It’s time for our annual countdown of the best 25 Nashville Predators players under 25 years old.
This is not only a tradition here at OTF, but is also something that you might see at many other SBNation NHL blogs. The premise is simple: rank the 25 best players who have not yet reached their 25th birthday (as of August 1st, 2017).
At #16, Emil Pettersson.
As you may remember, Pettersson’s signing was a part of David Poile’s off-season moves before the off-season even began (humble brag that the Preds were playing hockey later than almost everyone). Pettersson’s background probably carries just as much mystery and intrigue as fellow Swedish forward, Victor Ejdsell.
Drafted late in 2013, Pettersson has not been on many peoples’ radars until this summer when his rights were soon to expire and the Preds finally inked him to a deal. Drafted after his first season at the highest level of junior hockey in Sweden, the SuperElit, Pettersson finished that year with 44 points in 44 games for Timra IK. He followed up the next season with 19 points in 12 games before being promoted to the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second highest league, and posting a respectable 14 points in 44 games.
In 2014-15, Pettersson put up 35 points in 52 games before being promoted to MODO Hockey of the SHL for the following season. In his first full year of men’s hockey in Sweden, Pettersson scored 12 goals and 26 points in 52 games for a MODO team that found itself in an year-end relegation tournament. When MODO was relegated, Pettersson terminated his contract and signed with Skelleftea AIK for the 2016-17 season - the same club where Viktor Arvidsson molded his game before coming to North America.
Struggling throughout the season, he was traded to Vaxjo where he scored at a near point-per-game rate in the regular season and the playoffs. He maintained a solid 10 to 11% shooting percentage throughout the season, which could suggest the trade simply helped him rediscover his game.
Similar to Arvidsson, Pettersson was relatively unknown before coming overseas; the difference, however, is Arvidsson played in the AHL his first season after being drafted. Pettersson has put up similar numbers in the AHL but at an older age. It seems like he has all but committed to playing in Milwaukee this season, so I would expect nothing less. It will be interesting to see how he can grow his game but adjust at the same time. Pettersson could be a dark horse star for the Admirals this season.
The video above gives a good look into Pettersson’s strengths. He is a pass-first, natural-fit center with good reach. He skates well with the puck on his stick and his vision is above-average. He can play around the net and also on the wall and distribute from most positions. He isn’t overly physical but understands passing and shooting lanes well and works to clear or close them depending on the situation.
He will certainly need to up his game to another level in the AHL this season, but he has the tools to succeed if he can adapt quickly. His utilization in various situations this season will be something to keep your eyes on.
Although Pettersson is a tad older, patience is never bad when it comes to grooming prospects. A couple solid seasons in the AHL could promote him to the NHL somewhat quickly, but he also isn’t at the top of the organizational depth chart at center.
Pettersson’s entry-level contract expires in the summer of 2019. He will be paid $70 K in the AHL next season on a two-way deal with a $742,500 cap hit on the Predators’ books. Upon expiry, he will be a restricted free agent.