Hugo Esselin committed to Merrimack this past spring after a breakout season with Djurgårdens IF J20 in Sweden.
In 40 games for the J20 team this season, Esselin had 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists). In his previous two seasons playing for Djurgårdens IF J18 season, Esselin appeared in 66 games and had 52 points (18 goals, 34 assists).
Esselin was part of Djurgårdens IF teams that won a gold medal in 2018 and a bronze medal in 2019; Esselin was an assistant captain on his team that won the Under-18 championship.
Name: Hugo Esselin
DOB (Age): 7/15/00 (19 years)
Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden
Last Team: Djurgårdens IF J20 (SuperElit)
Major: Business Administration
TMR: Coming from Sweden, what made Merrimack the place you wanted to play college hockey?
Esselin: “For me, it was Coach Borek and the way he was all about Misson Merrimack. He talked a lot about wanting to build this team into a championship team and win the first championship for the school. Bringing in a big freshman class is part of the rebuild.”
TMR: How would you describe your style?
Esselin: “As a forward, I like to bring my size and open up space for my teammates, which makes it easier for them to play. Faceoffs are a big part of my game and I think I can play on the power play and on the penalty kill.”
TMR: Was college hockey always something you wanted to pursue? I know your team last year had a couple of guys go to college, and others went pro in Sweden.
Esselin: “It’s still kind of rare (to go to college hockey). Not many players go over the pond to play, but it is becoming bigger. It’s still not the path that most guys take, but everyone is different.
“I had family who had been foreign exchange students (in the U.S.) and they said it was the best thing they ever did, so that always made me want to try to go to school in the U.S. In Sweden, if you are going to go to college, it’s really hard to play hockey and study in college. You usually have to choose.
“So for me, I wanted to come to college hockey and it’s better for my development. Maybe in the future, I can go back and play pro in Sweden, hopefully.”
TMR: Did you know anyone who went the college route? There have been a few Swedish players who have come through Merrimack.
Esselin: “I didn’t know him personally, but there was a player from my team who came here and went to Harvard for four years. I’ve read about him and I don’t think he is playing anymore, because he hurt his knee, but he has a good job and he talked about college hockey very positively.”
TMR: Do you feel like it’s growing there? I know there are groups that go over to Sweden and Finland a lot, trying to educate players about U.S. college hockey. Do you think, from a player your age and the players you grew up with, is it becoming more of an option players are thinking about?
Esselin: “It depends. They have quite high academic standards in Sweden and it requires so much time that you usually cannot play hockey and attend college. But there are a lot of players who have good grades who could attend college in the U.S. and still play hockey, and it’s very good hockey here. It’s more and more players will have an interest from Sweden.”