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Alex Edler makes big impact at 2017 IIHF World Championship

by Brian Hedger @BrianHedger / Canucks freelance writer

COLOGNE - He's the kind of defenseman who doesn't make a lot of friends on opposing teams, and doesn't particularly care. 

Alexander Edler can move the puck with tape-to-tape passing, too, but he's more grit than glitz. Ask players around the NHL about the Canucks' veteran, and terms like 'energy' or 'sandpaper' will be soon to follow.

He isn't flashy, doesn't pile up points offensively, but every blueline could use a guy like Edler. That includes a Swedish national team that is brimming with blueline talent at the 2017 IIHF World Championship.

"He's a player who is probably the most hard-nosed player we have, and he likes the physical game," said Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman, another Swedish veteran. "It's always good to have a couple of those guys on your team. It's good to have a mix of mobile, skilled defensemen like (Oliver) Ekman-Larsson (Arizona Coyotes) and John Klingberg (Dallas Stars), and then you have some two-ways guys, and Edler is more of an enforcer, I guess."

It's a role Edler is comfortable filling, even if the larger ice surface of international competition makes it a little more challenging.

"You have to play a little bit different," said Edler, who had two assists for Sweden during preliminary-round play in Group A. "The ice surface is so much bigger, so it took a few games to get used to that, but I've tried to play solid in all areas of the ice and be physical. That's just how I play. That's when I play my best."

This is the third time Edler, 31, has played for Sweden in the world championship. He also represented his country in 2008 and 2013, and wore the "Tres Kronors" three crowns logo at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

He'd rather be playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs right now, like all NHL players, but competing for a medal on the world stage is a good consolation - especially if that medal is gold.

"It's never fun to lose," said Edler, who had six goals and 21 points in 68 games this season. "It's never fun when you miss the playoffs, but this is an opportunity to come here, play good and have a chance to win a tournament."

It's also a chance to keep laying the body on checks, muscle up on guys along the boards and maybe even pick up an assist or two along the way. Edler's reputation as a physical player precedes him, but that's not all he can do.

He's playing with Klingberg on Sweden's third pairing in this tournament, and the Stars' defenseman is impressed with his Canucks colleague. "With his big body, he can throw people around," Klingberg said. "But the skill he has with the puck helps my game, as well. I don't want to play with just a big body out there who can't play with the puck. The game has changed. It's more of a possession game now, so it's good to play with him. He's just a really good, all-around defenseman."

Edler is a good teammate, as well, and he's also enjoying this experience off the ice. It's a chance to bond with a different group of teammates and maybe even get to know some the same guys he lines up for hits in the regular season.

"It's a lot of fun," Edler said. "We're all from different places, but you come together, all Swedish guys, and I think that's the greatest thing about coming to the Swedish national team. You feel so close right away. I'm not surprised that they're all great guys. All Swedes are good."

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