Marcus Ragnarsson was a tough, brising defenseman. Playing in the NHL for nine years before going back to his home in Sweden following the 2003-04 season, Ragnarsson built a game suited for his era. Now an assistant coach for Djugardens, his old club in Sweden, he’s trying to pass on some of those values.
And for Calle Odelius, the Islanders’ second-round pick at this month’s draft, that adds up to a perfect fit.
“He was really good at the stuff that Calle needs to get better at,” Michael Holmqvist, who coached Odelius at the Under-20 level last season, told The Post. “I think he’s gonna have a great ‘D’ coach for him next year.”
Odelius, 18 years old and 187 pounds, casts the skinny frame of a player with a long way to grow. He signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Islanders last Friday, but it could take until the end of it for North America to become a realistic option. He played most of his hockey last season at the U-20 level in Sweden, jumping up to the first SHL division for seven games. Next year, he’s expected to play in the second division Allsvenskan, as Djugardens was relegated in 2022.
“When I look at Calle, I see a really good skater,” Holmqvist said. “He’s able to move really good on the ice. When things go a little wrong, he can save himself with his skating. So that’s what I would say is his best part, is his skating.
“He’s a skilled defenseman, but needs to keep working on that. He needs to get stronger in the defensive zone and keep working on decisions with the puck — when’s it possible to make that creative play or when do you have to keep it simple?”
That is the mold of player the Islanders very much need right now. Last season, they lacked defensemen who could move the puck up the ice or create offensively, making president Lou Lamoriello’s reasons for drafting Odelius self-evident.
Minutes after being drafted, Odelius said he models his game after that of Shea Theodore or Devon Toews, though it will take some time to know if he’ll ever reach that level. His upper-body strength and offensive game, in particular, will take time to come along.
“I’m his coach, I see all the wrong things,” Holmqvist said. “But his shot is good. Can be a little bit over-creative sometimes. Sometimes, maybe [should] take the shot a little more often from the blue line. I think it’s gonna be really good.”
Still, in seven SHL games last season, Holmqvist liked what he saw. Odelius didn’t take risks in those games, but managed the puck well and looked like he belonged.
At the Under-18 Worlds, where Odelius had nine assists in 17 games, there was more progress. The Allsvenskan, in theory, should be a good place to progress.
“I think it’s gonna be great for him,” Holmqvist said.
As to when Odelius might make the jump over to North America, though, Holmqvist was cautious.
“I think it all depends how this season turns out,” he said. “If he can have a big role or grow into a big role on this team, then maybe own this level — like he feels comfortable to play on this level [the Allsvenskan]. Then whatever happens the year after that, if Djugardens goes up [to the SHL] Again, maybe try to own that level as well and then be ready to be closer to the NHL instead of going over right away and trying to work himself into senior hockey over there.”
The only definite, for now, is what’s next. Odelius will be at development camp and training camp for the Islanders come September, and then go back to Djugardens.
“After that,” Odelius said at the draft, “we will see.”