Monday, September 8, 2014

Returning Winterhawk Profile: #2: Anton Cederholm

(Editors Note: In the countdown to the season opener on September 19th, I will be looking individually, at each of the 15 returning Winterhawk's players that look to be on the opening night roster).

Second up (in numerical fashion) is #2 Anton Cederholm

Born: 2/21/1995
Hometown: Helsingborg, Sweden
Position: Left Defense
How Acquired: 1st Round Pick in the 2013 CHL Import Draft (60th Overall)

-2013/14: 71 Games Played, 4 Goals, 12 Assists, 16 Points, 95 Penalty Minutes, +42
              Playoffs: 21 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 5 Pts, 16 PIMs

NHL Drafted: Vancouver Canucks 5th Round (145th Overall) in 2013. Signed Rookie Deal on 5/20/14

-Cederholm came in as a bit of unknown after being selected with the last first round pick in last year's CHL import draft. We knew that the Hawks thought enough of him in order to release Russian Defenseman Kirill Vorobyev as one of their two protected imports. But besides that, there was not a lot known about the Swede. My first exposure to him was at his first WHL game: a preseason tilt in the 2013 Everett tournament. On his first shift he threw a massive and legal open ice check that got the small crowd present, excited. This type of play, does not really fit too much with the way the Hawks want their Defensemen to play though so this was dialed back as the regular season began. The message had been sent though that Anton was a big physical D-man, who knows how to use that size. Last year, as he took awhile getting used to the system and making sure that he was not out of place. His size was more useful along the boards, where he made life difficult for opposing forwards in his own zone.

For most of the season and playoffs he was paired with CHL D-man of the year Derrick Pouliot; who played on his right and handled the puck the majority of the time. As he began to get used to the WHL playing surface, he looked more comfortable in handling the puck in tougher situations. He just simply became a player who was not out of place defensively too often. Anton does not seem phased by anything, as evidenced by the season of Swedish Elite League he played as a 17 year old. Though he only notched 4 goals on the season, last year, he was not asked to play too much power play time (especially after Mathew Dumba was acquired) and was more a stay at home D-man then somebody who was asked to light it up offensively. Because of this, he was one of the Hawk's top penalty killers, nearly from day one of the season and will be asked to be the main cog defensively this season. He actually lost 5 lbs (down to 6'2" and 209 lbs from 214 last year) and maybe this will increase his agility, which could use some improvement. The few times he led the rush into the opponents zone, he looked confident and rushed back. It is obvious now in the NHL that Europe (and specifically Sweden) have been cranking out some of the games best D-men and Cederholm looks like he could play at the next level eventually. His case to make this sooner rather than later, would be helped if he develops his shot more and has more big moments like December 27th, 2013, when he rushed up the ice and scored an OT winner vs. Tri City, when Pouliot was at World Juniors. Continued improvements in physical play would help his professional outlook as well.

-The biggest concern for Hawks fans is whether or not Cederholm actually returns to the Hawks for his 19 year old season. He is eligible to play in the AHL for former Hawk's assistant coach Travis Green with the Utica Comets, as he was drafted by Vancouver prior to becoming property of the Hawks and thus is not protected under the CHL-NHL agreement. This decision is anyone's guess right now, but having just been signed, he was an object of interest for the Canucks at July's Prospect Camp. He is a lock for Vancouver's roster at the Young Star's classic from September 11th-15th in Pentiction as he was there last year. As a signed player, he should also be at training camp for the Canucks from the 19th-22nd. Depending on how he performs at this camp, he may get some playing time in some of their 9 preseason games from Sept. 23rd-October 4th. From there it is up to the Canucks on whether he will come back to Portland or head off to Utica.

Even if he does come back to the Hawks, after missing part of the beginning of the season, he might miss some more time around Christmas to go to the World Junior U-20 Championships in Toronto and Montreal from December 26th-January 5th. He is a finalist for the roster as he played in 4 games this summer for Sweden at the USA jr. Development Camp in Lake Placid, where he faced off against 4 Winterhawks teammates (Chase De Leo, Keegan Iverson, Dominic Turgeon and Brendan Burke). Sweden is only returning 2 of the 7 D-men on last year's roster, so Anton has a good chance of making it onto the the reigning Silver Medalists.

Should he be back in Portland (which I expect), he goes from being a support D-man for guys like Pouliot and Dumba to the Hawk's go-to guy on the back end this season. He will most likely notch the most minutes a game on the team and may also be relied upon as a power play quarterback, depending on what newcomers Blake Heinrich and Nick Heid show offensively. It is believed that he has bigger offensive abilities than he has shown so far in Portland and this year, we will get to see those abilities unleashed a lot more. Should Cederholm take a big step forward this season, the Hawk's defense will be a lot less of a question mark than we thought. Because of the other responsibilities he will have this season, he will probably be asked to fight a lot less.

Previous Returning Winterhawk Profiles: Brendan Burke.

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