At this stage of Alexander Edler’s career, some observers might project the 19-year-old to be a poor man’s version of Nicklas Lidstrom. That wouldn’t be a bad thing. But don’t forget something else: both those Swedish defencemen were drafted in the third round of the NHL Entry Draft (Lidstrom 53rd overall in 1991 by Detroit, Edler 91st overall in 2004 by Vancouver), so perhaps there’s time yet for Edler to hone a Norris Trophy-worthy game. In his rookie campaign with the defending WHL champion Kelowna Rockets, the smooth-skating 6-4, 207-pounder has racked up 29 points in 28 games, and he could wind up being the league’s top-scoring blueliner. Edler showed a similar flair while playing for the junior squad of MoDo in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden. But right now, his focus is on helping Tre Kronor capture a medal at the 2006 IIHF World Junior Championship, a quest that will commence December 26 versus Russia in front of Kelowna fans. HockeyCanada.ca’s Lucas Aykroyd caught up with Edler recently.
HockeyCanada.ca: How have you adjusted to playing in North America?
Alexander Edler: In the beginning it was hard to get used to the play. It’s different from Sweden. Everything is faster and more physical. My defensive approach is my weakness, but I feel like my defense has gotten better. My offensive game is going pretty well. It’s a good team. All the guys are great. We had a tough start to the season, but it’s getting better and better.
HockeyCanada.ca: What motivated you to come to British Columbia and play for Kelowna this season?
Edler: It was Vancouver who drafted me in the first place. It’s a great opportunity and an adventure to play in another country. And also, maybe it’ll help me get closer to the NHL. It feels like it’s closer, even though it’s still far away. Closer than in Sweden
HockeyCanada.ca: Who is your favourite player?
Edler: I would say Mattias Ohlund. I like how he plays. He’s got a good offensive game in addition to his defensive smarts.
HockeyCanada.ca: Sweden hasn’t won a major hockey title since the 1998 IIHF World Championship. What’s gone wrong?
Edler: That’s a tough question! I know with the seniors, they’ve been close. They played against Canada in the finals two years in a row at the World Championships . With the juniors, I don’t know. In the last U18 tournament, Sweden got third place. Maybe it’s getting better.
HockeyCanada.ca: During last season’s NHL lockout, what was it like to have Forsberg,Naslund, and the Sedins suiting up for MoDo?
Edler: It was awesome. Everybody in the city was talking hockey. Of course, it was very good for the younger players on the junior team. We had opportunities to practice with them once in a while.
HockeyCanada.ca: Will you feel extra pressure through the tournament and the rest of the season with the Canucks’ management watching you closely?
Edler: I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think it’s great to be this close to Vancouver so they can watch you. They know you’ll have good games and bad games, but they get to see it all.