John Ludvig believes the delayed start to American Hockey League season helped him.
It was hard for Ludvig, drafted by the Florida Panthers 69th overall in 2019, to not play in competitive games for nearly a year, but he used that time to work on his strength, as well as his offensive skills, including shooting. Ludvig, who played for his hometown Kamloops Storm as a 16-year-old, built his confidence heading into this season based on work he put in from home.
The work has paid off as he’s had a strong start to his professional career with the Syracuse Crunch. Ludvig has noticed that plays happen faster compared to the WHL, but he’s enjoying it. His offensive totals increased each year with the Portland Winterhawks, including his final season with 17 goals and 62 points in 60 games. Ludvig leads all Crunch defencemen in scoring with two goals and eight points in 13 games. Two of his goals are game-winners.
He has always been more of a defensive, physical in-your-face player. His staple is being hard to play against in his end. He is making a point of showing that side to earn respect and seeing the offensive improvement, has given him more confidence with the work he put in. The game is coming to him a bit easier now.
“It’s an exciting opportunity coming into a new league. I wanted it to be known that I’m going to play everyone hard, doesn’t matter who it is,” he says. “When you are on the ice with me, just always have your head up and be ready because I’m going to battle you hard.”
As he works on his game in the AHL, he takes everything as a learning lesson. Part of that comes from training with teammates such as Brady Keeper and Chase Priskie. They have been good for Ludvig to lean on and give him teaching points. They pull Ludvig aside when they see something they know he can be doing better, whether it is jumping up in a play or being in a spot, getting open for a pass. They are not afraid to let him know when he needs to do something.
“I’m happy with that. I like hearing what they have to say,” says Ludvig.
Being a step closer to playing in the NHL is exciting for the six-foot-one, 201-pound defenceman. Reaching the NHL is the end goal.
“I’m a person that enjoys the process that goes along with the game. That’s not always easy, but knowing that I am that one step closer, and working hard every day, it’s a good feeling,” he says.
And that journey began in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
A back injury limited Ludvig to 17 games with the Storm, but the Liberec, Czech Republic native says his time with the Storm and in the league was awesome. He credits Ed Patterson, the Storm coach at the time, with helping his career. Because of the injuries he struggled with, Ludvig was unsure about his future, but Patterson helped and pushed him to get better every day.
Ludvig says he’s always been a late developer. He had an option to go the major midget route, but chose to join the Storm following a season with the Thompson Blazers.
“I think jumping in guys were a lot bigger and stronger at that age than I was used to so it was nice to get some of that experience,” he says. “I think it translated well going into the WHL after that. It was a good stepping stone to get to that league. The guys are similar in size there and it helped out, playing against bigger guys. When I played there, but once again, you take the next step, and everything happens a little faster. Guys are more skilled and playing in the KIJHL was a good experience.
“The KIJHL – it’s a good league and a lot of guys don’t choose that option when they have it,” he continues. “I’m thankful for my time there. I think it helped me a lot in my development to get me to where I am today.”