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Wings pick Axel Holmstrom takes big step forward

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Imagine the excitement Axel Holmstrom felt last year when drafted by the Red Wings.

Here's a kid from Sweden, not considered a high draft pick, selected in the seventh-round by the Red Wings, the most Swedish team in the NHL.

Holmstrom, participating in this weekend's development camp, fondly remembers that feeling.

"It was great, a big deal for sure," said Holmstrom, who bolted his way into being viewed a possible NHL prospect this season after being named Sweden's junior player of the year. "Especially because it was the team you followed as a kid and being drafted, it was a big deal for sure."

With anywhere from five to nine Swedish players on their roster for the last five to 10 years, the Red Wings are highly popular back home in Northern Europe.

"They're the most popular," Holmstrom said. "All the newspapers are always writing about the Red Wings. Every Swedish kid playing hockey knows the Red Wings."

Holmstrom had a good regular season but it was in the playoffs where he played at a level that made everyone take notice.

Holmstrom (6-foot-1, 198 pounds) had 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 44 games with Skelleftea, then exploded in the playoffs with 18 points (seven goals) in 15 games.

The way Holmstrom sees it, though, it was mainly being in the right place at the right time.

"I got good confidence from my coach and we had a real good team, good teammates," said Holmstrom, who can play center or left wing. "We had a lot of good self-confidence in our group. Myself, I started the playoffs pretty good and got confidence from that and just kept going. I had some lucky bounces.

"I shot the puck more, my coaches told me to do that and I would get more goals. It was unfortunate we lost in the finals but both me and the team had a good team."

Holmstrom will return to Sweden this season and plans on turning pro in North America after his Swedish season, joining Grand Rapids.

Given his inexperience and not having played pro in Sweden, a full season playing there would be a positive decision.

"I want to take the next step and be good the whole season, just take a bigger role with the team," Holmstrom said. "I want to keep getting better.

"I have to get better in every (way. The NHL is) the best league in the world and I want to do my best and develop the best I can."

Holmstrom is looking forward to this development camp in Traverse City, getting to know some players who could turn out to be future teammates.

"All these guys have a dream and want to be Red Wings," Holmstrom said. "But we're good friends. It's a good group and I'm happy to be here."

Ferraro signs

The Red Wings announced Sunday that they have re-signed center Landon Ferraro to a one-year contract. Terms were not disclosed.

Ferraro, 23, appeared in all seven of Detroit's first-round playoff games against the Tampa Bay Lightning, picking up 10 shots on goal. He also played in the final three regular-season games, netting one goal.

The 32nd overall pick in the 2009 draft scored 27 goals in 70 games for the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins this season.