During last night’s frustrating loss to the Minnesota Wild, the Lightning got one positive moment to celebrate as Victor Hedman scored his 100th career goal. The Bolts have made a habit of hitting milestones during losses recently. Steven Stamkos’ 400th goal, Brayden Points 100th, and now Hedman’s 100th have all come during losses over the last few weeks.
If you read the site regularly, you might remember that Justin used this space not so long ago to write about Hedman’s scoring pace this season. So instead of rehashing that, I’ll just direct you to his article. But there’s more than one way to appreciate Victor Hedman.
The occasion of his 100th goal is a good time to take a step back and look at his career as a whole. The Lightning drafted him second overall in a top five that began with John Tavares and also included Matt Duchene, Evander Kane, and Brayden Schenn. That’s a pretty good group with two bonafide superstars and three other players who went on to become first line caliber forwards.
But while acknowledging the other players in the class, I think it goes without saying that the Lightning made the right decision. Hedman won the Norris Trophy after the 2017-2018 season and has been nominated each of the last three seasons consecutively. Based on his play so far this season, he looks to be in the running again.
Another way to quantify his impact is to look at Wins Above Replacement (WAR) via Evolving Hockey. Since he entered the league, he ranks second in that metric among defenders behind only Mark Giordano who has about two more WAR in 30 more games. If you wanted to make the argument that he’s been the best player at his position since he was drafted, you could. But the fact he’s one of the best is indisputable.
Picks at the top of the draft aren’t guarantees. The Lightning have plenty of recent history with that. Jonathan Drouin, Slater Koekkoek, and Brett Connolly are all top ten picks who didn’t quite pan out and are no longer with the organization.
That’s part of what makes Hedman so special. He’s fulfilled everything the organization could’ve hoped when they drafted him. As an 18 year old, he looked like he had a chance to be great. As a 28 year old, we get to watch him be great every night.
Whether you want to look at the 100 goals or the 23 WAR, Hedman has become one of the premiere players in the NHL through his first 11 years in the NHL. And that’s worth taking a moment to celebrate.
Other Lightning News
The Lightning lost another one goal game to another good team last night. This time, 5-4 to the Wild.
Cory Conacher’s yo-yo journey continued as the Lightning recalled him yesterday after sending him back to Syracuse on Wednesday.
The Crunch made some news yesterday. First, they named Luke Witkowski team captain. And in a smaller move, they sent Jimmy Huntington back to the Orlando Solar Bears.
To get a full dose of Crunch updates, check out the latest episode of Syracuse Speaks.
Other Hockey News
In sad news, former Lightning coach Steve Ludzik is in need of a liver donor. This post from his wife gives details on how people can help.
Highlight of the Night
Matt Tkachuk executes a textbook hip check on an unlucky zebra.