Canucks and Beyond

"Glorified Beer League" to NHL YoungStars

01/26/2008 at 3:19pm EST

It’s the Edler Hour or something this week, as Alexander Edler’s trip to the YoungStars Game has caught the attention of various reporters seeking to profile the latest Swedish Canuck. dropped some comments today, following broadcaster Jim Hughson’s remarks on the player’s unexpected rise on the NHL Network yesterday.

But it’s Iain MacIntyre who tells the full story of how Vancouver snatched Edler—a sleeper pick at #91—from under the nose of Detroit (via the National Post). Here are some of the details…

The Canucks have never seen a sleeper like Alexander Edler. Hardly anyone has.

Four years ago, he was playing for a senior men’s team called Jamtland, which no longer exists, in the Swedish Third Division, which three tiers down from the renowned Elite League.

Yet from this isolated hockey backwater - “considered more a beer league,” according to Canucks scout Thomas Gradin - the NHL team traded up to draft Edler 91st overall in 2004, pilfering the defenceman from under the noses of the Detroit Red Wings after a measured, meticulous scouting campaign comprised entirely of one game.

Not just stealing him from under the nose of the Red Wings revered scout Hakan Andersson, but stealing him despite the fact that Andersson saw him first.

“The second time I went to see him, I called the coach first, just to make sure [Edler] was playing,” Andersson says. “It turned out the coach was friends with an agent, and the agent starts sending e-mails to scouts, saying you should come and see this kid.

“When I think back - and this has been on my mind many times - I think that was my mistake. I never should have phoned the coach. It was just me being a little lazy.”

The trickle-down effect of Andersson’s phone call resulted in the Canucks’ scout Thomas Gradin getting a phone call to check out Edler. And by the time the draft of 2004 was underway, only Detroit and Vancouver had any inside track on how good a player Edler might be.

The 2004 draft was in Raleigh, N.C., and the Wings, typically, were without first- and second-round picks. The Canucks had a first-rounder, but nothing in the second and third rounds.

Vancouver, knowing Detroit probably wasn’t picking anytime soon, chose goalie Cory Schneider in the first round. Then Nonis went about trying to outmanoeuvre the Red Wings in the third.

There were rumblings on the draft floor that Detroit general manager Ken Holland was looking to trade up from 97th, but Nonis had no way to plan for that. So he quietly worked potential deals for a third-round pick before the Wings.

Fifteen minutes before the Dallas Stars were to choose 91st, former general manager Doug Armstrong agreed to give Nonis his third-round selection in exchange for the Canucks’ third-rounder in 2005, which was to be a stronger draft class.

“As soon as the Canucks got that pick,” Andersson says, “I told everyone at our table I’d eat everything on it if Vancouver didn’t take Edler. We drafted Johan Franzen, so we still got a good prospect with our pick. But I still think about that phone call I made. The fun part in all this is seeing how well Alex is playing.”

Fun for Canucks fans, that’s for sure.

Edler will be competing in the YoungStars game later today.

Update 5:02pm PT—From the intro of CBC’s YoungStars broadcast:


Sure, he’s only 14 years old, but he’s a really solid d-man…

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