The talk of the 2009 Entry Draft has been who will be the No. 1 pick, John Tavares
or Victor Hedman
While North American scouts have had four years to pick apart every nuance of Tavares' game, this is the first chance for many to see Hedman, the 6-foot-6 Swedish defenseman whose game has been compared to fellow Swedes Borje Salming
and Nicklas Lidstrom
, as well as Chris Pronger
. Many scouts consider Hedman the closest thing to a franchise defenseman to come through the Draft in quite some time.
But through four games, Hedman's play, while not bad, has been underwhelming for a player so universally praised.
While he's known for his sweet-skating offensive game, Hedman has just 2 assists and 10 shots on goal.
"He's got more to give," said Sweden coach Par Marts after his team practiced Friday at Scotiabank Place. "He can score more and give more points."
There are a number of explanations for Hedman's poor play, ranging from pressure to impress the scouts to an early-season shoulder injury that still is bothering him.
"He hasn't played that many games, so perhaps (it's the shoulder)," said Marts. "(The media) asking him a lot of questions; he's a young guy, he starts to think what's happening, and if you start to think you're not a good hockey player. It's all about your instincts."
Hedman says he's happy with his play, even if his offensive production is lacking.
"I'm playing a more defensive role this tournament," Hedman told NHL.com. "We're playing very good. You take the role you have and do what you're best at. Maybe I can create a little bit more offensively, but I'm satisfied so far. I know I can do better offensively, but defensively I think this has been my best tournament so far."
Hedman is a plus-4, and Sweden has the best penalty killing and goals-against average through the preliminary round.
Still, Marts said the next step is getting more on the offensive end from Hedman. To that end, he split the pairing of Hedman and Erik Karlsson
, and put Hedman with David Rundblad
, another 2009 Draft-eligible prospect.
"When you play with Erik Karlsson
you don't have the puck so much, so you get out of (sync)," said Marts. "This way Hedman can have the puck a bit more."
Hedman said that because of his team's blue-line depth, it didn't matter who he played with, he just had to play his game.
"Playing with Rundblad, he's a pretty good offensive defenseman," Hedman said. "Doesn't matter which one you play with you just try to play your game.
"I can produce more offensively, but when you're winning the games, it doesn't matter much to me. If we win the gold medal I'll be satisfied."
To do that, they'll likely need more from Hedman. His coach thinks people will see it soon.
"Hopefully he has the best in front of him because he can play better," Marts said. "We have two games left, so perhaps it will come in the next game."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.