Swede Greats for the Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks have long been one of the league`s more forward looking franchises when it comes to taking on players from outside of North America. In this two-part look at the best foreign players for the Canucks, we will note the best to wear the uniform from the inauguration of the Canucks up to the present day.
With a special nod to the place of Sweden`s finest with this team, the series is divided into one article focusing on the best Swedish skaters and another dedicated to the finest of the other foreign players.
In Part One, we take a look at the five greatest Swedish players to have suited up for Vancouver, and there has been a long list to choose from. We also note one player for the future who has the potential to steamroll onto a future update of this list
Was a strong and sound defenceman who though he may not have quite lived up to the superstar billing cited for him in his junior days, nevertheless provided the Canucks with excellent play on a daily basis.
The fact that Tampa Bay coveted and traded for him so that he could mentor top prospect Victor Hedman, is further evidence of the quiet, effective leadership he demonstrated.
Was a solid scorer who performed admirably year to year in a period when Vancouver squads ranked from dire to competent. He proved to be a hit immediately, earning a tie for team MVP at the end of his first season, in which he was one of three original Swedish imports, thus establishing a long held relationship with that country and the Canucks organization.
Gradin was an intelligent player who would go on to work for the team in a scouting capacity, proving a lasting commitment to the organization.
Was part of the greatest trade steal ever perpetrated by the Canucks organization, when he moved from Pittsburgh for the illustrious Alek Stojanov. He served stoutly for the team in his seven seasons, and was part of the free scoring West Coast Express line, along with Brendan Morrison and Todd Bertuzzi, that ruled the NHL for a few seasons.
He aided in mentoring the Sedins as they matured with the team. He was also a model of responsibility who took on the captaincy of the Canucks, never shying away from answering difficult questions from a ravenous local fan and media base, for which it seemed he could never do and be enough. Naslund eventually received a well-deserved jersey retirement two years ago.
Was selected one spot ahead of his brother at number two in the draft, so there’s that, and he does have the better goal scoring touch, but is otherwise evenly matched on a skills base. The younger Sedin recovered from a previous season injury to rip the scoring title back from his brother and also won the player’s choice MVP recognition.
Has his own set of awards that precipitated his little brother, and is no less gifted.
However, he marginally eclipses Daniel in one respect to top this list. He fulfills his role on the ice every day, then also squares off as captain for a team that is as intensely followed and dissected as any in sport. Though Henrik and Daniel get ripped every year for various reasons, often centred around a perceived lack of toughness and emotion, it is vital to remember that they are still in the prime of their careers.
Since neither player is well known either as a speedster, they should also be able to maintain their standing for a while yet.
One to watch
Alex Edler has been an improving athlete in his first four years with the Canucks, and now stands on the cusp of greatness with the team, following the departure of Christian Ehrhoff.
Edler is at a near point for every two games pace in his short career, and holds the hardest shot title these past two years from the Canucks skills competition.
He is also learning to hit with the best in the league. With his bountiful skills, only held somewhat in check by his introverted nature, Edler is the candidate best suited to usurp others in future on this list.