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GARRIOCH: Senators' defenceman Erik Brannstrom enjoying the chance to play overseas

Erik Brannstrom.
Erik Brannstrom.

Not all of the Ottawa Senators are spending their time skating and waiting.

The voice of Erik Brannstrom came on the line Thursday afternoon from Langnau, Switzerland — located not far from Bern — and the Senators’ blueliner was more than enthusiastic about his time playing overseas.

Loaned to the SC Langnau Tigers in the Swiss ‘A’ league by the Senators while waiting for the 2020-21 campaign to get under way, Brannstrom told Postmedia in an interview he’s healthy, happy and excited to be playing, but he’s looking forward to the opportunity to push a full-time spot in Ottawa when camp gets started.

Preparing to face HC Ambri-Piotta at home Friday and Geneve-Servette HC Saturday on the road, Brannstrom feels he’s fortunate to get some competition before heading back to North America. He said that could happen soon and when it does he’ll be ready to roll.

“That’s what I’m waiting for every day,” Brannstrom said. “Of course, you want to get over there and start with it. I want to get over there and start the upcoming year. It’s (Ottawa’s) decision to make when I leave but it’s starting to get to be the time soon to go over and I’m excited for that.”

Just before the American Hockey League went on pause March 12, Brannstrom, a key piece in the deal that sent Mark Stone to Vegas in Feb., 2018, suffered a wrist injury that ended his season. He started 2019-20  by suiting up for 31 games with Ottawa before being sent to Belleville in early-December.

“It’s been good. We’ve played a lot of games. We have a good team with a great bunch of guys here and I’m enjoying my time here,” said Brannstrom, who has two goals and seven points in nine games with Langnau. “I had my wrist injury last year and it was good for me to go somewhere and play.

“It feels good out there. I feel better, with my wrist and everything, so I feel good and confident out there. I feel like it was a good decision to come and play here.”

He didn’t want to sit idle waiting for the club’s camp to get under way at the Canadian Tire Centre so he left his home in Sweden and signed a short-term deal in Switzerland. Brannstrom would have played with his former club team HV71 Jonkoping in Sweden, but they weren’t accepting any players on loan.

The Swiss league has had its share of difficulties with COVID-19 and has had to re-work its schedule once. Brannstrom spent 10 days in quarantine earlier this month because of a positive test on Langnau. He noted they started the year with a small percentage of fans but now play in front of empty stands.

Still, he’s playing and knows he made the right decision.

“I just felt that Langnau was a better fit for me. This league’s getting better and better and there’s some really good players,” said Brannstrom. “I thought it would be right for me to come here and play. I feel I’ve made the right choice. It’s been very good for me to play a lot. I’ve been playing the power play and in all situations.

“I’ve been able to play the game I want too. I’m just really happy to be playing hockey again.”

Since the Senators didn’t participate in the Return to Play in the summer, there will be no shortage of players in camp who haven’t suited up in nine months. This experience should give Brannstrom an advantage going into camp whenever it starts because he should be in mid-season form.

“I would think this is going to have a positive impact for me,” he said. “The first two games here were tough because I hadn’t played for almost eight months. It took some time to get into it and, of course, I’m going to have some more games here and I’m going to take that with me. It will be good to have some game tempo.”

There were times last season Brannstrom looked like he lacked confidence in his first year in the NHL. Just listening to him you can tell he feels a lot better about his game and could be ready to make the next step.

“I have to make the smarter decisions on the ice. I’m not that big either so I have to make smarter decisions with and without the puck,” Brannstrom said. “I have to do a better job reading the situations and not over-handling the puck. I just make the easier play all the time.

“When I have the chance, I want to do something but I also know I have to play the simple game. When you’re confident, of course you play better. That comes with a simple first pass and then getting up into the offensive zone and I think that would help me with confidence as well.”

Brannstrom said he spent the summer in Gothernburg working with a personal trainer.

“They wanted me to get strong and build up my muscles,” he said. “I did that this summer and I want to do better on my tests. On the ice, I just want to simplify my game and not trying to do too much.”

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Twitter: @sungarrioch

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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