Mikkel Boedker became the earliest drafted Danish-born player when he was picked eighth by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2008 Entry Draft.
For the second-straight draft, a Danish-born player was selected in the first round, following Lars Eller being taken No. 13 by the St. Louis Blues. While it would seem Denmark is gaining a reputation for producing players, that isn’t really the case. Prior to Eller’s selection, there had been just four Danish players drafted. In fact, both Eller and Boedker sought outside training to improve their games.
Eller played two seasons with Frolunda in the Swedish Junior League to hone his craft; while Boedker played for a time with Eller, he journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean last season to play with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.
"I decided to come over because my heart told me it was the right thing for me to do," Boedker told Ontario Hockey Now. "And it has been the best time of my life, on and off the ice."
Boedker had an impressive rookie season with the Rangers, finishing third among OHL rookies with 73 points in 62 games, but that was just the beginning. In the playoffs he continued to shine, finishing second in OHL playoff scoring with 35 points in 20 games as the Rangers won the OHL title.
Boedker then had two goals and four assists for six points in five games in the Memorial Cup tournament for host Kitchener, which lost in the championship game to the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs.
While many young players look up to NHL stars or established players, Boedker’s main influence was in his own backyard -- his brother, Mads.
"I decided to come over because my heart told me it was the right thing for me to do. It has been the best time of my life, on and off the ice." -- Mikkel Boedker
"I always kind of looked up to my brother," Boedker said. "He's two years older than me, so I always looked up to him and tried to be like him. He's a great inspiration for me. He taught me a lot of stuff, and I try to do my best. But sometimes I wouldn't listen, you know, when your brother tells you to do stuff. You just say, 'Oh, whatever.' But at the end of the day, I always listened to him. I follow his lead. Some of his advice is making me the player I am right now. So, hopefully, I can make my family proud and show them that I really can play."
Boedker got a chance to play with his brother for the Danish team which won the 2007 Division I Group A World Junior Championship. He lists it as his most memorable hockey moment.
"My brother was on the team, so it was a big support that he was on the team," said Boedker. "He helped me in the tough situations against the bigger guys. But it felt like a family moment when we put on the gold medals. When I think back on it, it's the biggest moment in my hockey career so far that I got the chance to play on the same team as my brother, and I just enjoyed it."
If things go Boedker’s way, he will be playing in Phoenix sooner rather than later, where he will be coached by arguably the best player ever, Wayne Gretzky.
The Coyotes missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season in 2007-08, but they improved vastly last season, going from last in the Western Conference with 67 points in 2006-07 to 83 points last season.
Phoenix’s younger players, like Peter Mueller, Martin Hanzal, Daniel Winnik and Daniel Carcillo, all played major roles for the Coyotes and were major reasons for the improvement.
The Coyotes lost second-leading scorer Radim Vrbata as a free agent to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but Phoenix General Manager Don Maloney was able to land star center Olli Jokinen from the Florida Panthers for defensemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton, and then add Boedker, as well as big forward Viktor Tikhonov, in the first round of the Draft.
If Boedker and the Coyotes keep improving, the franchise could win its first playoff series since they were the Winnipeg Jets in 1987.