|Kitchener Rangers forward Mikkel Boedker tallied
73 points in 62 games this season, and has drawn
enough attention to be a top ten NHL draft pick.
Boedker, an 18-year-old from Denmark, traveled across the Atlantic Ocean in the fall to suit up for the Kitchener Rangers in the Ontario Hockey League.
The trip was a huge success for both Boedker and the Rangers.
Boedker has developed into one of the top prospects for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and his coach thinks he is one of the players most ready to step into the NHL next season.
"He's been outstanding," said Peter DeBoer, the Rangers' coach and general manager. "He's proven that he's a top-10 NHL pick. He might be as ready to step right into the NHL as any other forward in the world other than (Steven) Stamkos."
DeBoer admitted he wasn't sure what to expect when Boedker arrived. DeBoer was building a team that would challenge for the Memorial Cup and didn't have time for projects. But Boedker put those fears to rest by becoming an impact player for his team almost immediately.
"You never know how players are going to adjust when they come from different countries and different systems, but this kid is pretty special," said DeBoer, whose Rangers are playing host for May's Memorial Cup. "He's a big, strong kid. He doesn't play a typical European game."
DeBoer knows of which he speaks. He has developed NHL players Derek Roy, Mike Richards and Stephen Weiss. Boedker also says that his game has improved dramatically while playing for DeBoer.
"He's a winner for sure," Boedker said. "He knows what it takes to win, and if you listen and do the things he says, you are going to learn something. He knows the game so well. I just listen and learn.
"He's one of the best coaches I've ever had and I'm pretty sure he is one of the best coaches I ever will have. If you listen and really put it on the ice, then you'll learn something. That's what I've been trying to do all year."
It wasn't the first time that Boedker left home looking for better competition. He moved to Sweden when he was 15 to play for Frölunda. He helped it win the junior championship and played a handful of games in the Swedish Elite League.
"After a few years, I decided to move on and try something new and try to make my hockey life a bigger adventure," Boedker said. "Coming over here has, for sure, made a difference. Every day, I wake up here and it's a new day and it's unbelievable."
Boedker has displayed outstanding offensive talents since arriving. He has explosive speed, a great shot and has a good feel for the game.
He had 29 goals and 44 assists for 73 points in 62 regular-season games with the first-place Rangers.
"The season has been going great," Boedker said. "We have an awesome team here in Kitchener and we fit really well together on and off the ice. We have good chemistry. For myself, it's been an unbelievable experience so far. Just getting to play with guys like (Steve) Mason, (Matt) Halischuk, (Nick) Spaling, (Justin) Azevedo. It's an honor to go on the ice every day and feel how it is to be around really talented hockey players."
He has six goals and 16 points in 10 playoff games and is helping deflect some of the checking attention usually paid to the Rangers' top line.
"Their top line is trying to shut down the Halischuk, Azevedo, Spaling line and we were told that we should try to score one or two goals each game," said Boedker, who regularly lines up with veteran Mike Duco and sophomore Nazem Kadri, a top prospect for the 2009 draft. "I think, so far, we've done a pretty good job. We find each other really well. Duco and Kadri can score goals and if you find them in the right spot, they will score. So far, so good; but we still have a way to go."
"I have had a few moments where I've been thinking about the draft." -- Mikkel BoedkerBoedker was rated 13th among North American prospects in the NHL Central Scouting mid-term report released in January. But despite the high praise from the scouts, Boedker said that he has tried to keep the draft in the back of his mind.
"I have had a few moments where I've been thinking about the draft," said Boedker, who cites Marian Gaborik as his favorite NHL player. "It's a busy time for me right now with the playoffs and all that stuff, so I'm trying to keep it away.
You know when everybody talks about it, you think about it. It's an honor for me to be up there with all the other players. Stamkos, (Drew) Doughty, (Zach) Bogosian; all those kind of guys are players that are going to play in the NHL. So just to be ranked behind them is an unbelievable feeling."
Boedker said that he has been trying to focus on the North American style of play while with the Rangers. He knows that it will help him adjust to life at the professional level.
"I've been working a lot on taking the puck to the net," Boedker said. "I like to look for the perfect pass, but Pete and (assistant coach Steve) Spott have worked a lot with me on taking the puck to the net and finding ways to go to the net because that's where you score the goals.
"If you look at the NHL games, everybody works hard at taking the puck to the net every chance they get. They don't really look for the perfect pass and that's what I need to learn."