Flyers prospect Hagg eager to get started on a pro career in USA

Posted: August 22, 2014

ROBERT HAGG got his first taste of American-style hockey when he spent 10 games with the Adirondack Phantoms last season. It was enough to tell him he needed to come across the pond full time.

"It is a dream come true that I signed with the Flyers," Hagg said. "I am really looking forward to playing my first season over here. It is going to be so fun. I am so excited."

Hagg was the Flyers' second-round pick of the 2013 draft. He played professionally in Sweden until now, but thought it would be conducive to his career to come to America and play in the Flyers' system. He already sees the differences in the styles of play, and knows he will need time to adjust before he is ready to play at the highest level.

"There are a lot of different things when you compare the two styles of hockey," Hagg said. "It is really a different sport, if you ask me. There is more ice in Sweden, so you can do more things at different times and go more places when you are out there.

"In America, as soon as you touch the puck, you need to know what you are going to do with it," Hagg added. "The time with the puck is the biggest difference between the two."

The 6-2, 204-pound defenseman will most likely be with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the fall when the season opens. The Phantoms, who have moved to the new PPL Center in Allentown, are filled with young talent, with Hagg be at the forefront. Despite wanting to be on the Flyers' Opening Night roster, he is realistic about his development.

"It is going to be in 2 years, being realistic," Hagg said. "Two years from now, I am going to have a Flyers jersey. That is my goal."

With Kimmo Timonen's future uncertain because of blood clots in his lower right leg and both lungs, the Flyers' blue line is in limbo. In early August, they signed Michael Del Zotto, who was with the Rangers last season, as insurance if Timonen cannot play this season.

"Robert has made remarkable strides in the last 2 years," Flyers director of scouting Chris Pryor said. "People tend to forget that he has already participated in two World Junior Championships and played with the men in the Swedish Elite League this past season for Modo; both are pretty good accomplishments for a 19-year-old hockey player. Also, after he finished last season, he came over here and finished up with the Phantoms, and will be entering his first season as a pro in North America this upcoming year."

While Hagg might not be in the mix for a spot on the Flyers just yet, he will go through training camp as if he is fighting for one. He knows where he has to be to make an NHL roster, and is trying to do a lot of that before the season.

"Before the season starts, I am trying to build muscle and get quicker, because I need to be a lot quicker if I am going to play in the NHL, and more explosive, too," Hagg said. "Those are basically the two things I need to work on: my explosiveness and my quickness. On the ice, I need to get more consistency in the right areas."

Hagg recently played for Sweden in Lake Placid, N.Y., in friendlies to gear up for spots in the 2014-15 World Junior Championships. His team took down Team USA, 4-3, in which Hagg notched an assist. He has the ability to make plays as a defenseman and put his teammates in good positions to score. He sees that ability as his biggest asset right now.

"My game with the puck and making plays and passes is the best part of my game right now," Hagg said. "I need to continue to do what I am good at, and, at the same time, improve on what I am not so good at."

He will continue working to improve in the offseason, and take his talents to training camp in the fall. No matter where he ends up on the depth chart, he is excited to get to America and start his professional career on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

"Everything is exciting," Hagg said. "To move to a whole different country and get to know everyone on the team is exciting. It is going to be great to get the season started."


On Twitter: @AndrewJAlbert01

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