Victor Hedman tells The Tampa Bay Times that as soon as the lockout was settled, he booked his flights back to the United States.
But the quick getaway meant the Lightning defenseman, who had been playing for Barys Astana of Russia’s KHL, would have to skip that league’s All-Star Game on Sunday in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Hedman called it a no-brainer.
“It was a big accomplishment, but this is where I belong,” he said Wednesday after his first skate at the Ice Sports Forum. “This is where I want to be.”
Hedman, 21, entering his fourth season and starting a five-year contract, had a notable run for his Khazakhstan-based team with a goal and 20 points in 26 games. He was plus-18 and averaged 21:44 of ice time.
Because larger European rinks mean less emphasis on physical play, Hedman said, “I have to get my mean streak back.”
More important, he said, is the improvement he believes he made on offense.
“My offensive game got a real boost,” said Hedman, who took a regular turn on Barys’ power play. “It’s up to me to prove it to the coaches that I improved.
“I don’t set a bar. I want to be as good as I can. I want to be one of those guys who makes a difference.”