International Ice Hockey Federation

Singing the Danish Blues

Singing the Danish Blues

Nikolaj Krag plays third World Juniors

Published 23.12.2017 06:59 GMT-5 | Author Ty Dilello
Singing the Danish Blues
Nikolaj Krag (middle) sings the Danish national anthem with his teammates (left: Tobias Ladehoff, right: Jeppe Korsgaard) after a surprise win against Finland at last year's IIHF World Junior Championship. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Denmark is looking to make the quarter-finals at the IIHF World Junior Championship for the fourth consecutive year.

One of the great storylines at the World Juniors over the past few years has been the transformation of the Danish national junior program. Once considered an “elevator team”, the Danes have not only stayed in the top division in recent years, but for each of the past three tournaments they have reached the quarter-finals. It’s a trend they would like to continue at this year’s event in Buffalo.

It hasn’t exactly been a surprise either that Denmark has been doing so well as of late. The players that they have produced over the past few years have been remarkable. Top forwards like Nikolaj Ehlers and Oliver Bjorkstrand, who were at the World Juniors just a few years ago, are now starring in the National Hockey League. Other players such as Alexander True, Mathias From and Joachim Blichfeld have been solid performers for the men’s national team that competed with the big countries’ top lines and produced efficiently.

One of the players that will be leading the charge on offence for Denmark is 19-year-old Nikolaj Krag, who will be making his third World Juniors appearance and is no stranger to representing his country on the international stage. The 191 cm (6’3’’) forward was selected by the St. Louis Blues in the seventh round (209th overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and is looking to play a big offensive role for his country in Buffalo.

Krag is a native of Rodovre, a town of roughly 40,000 people just outside of Copenhagen. The town is home to the Rodovre Mighty Bulls, who have won the national championship on six occasions with the most recent coming in 1999.

He grew up in his hometown and played for Rodovre (their junior and men’s squads) until the 2016/17 season when he went over to Rogle of the Swedish Hockey League to play with their U20 and SHL squad. His strong play with Rogle, as well as four points in five games for the Danes at the 2017 World Juniors, led to NHL scouts knocking on his door and eventually the St. Louis Blues drafting him.

2017/18 has been an interesting year so far for Krag. After starting the year in Finland for the HPK Hameenlinna U20 team and LeKi in the second senior division, Nikolaj returned home after 14 games and has since played in the top men’s division for Rungsted.

Denmark’s tournament kicks off on Boxing Day against the United States. Finland, Canada and Slovakia make up the rest of Group A.

IIHF.com asked Nikolaj Krag Christensen some questions.

How did you get into hockey and at what age?
My dad took me to the rink when I was four years old with my friend Malte Setkov, and we have been playing hockey at the rink or home at the streets ever since, and now we are representing Denmark together at the World Juniors.

How was it growing up in the Rodovre hockey system?
It was really good for me to grow up in the Rodovre hockey system because there are very good facilities for all the young players, with two ice rinks available every morning. We would work on individual skills and skating practice, and then after school we would be going back for our team practice, so there was plenty of hockey every day.

Describe your playing style.
I read the game well, strong on the boards, good shot, good skills with stick and skates, and I like the offensive game.

How has this season been going for you while splitting time in Finland and Denmark?
The season didn’t start that well because I had some injuries, and to be ready for the World Juniors I needed some more ice time at the senior level. It was a very good time I had in Finland. I learned a lot of things there, and now I’m playing in the Danish elite league where I have a lot of responsibility and ice time, so I could suit up and feel most prepared for the World Juniors.

What was it like when you found out that you got drafted by the St. Louis Blues? And when do you plan on coming over to North America?
Yes, that was really a big day for me when I got drafted. It was a childhood dream and after the draft I wanted to practise even more because it was such a big boost for me to be drafted by the St. Louis Blues. Within the next two years I hope I can go to play in North America.

What was the experience of playing with Rogle last year and making your SHL debut with them?
Rogle was good. It was my first year away from home and being there was very good for my development. Of course, I had to live alone in another country, which wasn’t easy, but then again playing in my first SHL game was something I was looking forward to since I signed with Rogle.

Are you excited by the chance of representing your country at the World Junior again this year?
Yes, of course I’m really excited to play again with Team Denmark at the World Juniors. This year will be my third and last World Juniors and I hope we can make the same results as the last three years or even better. The main goal is to stay up in the top division, but the last three years we have made it to the quarter-finals and we have been taking points from the big countries, so I think we can set the bar even higher this year.

How do you see the national team moving forward? Are there many good young players in the country that are going to make a difference going forward?
The Danish hockey program is still growing strong as the training culture has really been changed in Denmark. Young players are practising more and more, so I think the future in Danish hockey is bright.

FAVOURITES:
Childhood Idol: Pavel Datsyuk
Video game: FIFA 18
Movie: A Danish movie called Klovn The Movie
TV Show: A talk show called Natholdet
Home-cooked meal: Traditional Danish Christmas food
Activity away from the rink: Hanging out with friends

 

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