Hedman has the last chance to make a No. 1 impression

TSN.ca Staff
5/28/2009 5:14:16 PM
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At this week's NHL draft combine, there's a chance that a scout or general manager could ask Victor Hedman a character-defining question during the interview process.

"If you weren't a hockey player, what would you be?"

And Hedman won't hesitate on giving his answer.

"A pilot," he already told TSN this week.

Flying an airplane isn't exactly the easiest thing to do in the world, so that's a pretty good answer in our books. Teams can read into that as a young man who enjoys daunting challenges and a little bit of risk. If that's the case, the six-foot-six, 220-pound blue-chipper should be ready for some of the biggest challenges of his life in the coming months.

While the combine won't dramatically make-or-break Hedman's stock for the upcoming draft in Montreal, it's still a gruelling and stressful test of a player's mental and physical stamina. For the towering blueliner, this week is a chance to make up some of the ground he may have lost at the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championship - where in the minds of many he was passed by Canadian forward John Tavares.

"It's the last week to make an impression," he told TSN this week. "I'm looking forward to it...I've tried these tests before and I'm never going to quit."

And like Tavares, the Swedish defenceman was something of a child prodigy, playing professional hockey for MoDo of the Swedish Elite League since the age of 16. This past season, he collected 21 points in 43 games, earning rookie of the year honours.

"I've played against men, so I really know what its all about," he explained.

His pro experience alone could give him an upper hand, as both he and Tavares look to lock themselves in as the first overall pick. And with a rowdy Montreal crowd in attendance and a big national television audience watching, Hedman can't help but notice the hype that's quickly growing.

"Of course there's some excitement," Hedman told TSN earlier this month. "It's a big day coming up and we're getting closer, so it'll be interesting to see what team I'm going to."

Depending on which rumour of the day you read into, Hedman could go as high as No. 1 to the New York Islanders or slip to second or third and be taken by the Tampa Bay Lightning or Colorado Avalanche respectively.

"You see who's going to pick first and second but you also know there's trades and stuff like that," said Hedman. "So you really can't think too much about it before it's done. Becoming an NHL player is big to me, so it's not a big deal what team I'm going to."

Regardless of which team selects Hedman on June 26, there will certainly be some growing pains as he'll join a club that will be in the midst of a rebuilding process. But patience will be a virtue when it comes to this celebrated prospect, who has drawn early comparisons to Chris Pronger and Jay Bouwmeester.
"It's hard to find a player to compare (him) with," said Hedman's agent Peter Wallen. "He's big and he's physical. He's not a hitting man, but he's big and physical in his frame and an offensive guy with great feet. He'll join the rush like Bouwmeester, has a great shot and he's good overall."

Written with files from TSN's Brent Wallace and Cory Woron.

Click on to TSN.ca on Friday for our fourth annual NHL draft combine blog, along with with news, updates and one-on-one video interviews.

Victor Hedman (Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)


(Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
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