Maple Leafs Sign Pierre Hedin

By Doug Evinou

Maple Leafs hope Swedish star can help adress team’s blueline shortcomings

The Toronto Maple Leafs took a step in addressing their problems on the blue line on Thursday when they signed Swedish defenseman Pierre Hedin to a multi-year contract. The club did not disclose terms of the deal. Hedin, 25, completed his seventh year with MoDo of the Swedish Elite League in 2002-03. He collected 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) with 32 penalty minutes in 46 games. Hedin also appeared in six playoff games for MoDo and collected one assist with four penalty minutes.

Hedin has advanced rapidly since being drafted in the eight round, 239th overall in the 1999 NHL entry draft. He has quickly developed into one of the top offensive defensemen in the Swedish Elite League, and was the captain of his hometown MoDo club this past season. He has played regularly with the Swedish National Team over the past few years, and shone brightest in the 2002 SEL playoffs when he led all players in goals scored.

Hedin made waves earlier this off-season when it was announced he was leaving Modo. He signed a three-year deal with Finnish club Jokerit in April, but it was reported he had an option to break the contract if he and the Maple Leafs could work out a deal. Hedin has been vocal about his desire to test himself in North America in several recent European hockey publications.

The timing for this signing was right, since the Maple Leafs were dealt a severe blow to their defensive corps earlier this off-season when Robert Svehla announced his retirement. While Hedin will be hard-pressed to fully replace Svehla’s defensive prowess and physicality, the 6-1, 200lbs defensemen does not shy away from rough play, and should stand a good shot of being in the club’s top six to start the season. He is an excellent skater who moves the puck very well, and has the abilities to work on the team’s second power play unit. He is more than competent in his own end, and his character and work ethic has seen him develop into a natural leader on the ice.

Hedin’s spot in the line-up is not guaranteed however, and he will face serious challenges in camp from Karel Pilar and Carlo Colaiacovo, who are both recovering from season-ending maladies. The fact that the Maple Leafs training camp starts in Sweden this September may be a slight advantage for Hedin.

Hedin joins a long list of Swedish players on the Leafs roster, which could have as many as five players including Mats Sundin, Mikael Renberg, Jonas Hoglund and Mikael Tellqvist on opening day next fall. Throw in top prospect Alexander Steen, who was just named the #1 drafted prospect playing in Sweden by, and the Maple Leafs may start to think about changing their colors to the yellow and blue of the Tre Kroner national team.

Pierre Hedin looks like the most promising player to come out of the Maple Leafs 1999 draft crop, which featured hard-luck first-rounder Luca Cereda, Memphis RiverKing Vinny Zavoral, and a few minor leaguers like Peter Metcalf, Jonathon Zion and Peter Reynolds, who are progressing slowly with other organizations.

Pierre Hedin Statistics

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