2009 prospects: Victor Hedman

By Simon Richard

Andreas Salomonsson (5th round, NJ, 2001), Niklas Sundstrom (1st round, NYR, 1993), Pierre Hedin (8th round, TOR, 1999), Oscar Hedman (5th round, WAS, 2004), Anders Hedberg, Peter Forsberg (1st round, COL/QUE, 1991), Markus Naslund (1st round, PIT, 1991) Daniel Sedin (1st round, VAN, 1999) and Henrik Sedin (1st round, VAN, 1999) have one thing in common – they are all born in the small town of Ornskoldsvik in Sweden.

The prestigious list of NHLers to be born in this 55,000-inhabitant community will add one more name once his name is called in the draft in 2009 – Victor Hedman. Playing at defense, Victor is the brother of Oscar, a 21-year-old Washington Capitals’ defensive prospect. He has another older brother, 25-year-old Johan, who now plays defense for Nice in France.

Victor Hedman turned 17 just one week before the beginning of the 2008 World Junior Championships. He is the fourth youngest player of this year’s WJC.

Ahead of Tavares?

With a birthday of Dec. 18, 1990, he is a late-born player so he will only be eligible at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. But Hedman is already making a name of himself, highly ranked for the 2009 draft. So highly indeed that a senior NHL scout who had a lot of success in drafting the past 20 years told Hockey’s Future during a WJC game this week that he would not hesitate to recommend to his organization to take Hedman instead of Canadian John Tavares as the first overall pick of the 2009 draft.

At is 6’5 and 220 pounds, some observers have began to compare him to Chris Pronger.

“It is an honor for me, but I don’t think I can be compared to him, I just try to play my own style,” commented Hedman to Hockey’s Future in the CEZ Arena in Pardubice.

A lot of tools

“He has a lot of energy on the ice, he is a big strong guy. He has offensive skills, he is a good skater with long strides, he has a good sense of play, he can do everything,” the coach of the Swedish Junior Team Par Marts told Hockey’s Future.

According to Marts, Hedman was to nervous in the first game of the tournament against Canada. “The young guys often want too much on the ice, but you can’t change the world in one day,” observed Marts.

Hedman has one assist so far in the tournament and is +5.

“I have to improve my defensive game, I have to avoid the ups and downs during a season and play at a high level game after game,” said Hedman.

Marts knows talent because he coached Niklas Lidstrom in the 1990’s while he was playing at junior level. The thing Hedman has to improve the most is “to take it easy” said Marts. “You have to learn to live with pressure, you have to enjoy it.”

How good could be Hedman some day we asked Marts? “It will depend on himself, it will depend how he will set his limits. If he sets high limits, he can be really good because he has all the tools.”

Already playing with Modo Hockey senior team

Hedman began to play for the Senior Modo Team while he was still 16. He has already played 27 games for the team, scoring three points, and will complete the season with the team after the WJC.  He also has three points in six games for Modo’s U20 team.

“I’m very proud to play for this organization, I have played all my life for the Modo teams,” he commented.

It is well known that junior players who play with the senior teams in Finland and Sweden often get lower ice time. It is not the case with Hedman. “I have a lot of ice time,” he affirmed.

Outside of hockey, as many kids from his age, Hedman likes to play computer games. But not many kids of his age has the chance to be considered a top pick for the NHL draft. Not many kids neither have the chance to play at the WJC. Of these kids playing at the WJC, not many will come back home after the end of the tournament and begin their first lesson to become a pilot. But Hedman will.

“Becoming a pilot and flying by myself is a big dream for me, I’m very excited to do it,” he said with passion in his eyes.