25-Year-Old Defenseman – Tampa Bay Lightning
Victor Hedman Contract Information:
Signed an eight-year, $63 million contract extension in July of 2016.
Hedman scored the game-winning goal in Sunday's World Cup opener against Team Russia.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Hedman is a beast – there’s no other way to describe him. He's got that rare combination of size, speed and smarts, and he would have been in the Conn Smythe discussion if the Bolts had taken the Cup this past spring. He was brilliant, both offensively and defensively, in the postseason. Only injury – and maybe a lack of power-play time – prevented him from being in the Norris discussion last season, too. Hedman is Chris Pronger without the snarl, so he’s not about to deliver many PIM for your squad. But he should be one of the first defenders off the board at your keeper draft, behind perhaps only Erik Karlsson, Kevin Shattenkirk and a healthy Kris Letang … especially if he gets an increase in power-play time. Yes, he really is that good. Single-year owners should target him as a top-eight defender.
Hedman came of age last season, much to the surprise of most hockey pundits -- including us. Hedman proved that can actually think the game like a stud defender and promptly delivered career numbers in goals (13), assists (42), points (55), shots on goal (170) and power-play points (14). Those 55 points put him fourth on the list of scorers from the blue line, but his power-play production didn't even crack the league's top-20 defenders. We'd like to see him deliver more with the man-advantage, but that part of his game should start to grow with a healthy Steven Stamkos in the lineup. He'll also deliver you bonus shorthanded points -- he led the NHL last season with six helpers while a man down. While it doesn't look likely that he'll ever win a Norris, he will be a great fantasy performer for the next decade. Draft accordingly.
Is the gentle giant making progress? Well, let's just say, "maybe." Hedman's 20 points in 44 games in 2012-13 would have translated into 37 points over a full season. And that would have been a career best. But there's reason to believe he won't be the 50-plus point, number one defender we thought he'd be when the Bolts drafted him. Yes, he'll block shots and lay hits, but there seems to be concerns that Hedman just doesn't think the game well. And that will be an impediment to growing his offensive game. Still, he will likely deliver 40 points, 120 hits and 150 blocked shots in 2013-14, so draft him accordingly. Just don't expect much by way of special teams production -- that part of his game just hasn't developed thus far.
Hedman is a talent. But he spent most of last season being schooled by opposing players. Those lessons started to sink in toward the end of the year and he had 10 points and an even rating in his last 13 games. That's impressive considering he finished with 23 points and a minus-9 rating on the season. He's still a bit of a gentle giant, but skating with the newly arrived Matt Carle should help take him to the next level. Are 40 points possible? He should come close, courtesy of first-unit power-play time. He'll hit 50 points in two years time.
You know the theme music from 'Jaws?' You know, the one that foreshadows an impending sense of doom? Well that's not exactly what opposing forwards hear when Hedman comes their way. He's less of a shark-like predator and more of an octopus-like smotherer. But this season, he'll finally emerge as a dominant, top-pairing, 40-point, 90-PIM defender. He's never going to be a devastating hitter but he will be a formidable shut-down specialist who can elegantly transition into attack mode with a single step and pass. And in a couple of years, his point totals will spike into the mid-50s. Keeper leaguers rejoice.
Hedman is a future star who will definitely improve on a rather weak rookie season. There were times when he appeared lost on the ice last season but there were others when he seemed like a poised 10-year vet. It's easy to forget the 6-foot-6, 220-pound behemoth is just 19 so we shouldn't expect the world. But 35 points -- or maybe 40 -- on a vastly improved Bolts squad are within reach. And of course, keeper-leaguers should be moving him to near the top of their defense lists. Those Lidstrom comps may come true some day.
It’s boom or bust this season for the best all-round prospect from the 2009 NHL Draft class. He draws comparisons to Chris Pronger but he lacks the toughness to be a true parallel. He skates like a man six inches shorter and will someday come closer to the sublime Niklas Lidstrom than the Philly bully. But this year he’s either going to deliver a stellar 35 points or a struggling 20. He’s a keeper-league must but a single-year risk.