Viktor Arvidsson: The Steal

Amateur Scouting for the NHL is far from an exact science despite improvement in player rankings over the past decade. Technology continues significantly impact player evaluation across the board, providing access to talent outside of North America. If Pavel Datsyuk were draft eligible in 2018, he would be a top-three prospect. Potential first overall selection, Rasmus Dahlin, would have fallen through the cracks back in the 90’s. Scouting staffs have nearly unlimited access to upcoming talent and it continues to drive Central Scouting reports.

The Draft Pick

Even with advances in talent evaluation, did Nashville Predators’ GM, David Poile, expect the impact that Viktor Arvidsson has with the club? With most fourth-round picks, it can be a crap-shoot as they tend to be at least 4 years away from proving their worth, most continue in juniors, NCAA, or Europe for at least 2 years after being drafted.

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But Poile, along with his Scouting staff, are savvy. They have a track record of finding gems without top-ten picks (Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis) or trading for them (Filip Forsberg, P.K. Subban, Ryan Hartman). After having been passed over since 2011 due to size, the Predators selected Arvidsson with plans to develop. Plans that would pay off immensely.

The Journey

Having spent time in Sweden, with Skelleftea, Viktor Arvidsson made the trip to North America. After leading the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, Arvidsson earned a late call up to Nashville in 2015, according to Hockey’s Future. His first 62 games in a Predator’s uniform led the appearance of a solid bottom-six forward. In the 2016-17 season, however, the young forward proved otherwise.

The Breakout

Evidently, there is reason why Arvidsson was described as having “speed, skill, and determination favorable” to his peers: just watch.

With clear offensive talent, Arvidsson improved his past production by 45 points (61 in 80 gp) including 31 goals. The obvious value to his game earned top-six role and an average time on ice (TOI) of 17:09. Clearly a significant boost from 12:24 the previous year, Arvidsson tied center, Ryan Johansen, for team lead in points. A strong 12.6 shooting percentage confirmed Head Coach, Peter Laviolette‘s, trust in the young player as well as 2.7 points per 60 minutes at even strength. Being a positive puck possession player (55.0 CorsiFor%, 5.5 relative to team), Arvidsson’s overall play led to a playoff berth for the Nashville Predators.

As the 4th seed in the Central Division, Nashville’s entrance into their first Stanley Cup Final was unexpected. In 22 games, Arvidsson produced 13 points (t/3rd on the team) en route to the Predators Western Conference Championship.

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Do not be underwhelmed! Laviolette’s bunch succeeded through scoring via committee and aggressive defenders. Arvidsson did not find the net with as much regularity as the regular season with 3 goals and a 6.1 shooting percentage. The 180-pound forward was also shooting 1.53 fewer times per game than during his 80-game season. Despite limited depth at center, Arvidsson managed 10 assists in the effort to win a Stanley Cup. In the end, his production and effort resulted in a 7-year, $29.75 million contract as the Predators continued to build a contender.

The Current State

If being comfortable after a contract is a thing, Viktor Arvidsson‘s play would show otherwise. The 24 year old continued where he left off, helping propel the Predators to the most points in the NHL as of Wednesday, March 21. In terms of significant scoring, Arvidsson is tied for 13th in game-winning goals (6), league wide. With 6 in 80 games last season, he is on pace to improve that number. Clearly, Arvidsson is not content with simply having a job.

For the fans who love analytics, below shows how Victor Arvidsson fares statistically in comparison to last season:

  • 0.78 Points per game in all situations (0.76 in 2016-17)
  • 2.8 P/60 at even strength (2.4 in 2016-17)
  • 51.3 CF% at even strength (55.0 in 2016-17)
  • Continues to show a knack for shorthanded goals with 3 (5 in 2016-17).
  • Average TOI improved to 17:53 (17:09 inn 2016-17)-2nd among forwards on team
  • Leads the Predators with 55 points (26-29) 70 games (31-30-60 in 2016-17)
  • Shot rate (all situations) improved slightly to 3.19 per game (3.08 in 2016-17)
  • Started in the offensive zone 54.4% of the time at even strength (55.8% in 2016-17)

Success

For a player who was passed over during three entry drafts, Viktor Arvidsson has proved several General Managers wrong. Size, or lack there of, continues to factor into the evaluation despite the obvious talent that a player possesses. In hind sight, it would be interesting to hear why 30 teams chose otherwise until 2014. And what was going through Arvidsson’s head as he was not selected year after year?

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After reviewing the 2014 NHL Draft, there is argument that the 112th pick is in the top-10 of the class. With 132 total points, Arvidsson is tied for 4th (Sam Reinhart) among his peers. Despite being older than most in that group, it is amazing how he slipped through the cracks for so long. He does not have the flash or prestige of the top picks during that time (Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Jonathan Drouin) but his skill and value are evident. Regardless, Arvidsson has been more successful than most players within that time period.

The road to the NHL is not a given. A shockingly low number of youth hockey players will be prospects. Children watched the superstars with dreams of having a career in the pros without having any idea of the impossibility. Only the best and most determined, through clear paths or not, will achieve this. Nevertheless, David Poile found the diamond in the rough as he selected the eventual point leader for the Nashville Predators. And to his peers misfortune, Poile stole an excellent hockey player and competitor from 29 NHL franchises.

 

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