Viktor Arvidsson had a rough year. In fact, calling it “rough” might be understating how poorly Nashville’s speedy Swede played; he was downright mediocre for a Predators team that needed him in top form to function properly. I could have just attributed that to injury, but instead I went on a deep dive into Arvidsson’s season to learn as much as I could about him. Here’s what I found.
Arvidsson is a prototypical north-south skater; if he has the puck on his stick, he’s going to fly up the wing and try to beat a defender wide with speed and effort, rather than using his edges and stickhandling to create an entry. His top gear remains the best on Nashville’s roster aside from maybe Craig Smith (alas, no longer with us) and Matt Duchene, and his explosiveness in his first few strides is clearly the best on the team.
Arvidsson is at his best as a skater when there are loose pucks near his own blue line; he cheats a bit too much for my liking (more on that later), but when he punches through the first wave of opposing players with a head of steam, he’s going to take the puck deep and generate a shot 10/10 times. My only concerns with his movement are his aforementioned lower lateral mobility and his inability to consistently execute creative stickhandling at speed; these two weaknesses hold his game back considerably, which I’ll detail at some point in this article.
Here, we run into some concerning issues. Arvidsson has been a volume shooter throughout his career, but in recent seasons he’s also consistently been a plus finisher. His FF/60 at 5v5 was 7th, 101st and 4th in the league over that span, with GF/60 at 5v5 ranking 22nd, 99th and 40th respectively. In short, Arvidsson is at his best when he’s shooting the puck as often as possible, usually creating the majority of those shots off of the rush.
This year, Arvidsson ranked 161st in 5v5 FF/60, putting him in the company of...Ryan Johansen? When your foremost volume shooter is putting up similar shot generation numbers to the epitome of a guy who “never shoots the puck enough,” something is probably wrong.
Arvidsson finished at an average rate for the first time in his stint as an established NHLer getting top-six minutes; in previous seasons, his shooting was well above average, especially on wrist shots from in front of the net.
For a player who generates most of his value by shooting the puck, Arvidsson’s profile is a bit concerning, but he could easily put up another plus shooting season next year.
This is where we get to why I’m worried that Arvidsson will never regain 30+ goal form. After reviewing a good amount of tape, I’ve only cemented a position that I’ve held for a few years now (a very unpopular one, mind you) that Viktor Arvidsson just isn’t a very smart hockey player.
All too often I saw him wasting Nashville possessions, taking bad angles, floating in the defensive zone, and getting defeated by the same defensive strategy over and over again. To sum up why I’m worried about Arvidsson, I think the league has figured out how to defend him, and I’m not sure that he has the hockey IQ or versatility to adapt.
Arvidsson generates most of his scoring by creating rush chances, usually by picking up loose pucks at the blue line and careening up the wing. He’s totally reliant on beating his man with his speed and tenacity and rarely tries to stickhandle or maneuver around them; this created a trend I witnessed of aggressive gaps sealing #33 into the boards the moment he closed on the offensive zone. Teams have learned to take advantage of his north-south mentality, and Arvidsson’s refusal to adapt to this caused his aforementioned declines in shot totals and scoring.
Another annoying trend I saw was Arvidsson’s willingness to take an extremely low-danger shot, rather than attempting to create a higher quality chance. While Arvidsson has always shot the puck a ton, he usually concentrated his efforts on the slot or close to the net; this year, we saw the infamous “Arvi streaks up the right side and takes a contested slapshot from a sharp angle” way too often, likely due to the aggressive defensive gameplan teams employed.
In a three-game sample I tracked, Arvidsson opted to plow forward and take a slapper off the rush around a third of the time; that mark is simply unacceptable for a player who is attempting to score unless they have a completely unbeatable shot (spoiler, he doesn’t). The unwillingness to try something new in order to produce offense, combined with a historic lack of creative puck-handling, makes me think that Arvidsson’s days of scoring 30+ goals might be behind him, barring some diversification of his toolkit in the offseason.
Overall Grade: C*
Arvidsson was a weird player to grade. On one hand, a lot of these problems could be linked to him losing a step due to injury; I didn’t particularly notice a massive drop in playing speed to warrant this difference, but hockey is a game where even the microseconds count, so it’s fairly plausible that this is why he had such a rough year.
On the other hand, I didn’t want to just let him off the hook for being a one-dimensional player who was easily contained until the postseason. Overall, I ended up giving him a C, because I felt he was average in his time on the ice, but with an asterisk because he played hurt the entire year.
What grade would you give Arvidsson’s 2019-2020 season?
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