With preliminary Olympic rosters rolling out, Victor Hedman has found himself as an orientation camp invitee like a number of other teammates on the Tampa Bay Lightning. For Hedman, it would be a first time opportunity for the Ornskoldsvik, Sweden native to represent his homeland in the Winter Games, but one he knows won’t come easy.
Fellow Swedes Erik Karlsson, Niklas Kronwall, Douglas Murray, Johnny Oduya, Henrik Tallinder and Alexander Edler are the most notable defenseman Hedman will compete against for a final slot on the roster. Kronwall, Murray, Oduya and Tallinder were also members of Sweden’s lineup in 2010.
“I’ve played in a few world championships throughout the years, but all the best players will be at the Olympics,” said Hedman. “It will be a tough challenge, but I’m up for it.”
After defeating the Czech Republic in the finals to win the Gold Medal in 2006, Sweden suffered a disappointing fifth-place finish in 2010, yet apparent exclusions from this year’s camp such as Nicklas Lindstrom, Daniel Alfredsson and Peter Forsberg, have left some leeway for players like Hedman to make the cut.
However Hedman, who’d “like to bring home the Gold Medal like they did in 2006,” isn’t letting the possible Olympic nod shift his attention away from what’s most important, his fifth season with the Bolts.
“My main focus is going to be playing hockey in Tampa Bay,” said Hedman. “I just want to keep developing and be that key player for the Lightning. Then if I play well enough, maybe I make it, maybe I don’t, but I’m not going to lose focus with the Lightning.”
Despite playing in a shortened season in 2012-13, Hedman maintained a consistent point count, recording four goals and 16 assists in 44 games, compared to his 23 points in 61 games just a year before. Hedman expects to continue to fine-tune his game and be a key player for the Lightning in the season ahead.
“Last year, even though it was a shorter season, I improved a lot defensively,” said Hedman. “I think I can still do better in a lot of areas on the ice, so obviously my main focus is going to be improving our team and contributing every night, in every game.”
With the national team keeping a watchful eye on Hedman and the other 34 hopefuls, he admitted it would serve as incentive to better himself, but it would in turn positively impact the Lightning.
Everyone wants to prove themselves and wants to make the Olympic team for every country. I think it’s going to be a big encouragement for everyone that goes for all teams. - Victor Hedman
“Everyone wants to prove themselves and wants to make the Olympic team for every country,” said Hedman. “I think it’s going to be a big encouragement for everyone that goes for all teams.”
And while the blueliner remained focused on what he’d like to provide for Tampa Bay, Hedman expressed a bit of excitement too.
“It’s going to be fun to go to orientation camp in August and work together on some stuff,” said Hedman. “Then maybe I’ll know where they’re at, what they think of me and what they expect out of me to make the team.”
With orientation camp at the end of August, Hedman then heads to the Lightning’s training camp in September. From there Hedman will have a chance to show the Bolts coaching staff that he’s ready for the next step in his career. The chance of representing his country won’t provide extra pressure though, just a possible result of being the player he wants to be for Tampa Bay.