MODO defenseman Oscar Hedman is among the most interesting Swedish players eligible for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He has had an outstanding season not only playing well in the junior league and with the Swedish U18-team, but also performed very convincingly playing against men in the Swedish Elite League. Elite Prospects had the opportunity to ask Hedman about his first SEL season, the draft and about his future career.
|HEIGHT:||183 cm / 6’0″|
|WEIGHT:||94 kg / 207 lbs|
|MODO J18||J18 Allsvenskan||11||0||4||4||8|
|MODO J18||J18 Allsvenskan||14||4||5||9||8|
|MODO J18||J18 Allsvenskan||3||3||1||4||2|
|Team Sweden U18||WJC-18||6||3||1||4||0|
EP: You have just come off an excellent season, but what were your expectations before this season?
OH: It was my first real season in the U20-league, so my goal was to play there as much as possible. We had a pretty young team and I had to take a big responsibility despite being new on the team which I think was good for me. When it comes to playing with the seniors I had no hopes at all. Perhaps to practice some, but not to play games already this season.
EP: How has it been combining school with hockey?
OH: It has been good for me. I just finished my second year at the gymnasium and despite my high rate of absence, due to hockey, I passed all classes and will not have to study during summer. But, obviously I had to work harder when I was actually able to attend the classes. Now I have only one year left hopefully and then I’ll be able to fully concentrate on hockey, but then again, it is good to have something else to think about from time to time.
EP: You are a very complete defenseman, but if you still would point out some of your weaknesses and strengths what would they be?
OH: I try to use my hockey sense to succeed out on the ice. I am not really an excellent skater so I try to read the game better. I think I need to improve my shot, mostly the degree of hardness and me being able to release it quicker.
EP: As a defenseman, it is necessary to properly read and react to opposing forwards in order to be successful. Because of that, do you do a lot of studying of opposing forwards before games?
OH: Hmm, not really. Not so much that I look at video tapes prior to a game, but in the junior league for example, you know many of the opposing forwards and some of the things they might do.
EP: You have participated in the so called “russinlägrena” (raisin camps – prospect camps for the most talented juniors during offseason). How do you like them and what have you been working with the most there?
OH: It’s a good thing; you get to practise on the small details. For example you get to see yourself skate and shoot the puck on video and that is very valuable as you get to see what errors you are making. The thing I work the most with is my shot.
EP: After a very strong fall/winter in the junior league you were called up to the SEL and got to make your debut in the league. Did you think things would go this fast?
OH: No, I didn’t. As I said I hoped to get to practice with the team when some regular players were unable to, but to make my SEL debut already this season I couldn’t have imagined.
EP: In the SEL you were paired with Kari Haakana, how was the chemistry between you and Haakana?
OH: It worked really well I think. He was easy to play with, assisted me a lot by talking to me out on the ice and on the bench. It was unfortunate that he got hurt when we were playing as well as we were.
EP: This past season you played hockey in the SEL, SuperElit (U20-league) and some games with J18 (U18-league). If you look back, which transition was most difficult: to be a rookie in the junior league or to eased into regular SEL duty?
OH: Tough question, but I think the step up to the SEL was the biggest seeing as the intensity level was so much greater. At the same time I got to play with very good players in the SEL so that made things easier.
EP: Your team, MODO, won the junior championships. What do you think were the major factors behind the team’s success and which players would you like to praise?
OH: What really made a difference was the fact that we were really a team, a really good group of friends that had fun out on the ice. Our team moral was super which was further illustrated by us being able to win the third and final game on the road, against both Frölunda and Malmö, having lost game 2 just the day before. Then it should be mentioned that we had a very deep team and everyone had to work really hard for their roster spot.
As for player performances I could start by mentioning goalie Robert Öhman who really stepped up in the playoffs when needed the most. Among the defensemen Tobias Enström arrived from the SEL and had an excellent playoff run. Tommy Wargh, the most underrated defenseman in the league was also very good. Up front I think our first line with Nicklas Johanssono, Andreas Bylin and Erik Broman was overall the best line. But as I said, the entire team deserves a lot of credit.
EP: You received a lot of praise for your play in the U18 World Junior Championships, where you also stood out pointwise scoring 3 goals and an assist. How do you yourself look at your play in the tourney?
OH: I think I had a pretty solid tournament. Personally I think I could have played better against team USA and Canada, just like the entire team. I also think my play improved as the tournament progressed. My best game was probably the last one where we played Slovakia.
EP: You faced several strong teams in the tournament. Was there a specific player that stood out more than anyone and that was especially difficult to handle?
OH: Phil Kessel, Team USA. Born late in 1987 and unbelievably skilled. He had an excellent shot and was a good skater. He could very well become the next American superstar.
EP: Which is your favorite NHL team?
OH: I don’t really have a favorite team, but overall I like the Canadian teams, mostly because hockey is so big in Canada. But if I get drafted it does not matter at all which team it will be.
EP: Will you fly over to Raleigh to attend the NHL Entry Draft?
OH: Yes, I recently found out that I’ll be flying over to attend the event. It will be an exciting experience.
EP: What do you think about your chances of being drafted late in the first round or in the second round?
OH: I’ve been hearing it is leaning towards the third round, but a lot can happen during draft day so you can’t really be sure of anything. But, of course I would like to get picked as early as possible, everyone wants that.
EP: What about your hopes of becoming a regular top six defenseman with MODO next season?
OH: Everything depends on how many more defensemen MODO signs, but I hope I will be there fighting for a spot on the same terms as everyone else. I hope to do well and be among the top six defensemen as often as possible.
EP: Are there certain things you would like to improve out on the ice next season?
OH: Yes, definitely. I’d like to play more physical and be more confident taking on greater responsibilities. I hope it will be that way now that I got to play in the league last season, and hopefully I will not hesitate to do more things out on the ice. I’m very excited about next season and I believe I can have a great campaign if I can stay healthy and see ice time.