The Nashville Predators winger may be small, but Viktor Arvidsson has been leaving a big impression on Smashville.
For Nashville Predators fans, It seems difficult to not love watching Viktor Arvidsson play hockey. It’s an experience similar to watching a Looney Tunes cartoon- one moment he’s being smashed by the anvils that are NHL defenders, and an instant later you see him rocketing down the ice like he’s been launched from an ACME cannon.
The 5’9, 165 lb. speedster found a home at the pro level this season working primarily at Nashville’s third-line Right Wing position. His rookie campaign saw him mark 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists) through 56 regular season games, and 2 points (1G, 1A) in 14 postseason contests.
It feels like a highlight each and every time the undersized Arvidsson pops right up from a big hit. Around these parts he’s earned the nickname Wolverine- a bit because of his tenacity, a bit because of his height, but mostly because we’re suspicious he’s made of Adamantium.
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The pinnacle moment of Arvidsson’s season came in the form of a second-round Game Six playoff overtime game-winner in Nashville. Facing elimination, the 23-year-old rookie turned one of his trademark hustle plays into a one-on-one situation from which he launched a ferocious backhander that beat San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones top-shelf left shoulder. The goal forced a Game Seven while putting Arvy’s name on the map.
He turns good speed into great hustle, and great work ethic into fantastic opportunities. Unlike a lot of rookies drafted 100-something in their draft, Arvidsson is immediately noticeable when he’s on the ice.
He has also fully earned his creatively questionable but entirely apt nickname of Viktor “Shot on Goal” Arvidsson. The Swede displayed his reputation for never meeting a shot he didn’t like, leading all Nashville Predators in Shots/60, Corsi/60 and Fenwick/60 (per 60 minutes played).
The positives above combine to form something of a signature maneuver- using his speed to gain the offensive zone, Arvidsson will often body out the defender just enough to register a shot on goal when most players only dump the puck in deep. While not a wholly uncommon practice, Arvy seems to have a knack for the play, having used it to net his Game Six backhand winner, and striking with it during the regular season via a highly impressive one-knee-on-the-ice wrister, which also served as a game decider.
Arvidsson is easily and often bodied off the puck. Due to his size, which prevented him from being drafted the first three years he was draft eligible, he has difficulties staying on his skates against larger, more physical teams. See: the first round series against the Anaheim Ducks.
All comic book references aside, Arvidsson has proven to be tough as nails, and he’s had to be. Multiple seasons weathering the type of punishment he faced in his rookie year does not bode well for career longevity.
He must use this offseason to bulk up his frame, and he must learn to match his game against bigger opponents. Height is not an overly condemning issue in the NHL- New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello checks in at only 5’7 yet is piecing together a fantastic career, partly because at 179 lbs. he offers a much sturdier target.
Final Season Grade: B
If C is average, Arvidsson has performed just above that mark for a rookie season. The grade is also indicative of notable growth from last year to this year, and throughout this past season itself.
In 2014-15, he led the Milwaukee Admirals with 55 points (22 goals, 33 assists) through 70 games. This past season at the AHL level he marked 18 points (8 G, 10 A) in just 17 games, achieving over a point-per-game, indicating impressive growth, and proving that he’s too good to be left playing at a lesser league level.
So while his skill set hasn’t yet translated to scoring at the pro level, he has only been playing American hockey for two years, and only been competing in the NHL for one. He is a reason to be excited for the future of Predator hockey, and his arrow is only pointing up.