The Beast from Swedish East
Growing up on the East coast of Sweden, Joakim loved hockey since before he could walk and was always wanting to play with his older brothers
Being the youngest of the boys, he was constantly volunteered to be the goalie, but he didn't mind this one bit and grew to adore the position. Slowly, over time he was able to hone his skills against older, faster, stronger competition until he was ready to strap on skates and bulkier equipment and retrain his reflexes to adapt to this new reality.
It took some time to get going, but Joakim was able to work his way up the community league.
Starting on the bottom team where ice time sharing was the focus he was able to learn and excel, shortly making the jump to a competitive team, and kept improving and developing into a stellar goaltender, and soon the local junior team was sniffing around him. Over the time span of 4 years, Joakim went from being unable to skate at 8, to being on the radar of every Swedish Elite Jr. team at 12. Normally exceptional players were recruited at 13 or 14 to start playing at 15 because the competition's age was anything under 20, there was a massive advantage to being older and a bit more physically developed.
With the need for a strong future goalie a few teams reached out to the Bruden family and after lots of discussion and debate, the result was everyone agreed on Joakim joining a near by (relatively) team in Gothenberg where his youngest (aside from him) brother was also in the system. Joakim was going to be joining the team in a split backup capacity where he was set to learn from the 19 year old starting goalie for a season before competing for the starter role the following season with the other backup who was going to be 17 going into the season.
Gothenberg also allowed Joakim a temporary release to hone his skills with one of the more local teams in an on week-off week split, so in addition to splitting backup time he was also going to be able to get an additional game per week worth of ice time, which was going to be very crucial as a younger developing goalie.
The first season at Gothenberg was definitely tough on Joakim. He was playing and practicing with great opposition and some of these guys were even going to be able to make it to the VHL some day! He was also away from home which was difficult to deal with as a 13 year old. He ended up getting shelled in the Jr. league games, usually allowing 4-6 goals against, but the higher level of competition was paying dividends on his loan games, where he was turning into an impenetrable fortress.
At 14 Joakim was starting to be known as "The Fortress". He hit his growth spurt and was improving at a great pace. He did have to deal with constantly relearning his positioning due to his rapid size increase, and part due to that, and part due to his age he was not able to steal away the starting goalie position, and was relegated to playing roughly 1 out of every 3 games. At the end of the season with Gothenberg, Joakim had posted a winning record and was regarded as the best backup in the league and he was still younger than most of the prospect goalies across the league.
Gothenberg rewarded Joakim and put their faith in him during the off season by trading away their at the time starter (who still had another full season of eligibility for for another teams older backup, and a prospect forward. This was the full green light for Joakim, by making this trade Gothenberg were declaring him the starter for the next season and past.
The Gamble paid off for Gothenberg and with Joakim's first full season as a starter they clinched 2nd place in the league standings after the regular season, and they now had a monster 6 foot 4 inch 15 year old goalie. They went on to lose in the semi finals of the playoffs that year and were looking to build off their success the following year.
Gothenberg was on top of the league. They physically dominated most opponents and had a very strong roster. They were given an ultimatum at the trade deadline for the season, where they were offered a massive haul for Joakim in return. They pulled the trigger and traded away the league's top goaltender who was almost 16 (a full 3 more seasons of eligibility) for a 19 year old line 1 center, 2 18 year old top 6 wingers, a 14 year old goalie prospect, a 18 year old starting goalie (numbers put him at #4 in the league for save percentage), and 2 16 year old defense-men that had very strong potentials, but would slot on the 4th pairing at the time of the trade. Gothenberg was stacked for serious championships for the next 2 years for sure, and Joakim was off to see a lot more shots against.
In a bit of a story book moment, Joakim was able to propel his new team into the 8th and final playoff seed where they would match up against a familiar opponent in Gothenberg in a round 1 series of 5 games. Gothenberg won the first 2 games in very tight 3-2 and 4-3 games, but heading up north for the next 2 games they were unable to penetrate the fortress at all, losing 3-0 and 2-0. The series was tied 2-2 and going back to Gothenberg for the final match.
Gothenberg came shot out of a cannon. After the first the shots were 24-3 in their favor, but the score was 0-0. The second saw a crawl back a little bit, with the period shots a more reasonable 18-10. 8 seconds into the third Joakim's team got the bounce they needed there a dump in sprung out front of the net and they were able to pop a quick goal. 0-1 Gothenberg was down. It took most of the rest of that period, the northern team would only manage 1 more shot in that period and on the midst of a 2 man power-play Gothenberg got the goal they needed to even the score with just over 3 minutes left.
Overtime came and not much changed. Joakim's team was out-shot 17-3, but they were holding the shots outside and they were fairly easy to handle. Still the pure quantity was starting to take a toll.
The dagger came at 13:10 of the second overtime the 11th shot that Joakim faced slipped past his blocker, past his stick and off the inside corner of the post. The 85th shot he faced that night would end up being the last shot he faced in the Swedish Jr. league.
The Crowd erupted, the teams lined up, shook hands and wished each other well. Gothenberg would go on to sweep the other 2 series en route to the cup.
The idea of moving to the VHLM cropped up in Joakim's mind the off-season prior, but he pushed aside those thoughts after Gothenberg made the move to make him the #1. Now he was facing a multi year rebuild with his new team, and even though they paid a high price for him they weren't able to offer much reason to stay. It wasn't an easy decision to make, but about a week after being eliminated from the playoffs, Joakim declared for the VHLM (their trade deadline had just passed, so he was going to be drafted the following season) and immediately received a phone call in the early hours of the morning with an offer...