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Hedman ready to help Tampa immediately

Friday, 06.26.2009 / 10:50 PM / 2009 NHL Entry Draft

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

MONTREAL -- Victor Hedman believes that the Tampa Bay Lightning received immediate help by making him the No. 2 pick of the NHL Entry Draft on Friday night at the Bell Centre.

Hedman, selected after the New York Islanders took John Tavares at No. 1, said he is ready to help the Lightning forget a troubling 2008-09 season that saw the team finish 29th in the overall standings.

"Yeah, I do," the Swedish defenseman told NHL.com when asked if he believes he can make the Lightning this fall. "I want to help the team right away. I played two years with the senior team in Modo, so I'm looking forward to being in Tampa Bay next year."

And it is not just idle boasting by the monstrous Swede. Many in the hockey community believe that Hedman is ready to immediately play top-pair minutes in the NHL. He has spent the past two years playing for the aforementioned Modo in the Swedish Elite League.

"The Swedish League is a very good league and he has been playing there regularly for two seasons now," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told NHL.com. "Last year, he was a key defenseman on their team, playing up to 21 or 22 minutes per game. I think he is ready and I think he is mentally ready too. He is a very mature young man."

Hedman's maturity was just one of the attributes that attracted the Lightning to the imposing Swedish defenseman. Hedman has lived on his own for the past two seasons while playing for Modo.

"I really like his skating," Tampa Bay GM Brian Lawton told NHL.com. "He also has a great hockey sense. He's able to read the game really well.

"He brings us a greater maturity level for someone his age because of his two years in Sweden."

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Hedman recorded 7 goals and 21 points in 43 games for Modo. His plus-21 rating led Modo defensemen and was second on the team. The 21 points, meanwhile, was also second, behind only former NHL player Mattias Demander.

Hedman's place in Tampa Bay has been a foregone conclusion for quite awhile because the Islanders were fixated on either Tavares, whom they eventually selected, or Matt Duchene, who was selected by Colorado at No. 3. But it was still not an easy wait for Hedman.

"It's been nerve-wracking the last couple of days, for sure," Hedman told NHL.com. "I've been looking forward to it a lot and I'm looking forward to helping Tampa Bay next year and turn things around. I'm looking forward to helping them to playoffs next year.

"It went faster than I thought, but it felt great to go to Tampa Bay."

Now he is ready to begin the next chapter of his hockey career.

"Obviously I'm moving to another country, but I'm looking forward to it," he said. "It's a great city and a great arena and I'm looking forward to coming to the United States. I'm here to play hockey and I'm really looking forward to becoming an NHL player."

The Tampa Bay Lightning are looking forward to that process as well.