Thursday, November 23, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's Hedman developing on schedule

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — Victor Hedman has played five NHL seasons, and had three coaches, since arriving from Sweden as a teenager, and his resume includes appearing in an Eastern Conference final.

But though he celebrated his 23rd birthday last week, Hedman is still the Lightning's youngest defenseman.

"It's pretty amazing," he said. "It's my fifth season, came over when I was 18. It flies by, it feels like. But it's a lot of fun, too."

Coach Jon Cooper said you'd never guess Hedman is the baby of the blue line because he doesn't act like it on the ice, where he is the team's top defenseman, a workhorse and a leader to whom even older players gravitate.

But Hedman's age puts in perspective how long it can take for defensemen to develop, and the No. 2 overall pick by the Lightning in the 2009 draft is emerging this season as the elite player many envisioned.

"He's taken a big-time step," Cooper said. "When your abilities and how you play and how you conduct yourself transcend your age, that's kind of the way Victor has been, especially this year.

"I think this was a little bit of his coming-out party. He's been taking command of the game out there, and it's been a lot of fun to watch, and I'm really happy for him."

Hedman, at 6 feet 6 and 233 pounds, has always had the physical tools to succeed at this level: a rare blend of size, skills and skating ability. But as former Lightning and current Canucks coach John Tortorella used to say, it typically takes a defenseman around 300 NHL games to find his way in the league.

Veteran defenseman Eric Brewer (34 and in his 15th NHL season) thinks it takes at least 200 games to "really understand what's going on," considering the game is constantly changing.

And Hedman, who has played a combined 307 games between regular season and playoffs, believes he is right on schedule.

"You know, it's going to take time," Hedman said. "For other guys that go faster, if you look at (Kings defenseman) Drew Doughty, (Senators defenseman) Erik Karlsson and those guys, they're way better before 300 games."

Doughty, 24, and Karlsson, 23, were all-stars before 300 games, and Karlsson was a Norris Trophy (best defenseman) nominee.

"But you know you have to stick with it and don't lose the belief in yourself that you can do it," Hedman said. "That's kind of the mentality I had the whole time, and that's what the coaching staff has told me to do, 'Keep pushing yourself and keep trying to get better.' "

Hedman said his two-way game has taken a jump this season, with coaches allowing him the freedom to jump into the rush and affect the game offensively. Hedman already has a career-high seven goals in 31 games, with five of his 20 points coming in the past three games. He also has been a staple on the power play and penalty kill, logging between 20-25 minutes a game.

"Clearly, he's an elite player," Brewer said. "When you can skate like that and cover that much ice, it's such a good thing."

Former Flames general manager Craig Button, an NHL Network analyst, said expectations for Hedman were skewed because he was drafted between offensively gifted centers John Tavares of the Islanders and Matt Duchene of the Avalanche. But Button said Hedman has progressed each year, even while playing on some struggling Lightning teams.

"Hedman is a unique defenseman," Button said. "Is he going to put up 60 points? No. But when you look at the Eastern Conference and the big centermen they have, the (Alex) Ovechkins, you're going to need defensemen that can match up with the (Evgeni) Malkins and (Sidney) Crosbys and Eric Staals. And I think that's what Victor Hedman offers you."

For Hedman, there's still room to grow.

"So far, so good," Hedman said. "But I can't be satisfied. I always have to battle hard to get there."

Comments
Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

TAMPA — Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov has watched plenty of film on Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.Kucherov marveled how the 2015-16 league MVP uses deception to "hide" from defenders. He noticed how patient Kane was with the puck, how well he passed ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

TAMPA — The Lightning entered Wednesday’s game against the Blackhawks determined to avoid its first losing streak of the season. And it did in dramatic fashion, with Brayden Point’s power-play goal in overtime lifting it to a 3-2 victory. "A big boun...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Lightning-Blackhawks game

Every Lightning-Blackhawks game at Amalie Arena has a good representation of red in the stands. And Wednesday’s matchup was no exception, with a large contingent of transplants and travelers. "It feels like half the city of Chicago is traveling down ...
Updated: 11 hours ago

‘Good chance’ Cedric Paquette back for Lightning

For Cedric Paquette, the wait may finally be over.Paquette said there's a good chance he returns to the Lightning lineup tonight against the Blackhawks at Amalie Arena (7:30 p.m., NBCSN). Paquette had missed the last 13 games with an undisclosed inju...
Published: 11/22/17
Lightning-Blackhawks: Tampa Bay is killing it on penalty-killers

Lightning-Blackhawks: Tampa Bay is killing it on penalty-killers

BRANDON — A successful penalty kill begins long before the offending Lightning player, whistled two minutes earlier for some infraction, leaves the box with the score unchanged.It begins with a detailed scouting report of the opposing team’s power pl...
Published: 11/21/17
Lightning impressed with improved offense from defensemen

Lightning impressed with improved offense from defensemen

BRANDON — At one point during Saturday’s game against the Islanders, the Lightning was first in the NHL in points and second in points scored by its defensemen. That’s one reason the team is off to the best start in franchise history.It’s also by des...
Published: 11/20/17
Lightning’s rare loss produces reality check

Lightning’s rare loss produces reality check

TAMPA — Jon Cooper stood at the podium late Saturday night to address the media after a regulation loss for only the third time this season."Let’s be honest," he said, "we’ve had one hell of a start."The loss, he added, was frustrating, even when you...
Published: 11/19/17
Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

TAMPA — The firepower showed up in the third period.Yanni Gourde and Ondrej Palat scored 13 seconds apart. Gourde scored again.Suddenly it was a one-goal game, and the Lightning appeared on its way to one of those comeback wins that would be remember...
Published: 11/18/17
Lightning journal: Jon Cooper thrilled with stellar start

Lightning journal: Jon Cooper thrilled with stellar start

TAMPA — If you told coach Jon Cooper his team would open the season with wins in 15 of the first 19 games, well, "I’m not sure I can sit here and say I would have predicted that," he said Saturday morning.But the Lightning did just that to lead the N...
Published: 11/18/17
Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Islanders

Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Islanders

This is what happens when you have the best record in the league: You get the best from the other team. The Islanders came out strong and the Lightning couldn’t match it, falling behind 4-0 early in the third. For the most part, the Lightning has bee...
Published: 11/18/17