Last week, in the Maple Leafs game against the Oilers, William Nylander carried the puck into the offensive zone. At the hash marks, he made a quick turn to shake Ryan Nugent-Hopkins off his back, and passed the puck to Jake Muzzin who fired a shot from the point. Nylander followed the play and tied the game with a slap shot from the slot.
It’s a move Nylander does often. He makes a quick turn to win time for himself.
“Turns and winning time” was also the topic of Joachim Ahlgren Bloom’s recent presentation at Global Skills Showcase, organized by the NHL Coaches Association’s partner Coaches’ Site. They went looking for the best skill development coaches in the game and of the original 250 nominees, twenty were invited to make a presentation.
Ahlgren Bloom, 47, was the only skills development coach from Sweden to get the invitation.
He’s one third of JRM Skates & Skills, the M being Mikael Andersson and the R, Roger Johansson, former Team Sweden player with an Olympic and World Championship gold medal in his trophy case.
What started out as a summer camp in 2012 has blossomed into Sweden’s leading skills development organization. Even players that have never attended a JRM camp or worked with Ahlgren Bloom have done his drills. Eager coaches copy them from JRM’s Instagram account.
But a copy isn’t as good as the original.
“At the last World Juniors, Team Sweden had nine players we had worked with, including Roger’s son, Albert Johansson [Detroit’s second round pick in 2019],” Ahlgren Bloom tells Hockey Wanderlüst.
“I’m not saying they’re successful because they’ve worked with us,” he adds quickly, “but maybe we’ve been a contributing factor.”
Even though Joachim Ahlgren Bloom is obviously pleased to be working with some of the best players in the world, he doesn’t name names. Clients are not identified on their website, although word did get out about one particular Maple Leaf.
“Naturally, it’s nice to see players do in games things that we’ve worked on, even though I don’t watch their games that much,” he says. “Also, William Nylander is a special talent, one of a kind.”
While JRM works with skills in general and even helps with mental coaching, it’s skating that remains Ahlgren Bloom top priority. He’s a common sight in rinks around Sweden, wearing a big toque, as he shows kids (and NHLers and KHLers and SHLers) how to do edgework. He jumps, twirls, and turns with his hand on the ice, his elbow on the ice, even his shoulder on the ice.
“We’ve developed our own concept which works with everybody, from young kids to NHLers and everybody can be on the ice at the same time. The drills are the same, it’s the degree of difficulty that varies. It’s all individual training. When you work with us, you’ll have fun, too,” he says.
Ahlgren Bloom says a few shifts is enough for him to see what a player needs to work on. Often, it’s got to do with posture and mobility.
“A lot of players skate with pure power and lack understanding of how to skate properly. It used to be common to have figure skaters as skating coaches, but I think it’s better to work with someone who can put the skating into a game’s frame of reference,” he says.
And once you have the coach, all it takes is work.
“I recently spoke with an SHL player about working with him and my question to a player is always the same: ‘Are you ready to put in the hours? Meet me at the rink at 9am on a Sunday?’ Not everybody says yes,” he says.
“But if you do put in the hours, it can go fast. All it takes is 8,000 reps,” he adds with a laugh.
Ahlgren Bloom believes the need for specialized coaches will only increase in the future, but the doors aren’t as wide open as one might think.
“Of course, I’d love to work with an NHL team and if the Maple Leafs call me, I’ll listen, but I’d also want to have a genuine chance to show what I can do. If the job is to be out there just to warm guys up for ten minutes, it’s not for me,” he says.
Meanwhile in Sweden:
“We made an offer to an SHL team to work with them, and it would’ve cost them a star player’s one month’s salary, but that was too much for the team,” he says.
A decade in, JRM is still on a growth trajectory. Hundreds of players attend their summer camps, from young boys and girls to NHLers. Pro players are increasingly looking for someone to help them find that edge. (Pun intended).
“We have to get better, and I have to keep moving forward, too. We’ve been at this for ten years. I need to find new ways to challenge the players,” he says.
First published in Hockey Wanderlüst