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Tampa Bay Lightning takes Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman with second pick in NHL draft

MONTREAL — He said he wants to be a pilot. He loves the warm weather and wants to live by the water — "the sea," as he called it.

Most of all, though, Victor Hedman wants to be part of the Lightning.

"My expectation," he said Friday night at the Bell Centre after being drafted No. 2 overall, "is to make the team right away."

That's fine with coach Rick Tocchet, who said, "When you have a 6-6 defenseman who can skate with a long reach, it's a premium in the NHL. It's something we're excited about."

The pick punctuated a strange day during which anticipation built that long-expected outcomes could take bizarre turns.

There wasn't much debate that Hedman was Tampa Bay's first choice as long as the Islanders took John Tavares at No. 1. The wild card was the possibility (one New York general manager Garth Snow seemed to enjoy milking) the Islanders would go for Hedman, who at 6 feet 6 and 220 pounds is a potential blue-line anchor.

Rumors flew of a wild deal in which Tampa Bay would then send its pick to the Maple Leafs for defensemen Luke Schenn and Tomas Kaberle, and send Kaberle to the Predators in a deal for high-scoring blue-liner Shea Weber.

But when Snow picked Tavares, hesitating with a smile before saying his name, the Lightning's course was clear.

Still, said Hedman — joined by father Olle, mother Elisabeth, older brothers Oscar and Johan, and girlfriend Sanna — "You're never sure until you hear your name."

The Lightning didn't relax after the pick. General manager Brian Lawton added another first-rounder after trading overall picks Nos. 32 and 75 to the Red Wings for No. 29, which he used on forward Carter Ashton.

But the focus was on Hedman, the first piece in what Tampa Bay hopes will be a rebuilt blue line.

"It definitely addresses our biggest weakness," Lawton said. "We're going to dive into it in free agency, but that's a limited market, so this is a great start in rebuilding that portion of the club."

E.J. McGuire, head of NHL Central Scouting, which ranked Hedman the No. 2 player in the draft behind Tavares, called Hedman a "stud," who, "if he continues to develop, I project in five short years will be a household name for NHL followers."

McGuire cited Hedman's "unsurpassed combination of skill, explosiveness on skates, quickness and offensive ability."

He said Hedman is more advanced at this point in his career than was the Bruins' Zdeno Chara, this year's Norris Trophy winner, when he was 18. He compared Hedman to Chris Pronger.

"He may not be as mean as Pronger," McGuire said, "but he probably won't take as many dumb penalties as Pronger."

How good can Hedman be?

"He ends up being the No. 1 defenseman on whatever team he's on," McGuire said. "He ends up as Nicklas Lidstrom."

Hold on, Tocchet said:

"I don't want people getting into thinking he's going to come in and play 25 minutes. We're going to insulate him the right way and get him into the right situations and nurture him."

Hedman, 18, the Lightning's first-ever No. 2 pick, certainly has a good foundation. He is from Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, population 55,000, a hockey factory and home of Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and Niklas Sundstrom. He was rookie of the year in 2007-08 in the Swedish elite league and in two years playing for Modo had nine goals, 34 points and 96 penalty minutes, and was plus-22 in 82 games.

"It helped me a lot playing two years in the men's league," Hedman said. "I know what it's all about. But the NHL, that's another level. I need to bring my game to another level as well. That's what I'm looking to as a challenge as well."

Not to mention finding that place by the sea.

47th NHL draft

When/where: Today, Day 2;

Bell Centre, Montreal

TV: 10 a.m., NHL Network

Lightning picks: Rounds (overall): 2 (52), 4 (93), 6 (161), 7 (182)

First-round picks

A list of all 30 first-round choices Friday, from the Isles' John Tavares to the Penguins' Simon Despres, 3C.

fast facts

Hedman basics

Born: Dec. 18, 1990, in

Ornskoldsvik, Sweden

Ht./wt.: 6-6; 220

Amateur League/team: Sweden; Modo

Tampa Bay Lightning takes Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman with second pick in NHL draft 06/26/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 27, 2009 12:25am]
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