Viktor Arvidsson. Image by: John Russell/Getty Images
Undersized Viktor Arvidsson was passed over in the the draft three times before the Predators nabbed him. In his second season, he's showing he was worth the gamble.
To be sure, Viktor Arvidsson can score nice goals. But the Nashville left winger’s value goes way beyond his wrist shot. As Predators assistant GM Paul Fenton tells it, Arvidsson is a model for what it means to wear the gold in Tennessee.
“You’re never going to find a guy with the desire, drive and work ethic that he brings,” Fenton said. “He’s everything we believe in and represent as an organization.”
And it only took Nashville a couple of drafts to figure that out. See, Arvidsson may have seen time with Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen this season, but the 23-year-old Swede was far from a sure thing in his early days. At 5-foot-9, he didn’t have ideal size, and that had all 30 NHL franchises looking elsewhere the first three times Arvidsson was draft eligible, beginning in 2011.
“I was hoping, but I knew it was a small chance because of my size,” Arvidsson said. “I knew I had to develop more and start to show I could play against bigger players.”
Raised in the tiny northern village of Kusmark, Arvidsson lived on a farm growing up. While his sister spent her time with the family’s horses, Arvidsson and his brother were always playing hockey at a nearby rink.
Arvidsson played for the Skelleftea organization in his formative years and by 2013-14, he was one of the SHL squad’s leading scorers. Predators scout Lucas Bergman had continually pounded the table for Arvidsson over the years and finally Nashville struck, plucking the determined winger with the 112th pick overall that summer.
Despite his 5-foot-9, 180-pound frame, Arvidsson’s strengths are in winning puck battles, forechecking hard and taking the puck to the net. He has gone up and down the Predators’ lineup and that versatility speaks further to his value.
“He fits with anybody, the way he shows up every shift,” Fenton said. “Not every night – every shift.”
Now in his second NHL campaign, Arvidsson has already doubled his offensive output season-over-season and sits second behind Johansen with 34 points through 51 games. He’s also second to Johansen in Corsi For percentage at 55.6 percent and was even pretty good as a rookie, ranking eighth on the squad.
Like most Preds youngsters, Arvidsson did time in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals before breaking through and the time spent there helped him adjust to North America – even if he had some help from some Swedes.
“I was lucky,” Arvidsson said. “I had a friend from Skelleftea there in Johan Alm and we were close buddies. It was much better with him there. My girlfriend would visit, too. I got to play a lot, with power play and penalty-kill time. That was a big turn for me.”
Arvidsson led the Admirals in scoring during his only full season there, but for anyone who didn’t follow the Predators closely, he was a lesser-known quantity than say, Kevin Fiala or Brendan Leipsic.
But hard work does pay off and it was Arvidsson that found himself in Nashville’s lineup for the majority of last season and all of the Preds’ playoff run to the end of the second round.
“Oh yeah, that was so big,” Arvidsson said. “I had confidence and played well. Coming into this year, I wanted to build off that confidence.”
So far, so good in that regard. Nashville is once again in the thick of the playoff picture in the Central and hot of late, going 6-3-1 in the squad’s past 10 games. Arvidsson may not have been a sure thing, but he has already produced more career offense than some of the first-rounders in 2014 – and even some of the first-rounders from 2011, when he first could have been selected.
Even without the points, the youngster has great value for Nashville, from special teams to driving possession. And if he keeps grinding and digging away, the Preds will be a tough out in the playoffs once again.
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