The accessibility to a veteran defenseman, who is still able to produce, is rare in a league that has a great number of younger stars coming. Ramus Dahlin, who was a defenseman drafted first overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2018 NHL Draft, is a great example of these younger incoming stars. Dahlin is only eighteen years old and is already a star for the Sabres in his rookie season. In the 2009 NHL Draft, Defenseman Victor Hedman was drafted second overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning, only behind John Tavares. Hedman came over from a Swedish league, where he was a part of the MODO Hockey Ornskoldsvik, a professional hockey club in Sweden.
Hedman went directly into the lineup in his rookie season, playing in 74 of the games during the 2009-2010 season. During that season, he tallied four goals and 16 assists and had a career high of 79 penalty minutes. He has not looked back since his rookie season, improving more in seasons following his first. During the 2013-2014 season, he had a huge jump in assists, going from 16 assists the season before to 42 assists. He also managed 13 goals that season as well. This would not be his best season, but he never let down from there. In the 2016-2017 season he recorded his career high in assists with 56, while tallying his career best in goals, 16, that would only last one season. In his 2017-2018 season, he recorded 17 goals, his career best, and 46 assists. This performance gave Hedman the credibility he needed to win the Norris Trophy, awarded to the top defensive player of the season. Currently this season, Hedman has 5 goals and 21 assist and is ranked seventh on the team in points with 26. He currently leads all defensemen on the team in points and assists.
The Lightning had a 15-0-1 record leading up to their Saturday night game against the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks handed the Lightning their first regulation loss since Nov. 27. During that span of games, Hedman had 15 assists, almost three-fourths of his total assists this season. He recorded his first goal since Nov. 19 in Saturday’s loss.
The veteran defenseman has been a key part to the structure of the Lightning’s play. While he is only a defenseman, he is able to help produce scoring opportunities which reflect with his 21 assists on the season. Hedman also brings physicality to the defensive prospective of the team. He is a six-foot-six defenseman, who is 223 pounds. His stature gives him the ability to lay a hit on almost any player that comes into the defensive zone, breaking up the play and turning the possession around.
His importance to the Lightning can be compared to the importance and impact that such players as John Carlson has on the Capitals or P.K. Subban has on the Nashville Predators. These players are normally skipped over when people think of stars that are crucial to a team’s performance. These players are a crucial part to the play in their half of the ice. Just like Carlson and Subban, Hedman has a leadership role on the defensive unit due to his experience and performance.