Miami University first-year defenseman and Stockholm, Sweden, native Axel Kumlin chose to play at Miami over other prominent hockey schools and professional hockey teams in Sweden.
Kumlin started playing around the age of four when his dad brought him to a local rink in northern Stockholm to play with some friends. He played for multiple youth clubs in the Stockholm area before a Gothenburg high school recruited him to play. Then, at 15 years old, Kumlin lived by himself in a Gothenburg apartment while playing for his high school and practicing his game.
When the time came for Kumlin to move on to a higher level of hockey, he faced a dilemma of whether to stay in Sweden to play professionally or to come to the U.S. and play.
“I had a shoulder surgery, and I was in between, ‘Do I want to play pro in Sweden or do I want to come over here and try to play here or what do I want to do?’” Kumlin said.
Eventually, his advisor helped him to find a home in Dubuque, Iowa, to play for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League (USHL).
“My advisor in Sweden had a good connection with the general manager in Dubuque because he is from Sweden too,” the 6-foot, 195-pound defenseman said.
Dubuque plays in the highest tier of junior hockey in the United States. Countless USHL players go on to play hockey for NCAA Division 1 teams, and many end up playing in the NHL.
In his 58-game campaign with the Fighting Saints in 2021-2022, Kumlin tallied five goals and seven assists, all while amassing a plus/minus of +24.
One of Kumlin’s Swedish teammates on the RedHawks, William Hallén, played with him for Dubuque and in Sweden before coming to Miami.
Due to the USHL’s reputation as a top league, many college teams come out to games and scout potential players, which is how Kumlin got in contact with Miami.
The Swedish defenseman received offers from other prominent hockey schools in the Big Ten, Hockey East and even the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. He even debated going back to Sweden, but ultimately decided on playing college hockey in the U.S.
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“The college option is only going to be there once, and if I don’t take it, it's gonna be gone forever,” Kumlin said.
Even with the multitude of offers Kumlin received, he chose Miami. The amount of playing time he would be receiving here played a huge role in his decision to play for the RedHawks. Kumlin played 32 games for Miami this season, a mark matched by only one other first-year on the team.
“I talked to the coaches, Coach Bergeron and Coach Schutte, and they both wanted me to play a lot as a freshman.” Kumlin said. “It's not that common as a freshman in the NCHC to play those types of minutes … It was too good of an offer to turn down.”
Furthermore, Kumlin loved the campus and knew that if his Swedish teammates liked it, he probably would too.
“I knew two Swedish guys on the team, Hampus [Rydqvist] and Ludvig [Persson], and they said they love this place.” Kumlin said. “We come from the same culture, so if they like it, I'm probably gonna like it too.”
He spoke highly of the Goggin Ice Center facilities, which contributed to his decision to play for the RedHawks.
“[The arena is the] perfect amount [size] for a college school.” Kumlin said. “The locker room and lounge area are top 10 in the country.”
Kumlin said that the team plays in lots of big arenas around the NCHC that are mostly empty, even though lots of fans are there. Because Goggin is smaller, the arena feels more packed and creates a fun environment to play in.
The Swedish blue-liner aspires to eventually play pro, but for now he’s taking things year by year.
“I’m just trying to play as best as I can every game and not look too far ahead,” Kumlin said.
Kumlin put up three goals and eight assists in his first season with the RedHawks.