Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass hockey’s William Lagesson to join team Sweden for World Junior Championship

By Ross Gienieczko

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

When Massachusetts hockey coach John Micheletto first watched freshman defenseman William Lagesson play while recruiting him to come to UMass, he knew right away Lagesson was someone he would love to have on his team.

“There wasn’t much evaluation when we first saw William,” Micheletto chuckled. “It was more about, ‘How do we attract him to the University of Massachusetts?’ He was a guy we really coveted in the recruiting process, and were fortunate enough to get.”

It was a much longer journey for Lagesson to get to UMass than most. Born in Gothenberg, Sweden, Lagesson played several seasons for the Frölunda Hockey Club (based in Gothenberg) on their Under-18 and U20 teams. In 2014-15, he crossed the pond to play for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League before joining the Minutemen at the start of this season.

“There’s a lot to like in (Lagesson)’s game. He’s a prototypical two-way defenseman that we value here…. Mobile and smart enough to defend on the big ice, but also can use those tools to exploit the big ice on offense,” Micheletto said.

Lagesson’s strong build and effective play throughout the years made him a touted NHL prospect, as he was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the fourth round of the 2014 draft (No. 91 overall).

His home country has taken an interest in him as well. Lagesson has played 65 games for Sweden’s development teams and earned an invite to the country’s World Junior Championship team last season, where he helped lead his team to a bronze medal.

Sweden named to its roster for the 2016 World Junior tournament Monday and Lagesson was selected again.

“Of course, it’s an honor to play for your country,” Lagesson said.  “It’s going to be a lot of fun to see all the old friends I have there. It’s pretty close to home, so I have a lot of friends and family that are going to be there. It’s going to be exciting.”

Since arriving at UMass, the 6-foot-3, 198-pound 19-year-old has immediately been a pillar on the defensive corps. He skates on the top pairing, plays on the power play and penalty kill and is tied for the team lead in points by a defenseman with six. He also boasts a minus-one plus/minus rating despite logging heavy minutes against opponents’ top offensive lines and playing on a team that has been outscored by 12 goals.

His partner on the first line, fellow freshman and NHL draft pick Ivan Chukarov (selected in the seventh round by the Buffalo Sabres in 2015) said Lagesson was nothing short of an ideal line mate to skate with.

“He’s really reliable. He’s aggressive, strong on his feet,” Chukarov said. “Also, he’s really smart with moving the puck. Sweden is getting a top-notch defenseman. He makes it easy playing with him.”

The duo has formed UMass’ top defensive pairing for nearly the entire season, and Chukarov talked about the growth he’s seen from Lagesson and they chemistry they have developed throughout the year.

“He’s been more patient with the puck. He’s picking his head up a bit more and seeing his options,” Chukarov said. “I trust him 100 percent. If I jump into the play, I know he’ll cover me. I feel like I can give him a pass without looking at him, I can sense where he will be. I like the way he talks as well, we communicate really well.”

Lagesson’s participation in the World Junior tournament will take him out of the UMass lineup for at least one game and possibly more if Sweden reaches the medal round. It’s telling that the first thing Micheletto and Chukarov mentioned when asked about Lagesson’s upcoming absence was his character and presence in the locker room, not in his on ice abilities.

Lagesson will play one more game for the Minutemen before departing to join team Sweden after UMass hosts Union Friday at the Mullins Center.

The World Junior tournament will take place in Helsinki, Finland and begin on Dec. 26. Sweden will play Switzerland in their opening game, and their opening round matchups will include highly-anticipated matchups against the United States (Dec. 28) and Canada (Dec. 31).

 

Ross Gienieczko can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @RossGien.

 

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