BREMERTON — Social media has brought the world to a persons fingertips and in the world of sports it now brings athletes to coaches.
It was through Instagram that West Sound Admirals coach and general manager Dave Daniello contacted Oliwer Stensson via Instagram.
“I think I followed WSHL (on social media) and Dave asked if I was interested to come play here,” Stensson said.
“Facebook, Instagram, all that, a lot of coaches use that,” Daniello said. “It’s the easiest way to contact these guys that are overseas.”
Coaches can look on the internet to find information, videos, and read their social media posts and see what type of player they need, Daniello said.
“We get to talk to them (through social media) we don’t have to do it through somebody else,” he said.
Stensson and the first-year Admirals will return to the ice on Jan. 11 at Bellingham after a mid-season break in the Western States Hockey League schedule. West Sound will play its first game of the new year at the Bremerton Ice Center at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12.
Stensson said the initial contact from Daniello was positive on both ends as he was looking to make a change after not advancing into the Swedish super leagues like he had hoped.
“My cousin played in this league two years ago, 2015-16, and said it’s a good experience to play here,” Stensson said. “And he had some friends who played the year before him and said it was nice to play they liked the type of hockey here in this league.”
Daniello said what drew his attention to Stensson was his size “he’s a big mass, a big body. It should be hard to get around him to get the puck. But he is learning.”
Daniello quickly learned he had a gem in the making.
“I think he could be an absolute dominant force in this league,” he said.
That type of hockey is the notorious tougher and more physical North American brand of hockey. European hockey, known for more finesse due to the larger size of the rinks. While that style generates players who are great skaters and puck-handlers, the physicalness of checking and grinding out a play behind the net and in the corners takes some getting used to for the Europeans — even in the junior ranks.
One of the biggest adjustments Stensson had to make was getting used to the smaller rinks in the U.S. European rinks are Olympic sized, which allows players to have more time to move the puck around.
“When you get a puck you always need to do something with the puck but in Sweden you have so much time and space and move around and don’t do anything,” he said.
“In Sweden with the bigger ice you see him do the little stick moves to try and get through a guy and it doesn’t work all the time,” Daniello said. “When it works it’s beautiful. But that’s what I’m trying to get him to do. I want him to play a little bit more simple. A little bit more hard-nosed. … He’s so big he’s going to beat the guy anyway. He should work the corners and work the wall like nobody. Nobody should be able to get the puck from him. So I’m trying to get him to do that.”
Stensson was supported by his family from the start, and the move to the United States to pursue hockey was well received.
“My dad wanted me to come too because he said it would be a fun experience,” Stensson said, adding playing another level of hockey would allow him to develop his hockey IQ.
So was dad’s advice good?
“Yeah, it was actually true,” Stensson said. “Thanks, Dad.”
Stensson has been a playmaker from day one for the Admirals. The Swedish product is tied for second on the team in points with 31 (11 goals, 20 assists) through 26 games. If Stensson worked on the simple things Daniello said his offensive production would increase dramatically.
“Just because he’s talented,” Daniello added. “It’s impressive. I wish I had 10 more guys like him.”
Stensson spent two seasons, 2014-16 playing in the U16 Division 1 in Sweden, notching 24 points on 15 goals and nine assists in 31 games. He moved up the ranks playing for the Junior 18 Division I and Junior 20 Elite divisions, making the playoffs in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Before coming to West Sound, Stensson played for the J20 Division I team Nyköpings HF, notching 26 points on 17 goals and nine assists. In six playoff games, Stensson scored two goals and had four assists.
While still among the top three among points and goal-scorers for the Admirals, Stensson likes that he can share the point-scoring load with his teammates. Stensson’s linemates, Cory Kane and Caleb Travis, have been a productive trio for the Admirals (6-19-2, 22 points Northwest Division). Alec Johnson leads the team with 33 points (22 assists, 11 goals) followed by Harmen Vining (31 points, eight goals, 23 assists) and Stensson.
“I used to do all the goals but here I’m maybe the guy who passes the puck more,” Stensson said. “They’re better shooters here. Now I have Cory Kane (score) a lot of goals now. It’s nice to pass to and maybe score.”
Stensson lives with fellow Swede Alex Olsson, Finland’s Julius Airikainen, Adam Rousselo, and Brandon Dunn. They’ve taken in the sights, including Poulsbo which Stensson particularly enjoyed.
“I like the environment and everything around me is nice,” he said. “Poulsbo has a Swedish shop that we’ve been too twice. The cookies and candies are from Sweden. It’s hard to get here in the U.S.”
And yes, that site-seeing included a trip to Ikea in Seattle.
“We went to Ikea the first day and had a Swedish meal,” Stensson said. “Meatballs.”
Social media brought Stensson to Kitsap and it also keeps him in touch with his family, especially his dad Rickard. Stensson said he can only reach his family via social media messaging and it’s tough.
“It’s hard,” he said. “I used to have him always at my side.”
Stensson hopes the time away from his family will pay off in the chance to play in college or at a higher level. But until then, he’s happy with his decision to play for the Admirals and said the second-half of the season will be better for West Sound.
“We can do it with injured players too,” he said. “We proved it before.”