In just 18 months, Alexander Edler has gone from being an unknown to one of the most familiar Vancouver Canucks prospects.
During the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the Canucks found themselves without a third round pick and were desperate to acquire one so they could select the defenseman from rural Sweden. A pick that made draft watchers raise their eyebrows in surprise, Edler has since moved across the Atlantic Ocean to play for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, just a few hundred kilometers from Vancouver.
With 29 points in 28 games this year with the Rockets, Edler was among the top defensemen in scoring before he left to join Team Sweden for a pre-tournament camp in Victoria, BC. He is also among the league leaders in rookie scoring. Edler has shown the offensive talent that made him a third-round selection and is working on parts of his defensive game, whether it be defensive-zone positioning or playing more physically.
The 6’4, 207 lbs defender has a large frame, but it is evident that he still needs to get stronger in order to be a legitimate NHL prospect. It is unclear at this point where the young Swede will play next season. Currently 19 years old, Edler would occupy both an import and over-age roster spot if he were to remain with the Rockets. However, he may not yet be strong enough for the AHL game.
Sweden is not expected to be a gold-medal contender for this tournament, but Edler fits in very well with this smooth-skating squad that will give teams with poor speed fits. Edler will spend most of his time playing alongside Petter Ullman. Edler’s ability to generate offense at this level will be both an important key to Team Sweden’s success and an excellent indication of how far away he is from the professional ranks.
HF: How was the adjustment from Swedish hockey to the WHL?
AE: The rink is smaller so it is faster, it plays faster. It’s more physical too. You have to be more physical, take hits, give hits. Play quicker.
HF: How has the adjustment been from living in Sweden to living in Canada?
AE: Of course there is a lot of difference with food and everything. It’s just a big difference in how you live. Everything, almost everything.
HF: How is the climate different in Kelowna from home?
AE: It’s warmer here. It was like summer in September. It’s not like that in Sweden.
HF: What was your biggest concern when you decided to play in Kelowna this year?
AE: Probably that I wouldn’t be good enough to play on the team. Just worried about making the team.
HF: Since you were drafted, scouts and the media have said your defensive play needed work. How do you feel that part of your game is developing?
AE: I feel it’s been better. The defensive play has been a lot better, but I still have to take another step.
HF: Do you think Kelowna, because they are a more defensive team, was a good fit for you?
AE: Yeah, I think so. They’ve been yelling at me in practice.
HF: How do you think Team Sweden will do in the tournament?
AE: It’s hard to say, but we have a good team, so it could be very good.
HF: Who will be your defense partner?
AE: I’m not sure yet, but right now it’s a guy name Petter Ullman. I’ve been playing with him the whole time, back in camp. Right now I don’t know though.
HF: Do you have any personal goals for the tournament like leading it in points for a defenseman or being named to the tournament All-Star team?
AE: Just play a lot of ice time, maybe some power play ice time, just play good.
HF: What did you think of your experience at the Canucks camp earlier this year?
AE: It was good for me to see how everything is in the NHL. To see that the step is not that big. It’s a big step, but you feel the intensity level and how it is. It was very good.
HF: Was any coach or player particularly helpful to you at the Canucks camp?
AE: Yeah. Yeah, of course, Mattias Ohlund. Of course I look a lot at him and he tells me some things that I could improve, so of course.
HF: Is he your favorite player?
AE: Yeah, I like him. I like his style. He plays offensive defenseman, so yeah, I like him.
HF: How many times have you been in touch with the Canucks staff during this season?
AE: A lot of times. The Canucks, they come to Kelowna when we have games a lot of the time to watch.
HF: Do you feel any added pressure knowing that they are always watching?
AE: No, not really. I know that they know what I can do. I think, no, I don’t feel so much pressure.
HF: When you were drafted, your name wasn’t well known. Did you expect to be drafted that high?
AE: No. I was just hoping to get drafted. It was surprising, I’m just really glad by Vancouver.
HF: Why do you think you weren’t very well known?
AE: My hometown is far away from everything, all the other big towns. That probably is it.
HF: You’ve been described as a “poor man’s” Niklas Lidstrom. What does that mean to you and do you think you can live up to such lofty expectations.
AE: That’s sweet, that’s an honor.
HF: Where are you going to be playing next season? How many years will it take you to get yourself into the NHL?
AE: I don’t know, we’ll see. I have no idea. I will go to the Vancouver camp again and we will see.
HF: Do you expect to spend another year in the WHL or go the AHL?
AE: I have no idea.
HF: The Canucks have many Swedish players on the team. Do you believe that will make you feel more comfortable if you join the team?
AE: Yeah, absolutely. It’s nice you can talk to them and they give you advice.
Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.