Getting to know: Gustav Ahnelöv
Gustav Ahnelöv's interest in hockey began in Tumba, Sweden when he was just four years old. Karl, his Father, who was a netminder for Huddinge, took his son along to the local hockey school where he received coaching from Tomas Storm, an instructor who peaked the youngster’s interest in the game.
"From then on, there was never a thought that I wouldn't be a professional hockey player," said Ahnelöv.
"I was never going to be a goalie like my Dad though," quipped the right-shooting defenceman. "I tried it in practice but I was so mad because it was so boring. I never got to touch the puck!"
Advancing his flourishing career in the junior systems of Flemingsbergs and Djurgårdens, the youngster then chose to move away from Stockholm and head to the Junior-20's of HV71.
"I had a trainer in Djurgårdens called Hans Särkijärv (now Head Coach of MODO) and I really liked him and learned a lot from him," said Ahnelöv. "He moved up and took over the SHL team in 2014 and I felt I needed to try something new. I wouldn't say it was nice to leave Stockholm but it was good for me to experience a different environment and meet new people. The season in HV71 was probably not the best I had, but as a person, I grew a lot which I really needed."
In the summer of 2015, Ahnelöv then looked to further his horizons even more, travelling to the Lincoln Stars of the USHL in America where he was to participate in their pre-season campaign.
"I was there for a month but it just did not fit me," explained Gustav. "You were made to live with a family, having strict times put on you etc. and after I had lived by myself in Sweden I did not want to move into another family and have them take care of me."
Following a phone call to his agent, Ahnelöv was quickly moved back home to a keen admirer, Karlskrona HK where at just 19 he was to quickly make his debut in the SHL, Sweden's Elite Level hockey league.
"When I got back to Sweden I just wanted to play hockey and have a good final year as a junior. Karlskrona's Junior-20's were in their infancy and had just gone from Division 1 to SuperElit so I played a very big part and it was fun to take a lot of responsibility. I started training with the SHL team fairly quickly and I made my debut against Frölunda away. In that game I didn't play too much but a teammate on defence became ill for the next game against Färjestad and I then had to jump in and play regular minutes. I was paired with Julien Brouillette (now of EC Salzburg), who really took care of me. I did not expect anything that season so to play at that level was really just a bonus."
Icing 11 games in the SHL in total during 2015/16, plus an additional 4 during the last campaign, Ahnelöv said of the experience, "Players are much smarter in the SHL, especially than at junior level where I was. At the 20's level, you can relax and even cheat a little, knowing you can handle it. In the SHL, you can't do that and you have to go at it 100% every shift. If you don't, you get smoked."
As common for promising youngsters in Sweden, Ahnelöv was to be loaned to VIK Västerås and IK Oskarshamn of the HockeyAllsvenskan (2nd-tier) over the past year where the defenceman was to register 9 points over 43 games.
"Last season was really positive for me," said the mobile defenceman. "Many Swedish youngsters are loaned to clubs in the Allsvenskan as it's important to get playing time. It's what you need at my age!"
Given Ahnelöv's obvious aspirations to be given responsibility, enjoy regular ice-time and grow as a person off the ice, it's not so surprising that the 21-year-old has chosen to take an early jump away from Swedish hockey, to the ever-growing British Elite League and the Coventry Blaze.
He will make his debut for the Genting Casino Coventry Blaze at the Skydome Arena on Wednesday 23rd August against the Manchester Storm and tickets are on sale now, here.
Quotes translated from: hockeysverige.se