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The Sedins and the orca logo made Tom Willander a Canucks fan

"Vancouver was actually my first ever team that I started cheering for."
As a kid, Tom Willander became a Canucks fan partly because of Daniel and Henrik Sedin and partly because he thought their logo was "cool."

The newest member of the Vancouver Canucks is a long-time fan of both the Canucks and the orca logo.

"Vancouver was actually my first-ever team that I started cheering for," said Willander. "I'd say mainly because of the Sedins, obviously, being probably the most dominant pair of players ever. But I guess also, I thought the logo was cool, so I got a bit nostalgic seeing it up on the stage."

When asked by The Athletic's Thomas Drance if he preferred the orca logo to the flying skate, Willander didn't hesitate.

"For sure, one hundred per cent," said Willander, emphatically repeating, "One hundred per cent."

Willander shared with Canucks reporter Kate Pettersen that his appreciation for the Canucks — and their logo — started from a very young age.

"In kindergarten and first grade and second grade, Dad would pull up the laptop at the breakfast table and we'd watch the NHL recaps," said Willander. "I'd always be looking at the Vancouver ones."

Of course, Willander's upside as a prospect isn't dependent on his enthusiasm for playing for the first team he ever loved.

Willander could be seen as a reach for the Canucks at 11th overall, with the general consensus suggesting that he would get picked in the second half of the first round. TSN's Bob McKenzie ranked Willander 20th overall, Elite Prospects had him 23rd, and Smaht Scouting had him out of the first round altogether at 35th. Scouting reports praise his defensive game but question his offensive upside.

"Willander lacks the awareness and processing inside his moves to really make the best play," said Elite Prospects' David St-Louis in one report. "He activates, shifts alongside the blue, and makes some cheeky 1-on-1 moves and passes, but the offensive reads and creativity lag behind the toolkit."

The Canucks were obviously a lot higher on but Willander himself agrees that he needs to develop his game, which is a big reason why he chose to commit to Boston University in the NCAA instead of staying in Sweden.

"For me, personally, I think it's a better fit," said Willander of college hockey. "I feel like I have a lot of development left to do: getting a bit heavier but also skills wise, I feel like I have a bit to go. The NCAA teams being a bit more towards the development side, contrary to the SHL teams, I feel like that was a good move for me."

It's an interesting perspective. While Willander would be able to play against men in the SHL, he'd be battling for ice time and the team would be more focused on winning games than improving his game. That would likely mean playing safer, simpler hockey when what Willander really needs is the encouragement to take more chances offensively to improve his creativity.

Another benefit is that Willander won't have to worry about bouncing up and down from the SHL to Sweden's junior league, the J20 Nationell.

"I remember one time, I had to run from school to catch the bus and we had to go to Switzerland," said Willander with a laugh. "Just kind of weird, I missed a few tests on that one."

As for being picked so high compared to where he was ranked going into the draft, Willander had a sense of humour about the situation, noting that the first round of the draft had several surprises.

"You know, all the scouts put out the list, but none looked like this one," said Willander. "So no one got it right, even remotely."

Willander won't be dwelling long on his draft position or the nostalgia of getting picked by the team he cheered for as a kid. Instead, he's focused on the next step to become an impactful player in the NHL.

"I want to be somebody who really plays a big role in the tough games," said Willander on Sportsnet 650. "I want to be a two-way defender, someone who plays a lot of ice time, someone who is good defensively but also offensively — can be put on the ice in any situation — and someone who can win championships."