Young Claesson providing veteran leadership in Binghamton

Amid a crowd of promising prospects, Fredrik Claesson is making a name for himself on the Binghamton Senators’ blue line.

Young Claesson providing veteran leadership in Binghamton
Fredrik Claesson. (Julie Oliver/OttawaCitizen)

Amid a crowd of promising prospects, Fredrik Claesson is making a name for himself on the Binghamton Senators’ blue line.

Claesson was thrown into the fire as a rookie in the American Hockey League when the NHL lockout ended last season, and what he learned then has helped him develop into a thriving second-year defenceman earning rave reviews from the coaching staff.

“When the lockout ended, he had to play a lot,” said B-Sens assistant coach Steve Stirling, who oversees the team’s defence. “It was on-the-job training, and there were some bumps along the way. But he’s a really good kid, he doesn’t get frustrated, he doesn’t get down on himself — even after a mistake. You show him the video, and he listens and he learns. This year, he came in with a little more confidence, and … every shift when I put him on the ice, I can count on him.”

Claesson, Ottawa’s fifth-round pick (126th overall) from 2011, played in 70 of Binghamton’s 76 games during his rookie campaign, and is the only defenceman to appear in all 37 so far this season.

“He’s bigger, stronger, more confident,” said head coach Luke Richardson. “Because of our younger defence this year, we rely on him more … he’s really taken the opportunity and run with it. Sometimes guys take a little longer and they feel their way in. He’s really made the step and jumped at it and really taken a hold of it in all situations and done really well.”

“I’m growing a bit (as a player), and I’ve been working out hard,” Claesson added. “I’m just trying to be calm and make the right plays, be a little (bit of a) leader.”

Despite playing a stay-at-home style, Claesson has also chipped in on offence, already surpassing his 11 points from last season in less than half the games. He has two goals and 15 assists, trailing only Chris Wideman (20 points) in scoring by active B-Sens defencemen.

Claesson leads the team, and ranks third in the league, in plus-minus — a stat Richardson admits can be misleading for some players, but says is very telling for one in Claesson’s role on his team — at plus-23.

Barely 21 years old and in just his second season in North America, the Swedish defenceman already has more AHL experience than four of his teammates on the blue line, including both of his usual partners.

“Even though he’s only a second-year pro, with the young defence that we have, we’re counting on him to be a veteran,” Stirling said. “Most nights, he’s playing with Mike Sdao or Benny Blood, and those are two really young kids who are right where Freddy was a year ago. He’s been a mainstay, and it’s helped those two progress, slowly but surely.”

Claesson has also become a mainstay killing penalties, a role that is perfectly suited for his game.

“He’s really developed a niche on the penalty kill,” Stirling said. “Boro (Mark Borowiecki) is always in the conversation when you’re talking about the defence, but if you take Boro out of the mix on any given night, then Freddy is easily our best defenceman. He’s always in position. He’s not afraid to block shots. He’s aggressive when he should be. He can kill a whole penalty if he has to, and the only way you can do that is if you’re smart. He’s been really good back there.”

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