyers, who are seeking their first Stanley Cup since the back-to-back “Broad Street Bullies” triumphs of 1974 and 1975, can rarely resist the combo of size and attitude.
This stay-at-home 18-year-old defenceman, who recorded one goal and two assists with Linkoping HC in the Swedish Hockey League this season, is a genuine throwback.
Tre Kronor has captured two consecutive IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships with the aid of sleek puck-movers like Oliver Ekman-Larsson and John Klingberg. Elite point-producing Swedes have earned four of the last eight Norris Trophies: Nicklas Lidstrom (2011), Erik Karlsson (2012, 2015) and Victor Hedman (2018).
Yet Ginning’s best-case upside looks a lot more like Kjell Samuelsson, a long-time Flyer who won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins (1991, 1992), or Mattias Norstrom, who was drafted in the second round (48th overall) by the New York Rangers before winning gold at the 1998 Worlds and maturing into the no-nonsense captain of the Los Angeles Kings.
Ginning, who wore the “C” during Sweden’s run to bronze at last spring’s IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Russia, chipped in a goal and three assists in addition to playing a shutdown role under coach Torgny Bendelin.
How does Ginning feel about bringing his big frame to the smaller North American ice surfaces at the 2019 World Juniors in Victoria, where coach Tomas Monten’s team will play the group stage, and Vancouver?
“I like it. I think it’s a little more physical game and that fits me well. I try to just use my body as much as I can. Hopefully it will look good.”
Ginning’s U20 defence partner, Adam Boqvist, moved to the OHL’s London Knights after being drafted eighth overall by the Chicago Blackhawks. The two are very comfortable together, as Ginning’s steady presence enables Boqvist to jump into the rush at will.
Ginning himself is comfortable with his choice to stay in Linkoping, his hometown. Sweden’s seventh-largest city is still seeking its first SHL title of all time. Despite featuring Olympians like Canada’s Derek Roy and Norway’s Olimb brothers, Linkoping lost to the Elias Pettersson-led Vaxjo Lakers in the quarter-finals last season, and Ginning feels he has some unfinished business.
“I really haven’t thought about anything else,” he explained. “I have always felt I wanted to play a couple more years in Sweden before coming over. That’s my choice. This season, I’ll just focus on my team in Sweden, and then we’ll see after that.”
The Flyers have to be optimistic about their long-term hopes. The Sporting News recently rated them as the NHL organization with the second-deepest pool of prospects after the Buffalo Sabres, and Ginning isn’t even rated in the top 10 of a group that includes such IIHF standouts as Joel Farabee (USA), Carter Hart (Canada), and German Rubtsov (Russia).
Skills-wise, Ginning is focused on improving his foot speed to be ready for the high tempo of the World Juniors during Sweden’s quest for its third U20 gold of all time.
“I try to work on it every day after practice when I have some time,” he said. “I try to work to be a little bit quicker.”
After spending his entire life in Linkoping, will it be hard for him when the time finally comes to make the jump to North America?
“Maybe a little bit. But it’s always been my dream. So when that time comes, it will be fun.”