They are the most talked about players in Swedish hockey at the moment, Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Together with another 19-yearold, Mattias Weinhandl (a 3rd round, 78th overall pick by the Islanders in the ’99 draft), they have formed the very succesful ”Line 19”. So far this season they have combined for a total of 54 points in 19 games in the Swedish Elite League. Daniel has 8 goals and 11 assist for 19 points and a +/- of +21, Henrik has 6-11–17, +18 and Weinhandl 10-8–18, +17. But the end of this season will mean the end of this succesful line for now. Next season two thirds of this line will be heading west, to Vancouver. Leaving buddy Weinhandl at home means the twins will be needing a new linemate. Because they will be playing together, otherwise all the pre-draft trades from GM Brian Burke would have been worth nothing.
Up until today they have been dominating the Swedish Elite League but they will not be able to dominate the game nearly as much next season. Not only because they will be rookies in the toughest league of them all, but also because the game in the NHL is so much different from the game in the Swedish Elite League. This brings out the question who Vancouver should play along side them. Should they try to convert ”Line 19” into ”Line 20” playing the Sedins with another young guy or should they let them play with a veteran? Should they play with a power-forward or a defensive-first forward?
When I look at the current Canucks roster I see two players that may have the right qualities to play with the twins: Markus Näslund and Todd Bertuzzi.
Markus Näslund: Not only is he from the same country as the twins, but he is also from the same town, Örnsköldsvik. But that is not the main reason why he should play with them. By the time the twins comes to Vancouver, Näslund will have completed seven NHL-seasons giving him the experience required. He knows what it is like to come to North America as a first rounder, since he was picked 16th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the ’91 draft. The Canucks will hope for the twins to have a more immediate impact than Näslund had in his rookie-year, collecting only eleven points, and he can ”take care of” the twins and share his experiences on and off ice to do what he can to make sure they will. Playing Näslund with the twins would mean that Henrik has to take the defensive responsibility. He is more defensiv skilled than his brother, but is his skills good enough for taking such a responsibility on a first- or second-line in his rookie-year? I would say yes. I doubt he will ever be a contender for the Frank J. Selke-trophy, but in my opinion he is good enough for the job.
Todd Bertuzzi: A center who should be able to play right wing as well. He can provide with something that Näslund lacks, size. He is 6-3, 225 Ibs and the twins might benefit from playing with a strong, tough guy like Bertuzzi. Their linemate in the ”Line 19”, Mattias Weinhandl, is a small guy (6-0, 183 Ibs) compared to Bertuzzi and playing with him has worked well for the twins, but the game in NHL is so much different from the game in Sweden that it might be good for them to play with a bigger guy. As well as the twins and Näslund, Bertuzzi is a first round draft pick and knows about the difficulties that comes with that. On the downside Bertuzzi has yet to prove that he is the player that many expected him to be. His best season came as a rookie while with the Islanders, when he got 18 goals and 21 assists. Some expected him to have a breakout-season last season after scoring fifteen points in 22 games after being traded from the Islanders in the 1997-98 season, but he got much of the season spoiled with injuries and played only 32 games, managing 16 points.
But next season is still about ten months away and a lot can happen until then. Some players will leave Vancouver and others will come. I will now look at some other possibilities other than those within the franchise.
Playing with a power forward: Although neither of the twins are small (Daniel is 6-1, 194 Ibs and Henrik is 6-2, 196 Ibs) they may, as I previously mentioned, benefit from playing with a bigger guy. In the NHL they will need to play a more straight-at-the-goal game than they do in the Swedish Elite League and if they do not add 10-15 pounds of muscles each and start playing that game themself, they will need someone else to do it for them. One player that could do this is Bill Guerin (6-2, 210 Ibs). He is not as big as Bertuzzi, but unlike him he has proven he is one of the best power forwards in the game. After being limited in his pointscoring while with the Devils, he scored a career high 64 points last season for the Oilers, getting a total of 133 penalty minutes. The fact that he shoots right makes him even more interesting playing on a line with the twins and he could get 40 goals along side them. The question is however, what the Canucks would have to give up to get Guerin.
A player who probably would be less difficult to trade for is Mikael Renberg. He has had his share of problems and has not been able to reach the numbers he had in his first seasons. During his first three seasons he got 182 points in 181 games, but in the last three seasons he has managed only 135 points in 211 games. Maybe he could put up these numbers again if he came to a new club (just look at Jonas Höglund). That was not the case when he was traded to Tampa though, but then he came to the club that would finish the season with 19 points less than the second worst team, and was reportedly very disappointed at being traded. It would probably not be as big a disappointment being traded to the Canucks. With the Flyers ”Rennie” has played together with John LeClair and Eric Lindros forming ”The Legion of Doom” and can perhaps be part of a new succesful line if the Canucks would acquire him.
Playing with a two-way forward: If Henrik would prove not to be able to take care of the defensive game in a satisfactionary way, the Canucks might want to consider acquiring a good two-way forward, and who would be better than Jere Lehtinen? Twice a Selke-trophy winner (1998 & 1999) and considered by many as the best two-way forward in the NHL. He has done a tremendeous job on the Stars topline giving his linemates Mike Modano and Brett Hull the opportunity of concentrating on their offensive game. If the Sedins could get a player like Lehtinen on their side they will not have to worry to much about the defensive game and instead show their skills in the offensive zone. However, what they gain defensively by playing with Lehtinen, they lose offensively. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the Stars would let go of Lehtinen.
Playing with a 50-goalscorer: Even though Daniel is a good scorer, it could be an option to play a 50-goalscorer at the right wing position. Näslund is a good goalscorer, but 50 may be to ask too much out of him. A player who has had two 50-goalseasons in his career is Peter Bondra. Both in 1996 and 1998 he finished the season with 52 goals and has scored 326 goals in 627 NHL-games (0,52 goals/game). He is one of the fastest (if not the fastest) skaters in the league and a terrific goalscorer and a line with Sedin-Sedin-Bondra would most certainly become a lethal combination and very fun to watch. A reason to hesitate in acquiring him is the fact that he, just as many other Capital-players, has been troubled by injuries in his NHL-career and he has only once (1992-93) played more than 80 games in one season.
We will get a first hint about who will play along side them when the Canucks take on the twins current club, MoDo, in their first preseason-game in Stockholm, September 13, in the NHL Challenge-Stockholm 2000 tournament. Until then all we can do is guess. My guess is Markus Näslund. What is yours?