The majority of Jonas Rondbjerg’s shifts during the Anaheim Rookie Faceoff featured the Golden Knights prospect working hard on the forecheck or taking care of his defensive-zone responsibility.
His reward for all that inconspicuous work nearly came during the third period Tuesday.
Rondbjerg had a partial breakaway with less than four minutes remaining and the Knights trailing by two goals, but he absorbed a whack from an Anaheim defender and couldn’t convert.
“I wanted to move it over to my backhand to go five-hole, but he got me good there on the backcheck,” Rondbjerg said. “But we scored afterwards, so it doesn’t matter.”
A third-round pick in 2017, Rondbjerg has displayed a mature, 200-foot game despite his inexperience. The next step for the native of Horsholm, Denmark, is to add more scoring touch to his tool box.
“I want to be more productive this year than I was last year,” Rondbjerg said. “I had good chances last year, but the puck just wouldn’t go in for me and the points (weren’t) rolling in. But I want to get that going again.”
Rondbjerg showed his playmaking talents in the Swedish junior league in 2016-17 prior to the Knights taking him with the 65th overall pick.
The following season, he posted 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 35 games for Vaxjo Lakers in the professional Swedish Hockey League and had seven points in six games for Denmark at the world junior championship.
But the 6-foot, 176-pound Rondbjerg wasn’t able to build on that and managed 2-4-6 in 45 games for Vaxjo last season.
“He makes good, smart plays with the puck. I think he reads the game well,” said Chicago Wolves coach Rocky Thompson, who led the Knights rookies at the tournament. “They’re good habits that he already has, and now we want to encourage how he can take advantage of that and translate it into offense.”
Rondbjerg did not participate in the Knights’ rookie camp last year and has limited experience on NHL-sized rinks. The games in Southern California provided an opportunity to acclimate to the smaller ice surface.
“For me and Jonas, especially, we’ve been over there with a wide rink and all that,” Swedish winger Lucas Elvenes said. “I think we’re getting used to it more. We talk about it, what we can do, see what the other guys do who are used to it.”
Rondbjerg was credited with two shots on goal in the 5-3 loss to Anaheim, which dropped the Knights to 0-3 for the tournament.
Rondbjerg joined center Jake Leschyshyn and camp invite Pavel Gogolev on the second line against the Ducks after he skated with center Cody Glass on the top line in the first two games.
He did not record a point in three games and registered five shots on goal.
“It got better and better. I had to get into it again,” Rondbjerg said. “The first game was a little hard and the second and third game got a little better. I’m looking forward to get to play some more hockey.”
Rondbjerg signed a three-year, entry-level contract in May, and the 20-year-old will play this season for the Knights’ American Hockey League affiliate in Chicago.
Thompson said he is still trying to get a feel for Rondbjerg’s strengths and limitations, making it difficult to project where he will fit in the Wolves’ lineup.
“We’re going to have six rookies up front,” Thompson said. “Offensively, I don’t know if he’s had the same opportunity that Lucas (Elvenes) has had (in Sweden), and his point totals kind of reflect that. But definitely, we need our young players coming in, players like Rondbjerg, Jake Leschyshyn, we’re going to need them to produce, where we were a little top heavy last year.”