Swedish forward Nicklas Lasu's medal haul in recent season has been pretty specular. A two-time CHL Winner, SHL Champion, and now Liiga Champion.
Lasu is now an interesting position going into the new season. With defending Finnish Champions Kärpät Oulu he's now not only trying to get his hands on the CHL again, but help keep it in Finland.
"I played against Kärpät in the 2016 CHL Final, so I knew they were a good team," recalled Lasu about his move to Finland in the 2017 off-season. "I'd played a lot of years in Gothenburg for my home town team, and I just wanted to do something different. We'd won the CHL in Oulu, I knew a bit about them, so that's how everything went from there."
The 28-year-old's first season in the Liiga wasn't a bad one either as the team secured the regular season and playoff championships. "I knew that Kärpät were traditionally a really strong team and the year before they had a pretty hard season, But we had a good group of guys and we saw early in the preseason that we had a good team and a chance to win," explained the forward who scored 29 points in 2017/18. "Of course it's always a long season and how you play in the playoffs is different to the regular season, but I think a lot of our guys had really good years and that's why we were successful."
In Central Europe teams often talk about the 'Scandivian Style', but how is it transitioning from Sweden to Finland? "I would say it's mostly similar, a little bit different though. In Finland you have some rinks that are NHL size, so it makes the games a bit different playing a team like Vassa away than in your own rink. But basically it's the same - putting a lot of pressure on the opponents, trying to force turnovers, and not waiting to get the puck".
One difference is obviously the language, "Oh my Finnish is not good at all!" he laughed. "Luckily some of the guys speak Swedish, and the rest are pretty good at English, so it works for me".
Looking to the CHL, as a two-time winner Lasu has good memories. "I always say that it's really nice to play in the CHL. Normally you're playing the same teams over and over again in the league, so it's fun to come into a tournament with different countries, leagues, and styles of play," said the Mölndal native. I remember one year at Frölunda we had four games against Lulea in the regular season, then the CHL final (which we lost, that sucked), then the playoffs - we ended up having about 15 games against the same team! So having new teams and places is the fun part of it, and it brings energy to the locker room for the rest of the season too."
"We want to go for the CHL this season... it's another chance to win something"
What about that Frölunda team that did the CHL & SHL double? "You know it gave us a lot of confidence after we won the CHL. Before that a lot of people, including some of our own fans, were saying we were a team that plays good but never wins anything," he explained. "We knew going to Oulu they'd only lost one home game that season or something, and were a strong team. So after winning that game we got a lot of confidence. For some guys on our team it was the first thing they'd won, and it was nice to prove everyone wrong".
"Of course it's something we want to go for this season - another tournament, another chance to win something", added Lasu about the task in hand with his new team.
Kärpät also have a couple of young talents on their roster who a lot of eyes will be on this season - Rasmus Kupari and Aleksi Heponiemi. "It's only pre-season but you can clearly see how Aleksi has speed in all areas, he's really good, and he sees how to open up the ice with small passes" said Lasu of Aleksi Heponiemi who scored 118 points in the WHL last season. "And with Kupari it's going to be interesting to see if he can take another step this season - he was already really good last year."
Finally, what about facing Frölunda in the CHL? "OI'd love to wait for the final for that, and beat those guys!" says Lasu - challenge extended!