Only two hockey players from Denmark have reached the NHL. Coyotes rookie Mikkel Boedker
is about to become the third.
“It’s special,” said Boedker, whom Phoenix chose with the eighth overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft. “There was a lot of hard work behind (getting here).”
Should he play 32 NHL games, Boedker would become the most tenured player from Denmark ever in the league.
“You’re proud no matter where you are from,” Boedker said. “You do whatever you can for your country. It’s a way to put Denmark on the world map and that’s a good way to do it.”
Boedker grew up in the town of Brondby. At the age of 16, he moved to Sweden to pursue hockey at a higher level.
“There was better hockey in Sweden and I could better improve my skills,” Boedker said. “It’s a different lifestyle over there. They are all about hockey, which it isn’t in Denmark.”
While playing with Frolunda in Sweden, Boedker teammates included Coyotes prospects Jonas Ahnelov
and Joel Gistedt.
“It helps a lot of have Jonas here and hang out with him,” Boedker said.
“It’s good to have somebody that you played with that you knew for a couple of years,” Ahnelov said. “It’s made the transition easier. We still grab dinner and see movies.”
For two years, Boedker improved his skills in Sweden before transitioning over to the North American game in the Ontario Hockey League.
“It was a big step to move to Canada,” Boedker said. “I wanted to prove to myself that I could play on North American ice.”
Boedker had no problem making the move, scoring 29 goals and 44 assists in 63 games while leading the Kitchener Rangers to the Memorial Cup Championship.
Boedker said being drafted in June was memorable on several levels.
“It was a big relief to get drafted,” Boedker said. “And the opportunity to get to meet the best hockey player in the game (Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky) was amazing. Just to be drafted is a big thing. If I was drafted last, I wouldn’t care.”
Gretzky was ecstatic that Boedker was available when it was Phoenix’s turn to draft a player, and that the young Dane has impressed him greatly.
“We knew what we were getting,” Gretzky said. “He has got physical size, tremendous balance and great speed. It was just a matter of letting him get here and getting his feet wet and making sure he was comfortable at this level. There is no question that he is comfortable at this level.”
On Saturday, Boedker will begin his quest to become the most prolific Dane to play on NHL ice.
“I’m playing in the NHL,” Boedker said after learning he’d made the team. “Here I am sitting days away from playing in the NHL. Along the way it has been a lot of hard work and a lot of unbelievable people. In the end, it’s all worth it.”