by Todd Anderson
Having recently capped off his fourth season with the Ottawa Senators, director of player personnel Anders Hedberg remains busy this off-season, keeping tabs on prospects he hopes will one day find a spot in the NHL lineup.
"I talk to the players, I talk to their coaches, their strength and conditioning coaches, their parents, their agents. It's an ongoing communication. The entry draft is the NHL's way of distributing talent from around the world. We have the NHL rights to these players, but until they sign a contract with our team, we have to work with the schools, junior, professional and amateur teams they are playing with to ensure the player develops without conflict. The basic belief I have is whatever is good for the player will be good for his current team, and for us in the future."
It's not all about the player's performance on the ice, says Hedberg.
"Player development is naturally about hockey, but it's also about values. We want to have solid citizens as well, because we want to have solid teammates with the Ottawa Senators. It's not how fast you make it, but rather how good you become after developing your special abilities under the circumstances you're in."
With the 2006 NHL Entry Draft coming this Saturday, Hedberg spoke about the NHL's rating system for prospects.
"It has to do with potential. The ranking at draft time is an indication of where a player's potential is rated at that particular point of his career. The Ottawa Senators might have a player ranked somewhere else. It's definitely not an exact science. It's what happens afterwards that really matters. You predict that first-round picks like Patrick Eaves and Andrej Meszaros are players, and they obviously are. Then there are players like Brian Pothier who make it, and they were never even drafted. They have a different development curve. Ambitions, injuries, other priorities, work habits and many other things will determine a player's future."
Hedberg says English has become the universal hockey language, especially since the dismantling of the Iron Curtain in Europe. He has also embraced the emergence of advances in technical communication tools.
"I can get by in German and, of course, I know Swedish and English languages. Sometimes you need an interpreter, but most players speak English. The Internet, e-mails, text message and cell phones are everywhere, not the least among our young prospects. That has been a huge difference in shrinking the world."
Still, plenty of travel and time on the phone are required. Along with keeping in touch with Senators prospects, Hedberg also has the role of scouting NHL, American Hockey League, European, college and professional league teams to assess talent that may eventually become available through trade or free agency.
"You have to be able to manage your own travel effectively," he says. "It's more difficult when you have a young family but my family is grown up now, so it's a bit easier. In March when I went to visit (2002 Senators draft pick) Alexei Kaigorodov in Magnitogorsk (Russia), his coach, Dave King, told me I should cross the river and visit the old part of the town there. I didn't realize it, but the river ran along the border of Europe and Asia. So last season I covered most of North America, through Europe and into Asia."
As a former player, Hedberg's journey for a championship continues.
"I'm chasing the Stanley Cup dream. That's the ultimate chase. In that respect, I'm just like a little boy."
For more information on the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, visit ottawasenators.com's Draft Central by clicking here.