Goalie Joren Van Pottelberghe, a Red Wings prospect, thinks North American game suits him

The Red Wings took goalie Joren Van Pottelberghe in the fourth round of the 2014 draft.
(Courtesy of Detroit Red Wings)

Goaltender Joren Van Pottelberghe has spent his virtually entire life playing hockey in Europe but the Detroit Red Wings prospect thinks he might be best suited for the North American game.

The ice surface in North American is smaller than what they use in Europe and Van Pottelberghe enjoyed the change when he took part in the Red Wings development camp this summer in Traverse City.

"Actually, I prefer the smaller rink," he said. "In my opinion, it's easy to have a view over the game because it's all together. I prefer to play on the smaller rink.

"The rink is smaller here but the practices are the same. The off-ice practices, we do different stuff. That's the difference, I would say."

The Red Wings selected Van Pottelberghe in the fourth round (110th overall) of this year's draft. Although he was born in Switzerland and still resides there, he's spent the last six years playing in Sweden and will be back there again this season.

Why Sweden?

"That's a long story actually," he said. "But the short version is I should work in Switzerland and I didn't want to do that. So, we started to look at where else I could play.

"Canada was a little bit too far and then we looked in Sweden and I think I found the perfect club there in Linkoping. It's amazing."

In 11 games for Linkoping's U18 Elit league team last season, Van Pottelberghe had a 1.89 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. He also played 15 games for Linkoping in the U18 Allsveskan league, posting a 1.25 GAA and .949 save percentage.

"I've played there two years now and it's been great," said Van Pottelberghe, who turned 18 in June. "I've developed so much. I think I've improved on every part of my game. Also I have to do everything by myself. I learned to take care of myself and it's been great."

Although Van Pottelberghe was born in Switzerland, his parents are actually from Belgium. They moved to Switzerland more than 20 years ago so they could work there as physical therapists. His father, Dirk, operates his own clinic.

As a result, Van Pottelberghe speaks four languages - English, German, Flemish and a bit of Swedish.

"Flemish because my parents are from Belgium," he said. "In Switzerland, you talk German. In the south of Switzerland you talk French and Italian. There are quite a few different languages spoken in our country."

Van Pottelberghe has represented Swizterland on the international stage the last three years, playing for the country's U16 and U17 teams before suiting up for the U18 team in last year's World Junior Championship.

He had a 3.39 GAA and .881 save percentage in seven World Junior game last season. Making the jump to the U20 team for this year's World Juniors is on his radar.

"That is a big goal for me this season, definitely," he said. "It's always nice to represent your country. It's a big opportunity and I want to take part in it this year.

"It's really good because you play against the best of the nations. You play amazing teams. You play U.S. You play Canada. You play Finland. You play Russia."

The 6-foot-2, 187-pound Van Pottelberghe grew up watching retired Swiss goalie Lars Weibel - who is from his hometown of Lachen - but now is a fan of Montreal's Carey Price and the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist.

Although he doesn't play like either one, he enjoys the passion they bring to the ice.

"I would say I'm a butterfly goalie," Van Pottelberghe said. "I like to be quick on the pads and I have a good reaction with my hands and my coordination and I think I play well with the stick. I think I have good size for a goalie so that's good."

Van Pottelberghe is also familiar with Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard and given the number of Red Wings who have hailed from Europe - especially Sweden - he knows all about the tradition of the team that drafted him.

"I was so happy," said Van Pottelberghe, who was fifth among European goalies in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings last season. "I was jumping all around the apartment. I was back home in Switzerland with my parents. I was so excited.

"It's a huge opportunity for me. It's an amazing club to have so big of a history here. Pretty much everyone knows the Red Wings. It's an Original Six team. It's a big history. It's a big team."

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