Leon Bristedt’s journey at Minnesota combines hockey and education

The junior is just the fourth European-born player to suit up for the Gophers.

Gophers forward Leon Bristedt carries the puck into the Ohio State zone on Dec. 2, 2016, at Mariucci Arena.

Carter Jones, Daily File Photo

Gophers forward Leon Bristedt carries the puck into the Ohio State zone on Dec. 2, 2016, at Mariucci Arena.

Drew Cove

Hockey and education go hand in hand for Gophers forward Leon Bristedt.

The junior has had to adjust to a new team and a new country in the past three years but is taking it all in stride.

“It’s been up and down this season,” Bristedt said. “I know what I can do … I feel confident in myself.”

A Stockholm, Sweden native had a journey to college hockey that most hockey players from Europe don’t experience.

Bristedt is only the fourth European-born player in Minnesota’s history.

“It goes way back,” Bristedt said. “First, with my dad, [we] liked the opportunity of getting an education and playing hockey at the same time. When I got a little older, the opportunity came, and I went over [to America] and played with the Swedish National team, and some colleges started recruiting me.”

All of Minnesota’s European players — Bristedt, forwards Thomas Vanek, Erik Haula and Robin Hoglund — have played during Lucia’s tenure.

Bristedt said he struggled to get used to the North American style of play his freshman year. He said captains Kyle Rau and Ben Marshall and his roommate, current defenseman Ryan Collins, helped make the transition easier for him.

The junior emphasized the importance of being able to have an education on top of his ability to develop into a high-level hockey player.

“I really wanted to have that security after my hockey career,” Bristedt said. “It’s not even sure [if I] make it, so when [I’m] done with hockey, I felt like I wanted to have something that [would] back me up and that I could feel good with. I don’t think it matters if it’s in school, business or hockey, I want to be successful, so I just wanted to make sure that I made a good base.”

While he isn’t on the goal scoring pace that he was last season, Bristedt has consistently playedwell for Minnesota.

Bristedt is still playing at an almost point-per-game rate and has 27 points in 28 games this season with 11 goals and 16 assists.

“He plays in every situation,” said head coach Don Lucia. “He’s one of those six forwards that’s on the power play, he kills penalties, he plays four-on-four. When we’re ahead by a goal late, he’s on the ice, [and] when we’re down a goal late, he’s on the ice.”

Last season, Bristedt put up 20 goals, which was tied for the team lead with former Gophers forward Hudson Fasching.

On top of his success on the ice, the forward has received recognition through winning the most determined player award and earned Academic All-Big Ten honors in his sophomore season.

“You can’t play out there as 20 individuals,” Bristedt said. “You’ve got to be one unit. It’s all about getting together, and for me it doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman, senior or junior, you just want to come together as a team and do it together. And I think that’s what it’s all about here.”