Victor Hedman: "It would be great to play here"
With the draft 10 days away (June 26-27 in Montreal) the focus in the Tampa Bay area will be on Victor Hedman. The 6-foot-6 defenseman is believed by some to be the top player in the draft, and a player the Lightning would like to draft with the No. 2 overall selection. There has been some speculation the Islanders, with the top pick, might go for Hedman, but most still seem to believe their sights are set on sharpshooter John Tavares.
Both players, along with Matt Duchene, the draft's other top prospect, were in Tampa earlier this month and got a quick first look at the area and St. Pete Times Forum. We'll check in with all three this week, starting with Hedman:
Is the Lightning the ideal situation for you?
"I know a couple of Swedes who've been here, and I've had the opportunity to talk to the goalkeeper, Johan Holmqvist, and he really liked it here. He had good things to say about Tampa as a town and a hockey club. ... It would be great to play here, but, obviously, it's not up to me. I'll go to whatever team picks me, but it would be great to be with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"Ever since a couple of years ago, I've been looking forward to come to visit Tampa and visit Florida, just to see how beautiful it is. From what I've seen right now, it's a beautiful city and a real nice rink. I went to Long Island as well, and it wasn't what I expected. It was much nicer than what I thought. I really liked it there, too. I think wherever I go, I'm going to be fine."
Have you picture yourself in a jersey yet?
"That's a tough question. I want to be an NHL player next year. But it's hard to imagine which jersey I'm going to put on. Obviously, I'm closer to finding out now, so I'm really looking forward to the draft and seeing which team I'm going to."
How are you handling the expectations of being a high pick?
"That's a big challenge and I'm really looking forward to that. It's up to me to show them I'm good enough to play in the NHL. I see it as a challenge, and I have big expectations on myself to play at the highest level every game, so I'm looking forward to the challenge and I hope not to disappoint the fans of the team I go to."
On fellow Swede Nicklas Lidstrom:
"He's a great leader on the ice, and I can't imagine how good he is in the locker room. Just to see how calm he is with the puck and how he handles situations. He knows where to put the puck before he has it, and he's got a god two-way game. And he's very good on the power play and can really kill penalties and play a lot of minutes. Just an all-around game and his leadership. He's very big in what I'm trying to type my game after."
To whom do you compare yourself?
"In style of play, maybe a Jay Bouwmeester. He's a very good two-way player. Like I said before, Nicklas has had a big impact on my hockey career so far, and I like to take things from him and put them in my game. But he's one of the greatest players so far, greatest defenseman of all time. I try to compare him, but it's hard. He's a very good player. I really try to look up to him and take things from him."
On transition to the NHL:
"I'm going to move to a different country but I really like it over here and I'm really looking forward to it, so I don't see it as a negative thing. I'm really looking forward to living in the states, or maybe in Canada. It's going to be fun, but obviously it's going to be a big adjustment. I'm just looking forward to it. I see everything on the positive side."
On making an immediate impact:
"That's the expectation I have on myself, to play in the NHL next year. I want the team to think the same way. That's the most important thing, that the team wants me to come over right away as well. That's one of the biggest things I want most... to come to a team that really believes in me and wants me to come over right away. The it doesn't matter if I go first or fifth or 20th.
On becoming a good offensive player:
"With the new rules, you have to be good on the skates. I've been working a lot on that. I like to be creative. I like to join the rush and be part of the play in the offensive zones. Obviously, I like to play a good two-way game."