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The Early Bird

by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks
It would have been completely understandable had Alexander Edler stuck around home in Sweden for another week or two trying to cram a little more fun into his last few days of summer. After all, that’s what most 21-year-olds do.

Then again, Edler isn’t most 21-year-olds. No, not many guys his age get to play in the National Hockey League in their first year as a professional and fewer still get to experience the thrill or pressure of NHL playoff action the way Edler did when he was pressed into duty in the Canucks’ second round series against Anaheim.

And not many NHL sophomores leave their off-season home half a world away in the middle of August to begin preparation for training camp. But that’s exactly what Edler did earlier this month when he said goodbye to family and friends back in Ostersund, Sweden and came back to Vancouver to begin preparing for his third camp with the Canucks.

“It feels really good to be here early, to skate with the guys, to work out and to get ready for training camp. This is the type of workout I need,” said a relaxed-looking Edler after a recent morning skate with teammates at Burnaby’s 8-Rinks. “Last season was a good season for me and hopefully I can do a good season this year too. Of course, I want to do a better season than last year. Last year was an important year because I got some experience from the NHL and hopefully that’s going to help me this season.”

Most certainly the 22 regular season NHL games and the three additional appearances Edler made in the playoffs will pay dividends as he attempts to leave the minors behind and become a full-time member of the Canucks this season.

  But the organization will exercise caution with the 2004 third round draft pick’s progression. The Canucks appear set in their top six on defence – Willie Mitchell, Mattias Ohlund, Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa, Aaron Miller and Lukas Krajicek – so the question is whether a young player like Edler is better served sticking with the big club but in a limited role or spending another full season with the Manitoba Moose where he can log big minutes and play in all key situations.

“Two years ago, we wondered if he was cut out for major junior and he was outstanding. Last year, we wondered if he was ready for the American Hockey League and he was the best defenseman on the Moose. When we called him up to the Canucks, he did the job,” Canucks Vice President and Assistant General Manager Steve Tambellini told recently about Edler. “His mental approach to the game is remarkable.”

“Of course, I want a spot on the (big) team, but it’s not an easy thing. There’s six really good d (defensemen) that are under contract right now. And if there’s an open spot, then there’s a lot of d that’s fighting for that as well,” says Edler, displaying the same maturity in recognizing the predicament he’s in that served him so well adjusting to the professional game last year. “My goal is to make the team, but it’s hard and I’m going to do everything I can to do it. I want to make the team, but I still want to play, too.”

That’s why Edler has shown up in town early, looking like he’s filled out his 6’3” 220 pound frame that allowed him to have success in his call-ups from the farm last season. And getting to skate and spend more time around veteran blueliners like Ohlund, Mitchell and Miller can only help the youngster’s development and preparation for training camp – which for Edler will begin with prospects camp September 7th -- in Victoria.

  “Of course I have more confidence going into training camp this year. Last year was my first pro year, so this is a lot different than last year. And I know a lot more of the guys and that feels good. I feel a lot more like a part of the teams here both Vancouver and Manitoba,” he says. “I think I can play in the top six, but it’s hard to say right now and we’ll have to see at training camp. But it’s not like I’m going for the seventh spot. I want to play if I’m going to be here.”

Alexander Edler’s actions in August have shown that he’s serious about making the hockey club. He came to town early this summer and he has no plans on leaving anytime soon.

Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at

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