Last week the Vancouver Canucks announced the signing of prospect Anton Cederholm to an entry-level contract.
Rewind 11 months and not much was known about Cederholm when the Canucks drafted him in last June’s NHL Entry Draft. But, after a season playing in the Western Hockey League with the Portland Winterhawks, Canucks fans got to see what the 6-foot-2, 214-pound defenceman is all about.
The product of Helsingborg, Sweden, led all WHL rookies with a plus-42 rating this season, while also posting 95 penalty-minutes, which included seven fighting majors. He played a major role on the Winterhawks back-end, playing mostly with star defenceman, Derrick Pouliot.
The big question surrounding his game is his quickness, but take one look at Cederholm now compared to September and the difference is staggering. Playing in an organization like Portland will do that as the Winterhawks have been developing players at a staggering rate the past few years.
“I don’t think it could have been better in terms of him going to a top-end program as the one in Portland is,” said Canucks Assistant General Manager Laurence Gilman. “He played with great players like Matt Dumba and Derrick Pouliot, and he got to go to Game 7 of the WHL Finals. It has been a great experience for him so far and we anticipate if he goes back there he is going to develop even further next year.”
Cederholm notched 16 points (4-12-16) in 71 games this season, while also netting five points (2-3-5) in 21 playoff games. Gilman believes there is more offence that can come of his game, something the Canucks worked with him on throughout the season.
“They want me to keep moving my feet,” Cederholm told Canucks.com last month. “They want me to join the rush more and work on holding the puck for a longer time.”
With the departures of both Dumba and Pouliot along with Garrett Haar on the Portland blueline next season, a door appears to be open for Cederholm to take on an expanded role with the team. However, because he was drafted out of Europe, he does have the option to turn pro and head to the American Hockey League instead of playing his 19-year-old season in the junior.
“He will determine that,” said Gilman. “Generally speaking, when they come from a really good program and they are that young, it serves them well to stay in a program like that, but at the end of the day that decision will be rendered by him and his performance.”