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Smooth adjustment

by Tyson Giuriato / Vancouver Canucks
For Vancouver Canucks prospect Anton Cederholm, the adjustment to the North American game has seemingly been an easy one as the 18-year-old defenseman has fit in nicely with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks this season.

Cederholm, the Canucks fifth round pick, 145th overall in 2013, has only netted 12 points (2-10-12) through 49 games with the Winterhawks this season, but racking up points isn’t what he’s about. Playing a physical defensive game is. Although, if you followed Cederholm at the start of the year you may have disagreed as the blue-liner posted points in his first five games and picked up eight points in his first 11 contests.

“I never really thought about it,” said Cederholm. “I am not a guy that scores a lot of points. I have never been that guy and probably will never be that guy.”

The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder has been employed in a shutdown role for the Winterhawks this season, playing alongside offensive defenseman Derrick Pouliot for most of the season and new addition Matt Dumba over the last week.

“We play Pouliot a lot and we really like Anton and Pouliot together,” said head coach and general manager Mike Johnston. “We really like Pouliot jumping into the rush and Cederholm staying back as the defensive guy.”

Johnston, who was an assistant coach for the Canucks from 1999 to 2004, said Cederholm hasn’t just adjusted to the smaller ice, he’s improved his game since joining the Winterhawks.

“Anton has really added to his game since he has been here in North America,” he said. “I thought he has jumped up into the play more, which he needs to do. I think he is using his shot more, which he needs to do. He is a big strong guy, really powerful.

“I really think by playing over here, playing the number of games we do and playing on the smaller ice surface it will make him move quicker because everything happens very fast. I think that’s an area of his game he needs to improve on and I think he is starting to take steps in that”

Cederholm, who idolized former Canucks defenseman Mattias Ohlund growing up, admitted his quickness is something he is working hard at improving, but said he is starting to see a difference.

“When I watch myself on tape I see a big difference in my speed compared to last year.”

It’s not just Cederholm’s defensive game that has been noticeable this season, it’s also his willingness to shed the mitts and take on all comers. The product of Helsingborg, Sweden, has dropped the gloves six times already this season, something he isn’t afraid to do.

“I don’t mind standing up for a teammate or myself,” said Cederholm, who trains in MMA in the off-season. “I don’t take any crap. I am not the best fighter but I won’t back down.”

Cederholm, who is plus-22 with 66 penalty minutes this season, first caught the attention of Canucks fans at the Canucks Prospects Development Camp back in July after he viciously assaulted a medicine ball. He then caught the attention of Winterhawks fans back in September when he literally broke a puck in half.

Now Cederholm will try and break something else, a drought of sorts, as the defenseman looks to be the first Canucks draft pick to represent the WHL at the Memorial Cup since 2007 (Mario Bliznak, Vancouver Giants).

With a 33-12-2-3 record, Cederholm and the Winterhawks appear poised to make a lengthy run in the postseason.

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