After a strong season in the Swedish SHL, Markus Ljungh decided that he was ready for a new challenge. Of course, he’s already preparing for the upcoming 2019-20 season. “I’m getting ready for the new season at home, in Vasteras,” Ljungh explains. “I’m practicing and spending some time with my family and friends. After a successful season with HV71, I decided that it was the right time for me to move to the KHL. Admiral was very interested in me, and I really want to see how the KHL works.”
Going to Vladivostok must be a tough start for a player who never played abroad. “It’s surely very far,” the forward admits. “I guess it will take me some fifteen hours to get to Vladivostok. It’s going to be a real adventure for my family and me.”
However, the Swedish forward is already familiar with the KHL as, while playing with Djurgardens, he played alongside with Niclas Bergfors. His fellow countrymate lined up for four KHL sides between 2011 and 2016. “I played with Bergfors, who played for Admiral in the past,” the center says. “He told me many good things about the city and the team. He loved it in Vladivostok. This new challenge is going to be an exciting experience for me. The KHL is a great league, there are a lot of excellent players. You just need to see how many players move there to the NHL or get to North America after playing in that league. Everything is at the highest level, and there are excellent players and excellent teams.”
Ljungh was a leader at home, as he wore the A in his latest four seasons with Djurgardens and HV71. In Vladivostok, he will have to showcase himself from scratch, but the center isn’t afraid of it. “I see that I’m playing better with each year. I want to show that I am a hard worker, a player who can both contribute to the defense and create scoring chances forward. The most important thing is that the team will win.”
Hockey is a big family, and Ljungh already knows some of his future teammates and opponents. “Among Admiral players, I just talked with Shawn Lalonde. I’m happy that we’ll have other international players in the roster. I’m happy for Jussi Olkinuora, who just won the IIHF World Championship, as Mikko Lehtonen, who recently joined Jokerit, with whom I played last year.”
Last year, a total of 24 players representing Sweden played in the League, with some of them being among the KHL top players, like Salavat Yulaev’s Linus Omark or Barys’ André Petersson, who topped all the Tre Kronor players in the League with 26 goals. “I know Dennis Rasmussen from Metallurg for a long time,” Ljungh explains. “We are both from Vasteras. In Djurgarden, I played with Ak Bars’ new goalie Adam Reideborn. There are many Swedes in the KHL, and they are always good.”
Last year, Ljungh won the SHL’s Rinkens Riddare award, given to the gentleman of the year. “It was delightful,” says the center, who amassed only 8 PIMs in the whole regular season. “This award is given by the leagues and journalists who follow you on the ice and watch how you interact with the refs, how many PIMs you get. It looks like they liked my attitude.”
Admiral’s new center never represented Sweden at the big international tournaments. Now that he moved to the KHL, he may have more chances. “Of course, moving to the KHL is a step forward in my career,” the center says. “I hope that I’ll progress here. In the past, I played eight games with the national team, but it was so many years ago, I really want to dress the Swedish uniform again.”
Ljungh is excited about the move, and he will be joined by his family. “They can’t really wait to move,” he says. “My wife is waiting for the new adventure as she wants to have a look at this part of the world. However, I’m not sure our kids are already fully understanding what they have in their next future. They will join us at the start of the season.”
In Vladivostok, Ljungh was presented to the fans portrayed as one of the heroes of the popular series Game of Thrones. “It was fun,” the center laughs. “And what is even funnier is that the continent Westeros has a similar name to my hometown. I’m not even sure where they found it out.”
Since its inception in the League, Admiral plays on a North American-sized rink. More and more teams are now getting a narrow surface to play on. “This will be another challenge for me,” Ljungh explains. “It will be interesting to see how it is to play on a North American, Finnish, and classic European rink. Every day a new city and a new rink.”
After the best season in his career, Ljungh isn’t setting the bar any lower for himself. His goals for the next year are clear: “I want to understand if I’m able to play at such a high level, become a key player in the team, and help Admiral to win and reach new heights.”
Markus Ljungh, born on January 11, 1991, in Vasteras, Sweden.
Playing career: 2009-2012, Vasteras, Sweden; 2012-2018, Djurgarden, Sweden; 2018-2019, HV71, Sweden; 2019-today, Admiral.
Achievements: Gentleman of the Year, SHL, 2019.
Main photo: Instagram @markusljungh