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Alex Edler the Great

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
‘Alex Edler the Great’ doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as nicely as ‘Alexander the Great’ and it probably never will. That’s perfectly fine with the Vancouver Canucks, though, as this season the ancient Macedonian King pales in comparison to their rookie defenceman.

Already becoming a fan favourite in Vancouver for his hard work and consistency, Edler has truly taken his game to another level in 2008 and on Tuesday the NHL took notice. The 21-year-old native of Ostersund, Sweden, was one of 16 ‘NHL YoungStars’ chosen to compete at the upcoming All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Edler, Vancouver’s third round draft choice, 91st overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, joins St. Louis’ Erik Johnson, Los Angeles’ Jack Johnson and Dallas’ Matt Niskanen on defence for the Western Conference. They’ll be looking to shutdown the likes of Boston’s Milan Lucic and Nicklas Backstrom of Washington when the eight-player Eastern and Western Conference YoungStar teams face off in a new three-on-three event as part of the Dodge/NHL SuperSkills competition on Saturday, Jan. 26.

It’s no surprise that Edler has been chosen to compete on a team comprised of the league’s best rookies, because although Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are getting all the accolades this season, Edler is the only name that matters in Vancouver.

The 6-foot-3, 222-pound brute leads the Canucks and is first among rookies in plus/minus with a plus-18, placing in a three way tie with Jarome Iginla and Henrik Zetterberg for seventh overall in the league in that category.

Edler, who is fifth in scoring by rookie defencemen with 10 points (2-8-10) in 38 games this season, is in such elite company because his style isn’t complicated. He keeps it simple regardless of the situation he’s thrown into, and that’s produced rave reviews from his team.

“He’s stepped up to the front here with all our personnel issues on defence and taken on such a big role,” said Alain Vigneault earlier this month. “Five-on-five, penalty killing, and on the power play; he has really helped our team. He prepares himself in a professional way, he comes to play, and he’s really consistent.”

Edler’s smooth transition to becoming a go-to player for the Canucks this season has a lot to do with the NHL experience he acquired last season. He bounced around between Manitoba of the AHL and the Canucks, playing 49 games for the Moose scoring five goals and 21 assists for 26 points before being named Manitoba’s Rookie of the Year.

A strong start to the 2006-07 season landed him in Vancouver for 25 games, including three playoff games, and coming into this season, Edler believed the knowledge and knowhow he gained as a Canuck was pivotal to his development.

“I feel more comfortable,” said Edler last November. “It was a bit different going into this training camp than last year, this year I knew all the guys and knew what it was like to play so it feels better this year with a little more confidence and a little more experience than last year.”

Edler’s solid play has been a welcomed addition on the blue-line with Kevin Bieksa and Mattias Ohlund still out of the line-up with injuries.

“Alex stepped in last year and played very, very well for us and he played well in the playoffs when he had to,” said Willie Mitchell of Edler’s growth as a member of the Canucks. “He’s a guy who can replace some of the offence from the guys we’re missing, so he fills in really nicely.”

With nine points and a plus-16 through his first 33 games this season, Edler was already drowning in accolades to start the New Year, but the former Kelowna Rocket has proven in the last five games that this is just the beginning of all that is Edler.

After outshooting four-time defending champion Sami Salo in the hardest shot contest during Vancouver’s SuperSkills contest on Jan.5, Edler was hit with a jolt of confidence as evident by his shootout goals on Rick DiPietro and Manny Legace to take down the New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues within the last week.

Two game-winning goals on the first two shootout attempts of his career, against two goaltenders playing in the All-Star Game; it's easy to understand why the West Coast is buzzing and why the NHL has finally taken notice of ‘Alex Edler the Great.’

  10 - Points this season (2-8-10)

  +18 - Plus/minus rating this season

24.9 - Shifts per game, fourth among rookies

19:39 - Average ice time, fifth among rookies

99.3 - MPH of hardest shot

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