What’s Going On With Viktor Arvidsson: A Deep Dive

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JANUARY 27: Viktor Arvidsson #33 of the Nashville Predators celebrates a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period of a 5-2 Leaf victory at Bridgestone Arena on January 27, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JANUARY 27: Viktor Arvidsson #33 of the Nashville Predators celebrates a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period of a 5-2 Leaf victory at Bridgestone Arena on January 27, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

The Swedish speedster has struggled this season for the Nashville Predators. Why is that? Let’s take a deep dive into it.

Viktor Arvidsson broke the Nashville Predators franchise record for goals in a season last year. He’s been a key cog in the team’s recent success, signing a long-term contract as a reward. Slotting into the second line with partner-in-crime Ryan Johansen this year, it was expected that he and #92 would dominate matchups and score at a quality rate.

Arvidsson has 24 points in 51 games this year, and will likely have his lowest scoring season since his rookie year. What does this mean for him as a player, why is this happening, and what changes does he need to make? Let’s take a deep dive to find out.

Decline in Volume

Anyone who has watched Arvidsson in his best seasons knows what he brings to the table when performing: speed, lots of shots, and effort on every shift that’s undeniable to even a more analytics-inclined guy like me. So where has all of that gone this year?

We’ve seen our favorite heart-and-soul player reduced to a nonfactor in a number of games, and his goal and point totals have fallen off hard compared to years past. There are a number of reasons for this, but I want to start with the shot volume that #33 is putting out this year.

Arvidsson is undeniably a volume shooter; he broke out in the AHL after leading the league in shots, he broke out in the NHL  after putting up 246 shots, and he sustained a crazy shooting rate throughout his first three years of being a full-time NHL player, ranking 3rd and 28th among top line forwards (min 1000 TOI) from 2016-2018 in FF/60 at 5v5 SVA.

In addition, Arvidsson ranked 4th in the league among all forwards with a career high 54.3 in FF/60 at 5v5 SVA in 2018-19, his best year from a goal scoring efficiency perspective (28th in GF/60 among forwards, an elite range).

This year? Arvidisson sits at 128th among forwards at 5v5 SVA FF/60, a cratering compared to his career totals. He is, simply put, not shooting as much as he used to.

So, this begs the question: why is this? Is he being more tentative with pulling the trigger, or is he doing a worse job of creating shots for himself?

Let’s go to the tape to figure that out.

Tape Breakdown #1

Using Evolving Wild’s database, I ranked Arvidsson’s games this season by individual Fenwick for and picked a few of his best games.

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Then, I compared them to one of his worst performances this year in the recent loss against Carolina, which ranked 40th in terms of iFF for his games; this dichotomy was to allow me comparison of what he did and didn’t do well in those respective performances, and what he might have changed as the season progressed.

Game One: Ducks @ Predators 10/22/19

Arvidsson Statline: 3 iFF, 2 G, 0 A, .34 ixG, 52.63 CF%, 59.33 xGF% in 9.63 minutes at 5v5

Linemates: Calle Jarnkrok, Ryan Johansen

Standout Plays:

  • Looped around the back of the net, caught a pass from Jarnkrok who won a put battle and made a nice heads-up pass to Johansen for a high danger chance.
  • Josi gets around two defenders and gets a backhand chance, but if the seam opened up Arvidsson was ready for the one timer. Good offensive awareness and positioning by him.
  • Goal #1, throws a shot from the right boards, Gibson easily stops but leaves a rebound, Arvidsson forces a turnover, puck goes behind the net, #33 strips puck again and it bounces in front, settles the bouncing puck and opens up hips before scoring under the blocker.
  • Has the awareness to streak up ice, Duck defenders lose him and he threatens with the shot before dishing a beauty of a pass to Jarnkrok, who is robbed by Gibson. Arvidsson crashes all the way in to chip home the rebound. Sold the defender by drifting to the middle of the ice before exploding up the left wing, using his burst and shiftiness to create separation with sudden direction changes and ultimately producing a high danger chance and a goal.

This was one of Arvidsson’s best games of the year. It also functioned as a pretty good microcosm of how he contributes to the team when it’s all clicking; he made “effort” plays, produced rush attempts, and crashed the net relentlessly for follow up chances.

He shot the puck early and often, and while he and Johansen were occasionally found out of position on defense, with Arvidsson especially cheating up ice, they weren’t punished for it thanks to some excellent stops by Pekka Rinne.

Game Two: Ducks @ Predators 1/16/20

Arvidsson Statline: 4 iFF, 1 G, 0 A, .72 ixG, 44.44 CF%, 83.24 xGF% in 17.13 minutes at 5v5

Linemates: Nick Bonino, Rocco Grimaldi

Standout Plays:

  • Arvidsson retrieves a puck in the boards and gets it out to Ekholm before swinging in front. Ekholm doesn’t see this or feels he has the shot, as he pulls the trigger. If he waits, Arvidsson can get in position for a tip or maybe to catch a pass down the massive seam that was opening up in front of the net.
  • Arvidsson comes out of the faceoff and provides traffic in front for a bomb from Josi. Excellent hand-eye coordination lets him tip the puck down and completely fool Gibson for the tally.
  • Arvi loses a board battle that almost results in a Ducks goal from the blue line.
  • Comes up the boards but stops short of the blue line to drop off to Grimaldi. Ducks give him space, so Grimaldi loops towards the back of the net but always maintains distance between him, the defender and the boards. Getzlaf gets caught watching the puck as Grimaldi shoulders past a defender, and Bonino blows past him for a slot chance.
  • Again, using his burst, Arvidsson recognizes the imbalance in the defense, blows past a defender who’s been caught standing still, and crashes the net hoping Grimaldi will see him. He does, and Arvi barely misses the finish on a nice forehand-backhand move. #33 collects the loose puck from behind the net, backhands it into the net, and the puck bounces to Nick Bonino, who has crashed the net as well for a high danger chance.
  • After Grimaldi sprints to the net off the faceoff, Arvidsson follows him and crashes for a rebound.
  • Tries a move on Fowler, gets pushed outside but manages to maintain balance and flip a backhander into Gibson while falling.

This was a really strong showing from Arvidsson in a game where the team heavily struggled to find its footing.

Despite his line failing to break out well on a consistent basis, Arvidsson and co. managed to generate most of the best chances of the game, largely due to Bonino winning puck battles and Grimaldi/Arvidsson’s shiftiness and burst to get by some flat-footed defenders.

This game also came after Arvidsson’s return from injury, so do with that what you will.

Game Three: Hurricanes @ Predators 2/18/20

Arvidsson Statline: 2 iFF, 0 G, 0 A, .09 ixG, 54.17 CF%, 38.72 xGF% in 12.25 minutes at 5v5
Linemates: Ryan Johansen, Mikael Granlund
Standout Plays:

  • On the powerplay, did a nice job of working into the home plate and waiting for a pass from down low.
  • Served as a screen for Johansen’s batted in goal. Also provided the entry on that play, although it was almost completely uncontested. May it be noted that his screen was borderline enough for a goaltender interference challenge.
  • Did a shockingly bad job of stopping two Canes from cutting to the home plate to set up a goal. Zero foot movement, a reach of the stick and that’s about it. Niederreiter blew past him almost effortlessly.

This was one of the worse performances by team as a whole this season by the eye test, and Arvidsson was exemplary of everything that went wrong.

He was largely ineffective due to being stapled to the boards, where his speed advantage was minimized, in addition to the Hurricanes reading his tendency to set his feet in his own zone when in the slot to exploit for goals.

His size, not normally a noticeable issue when everything is clicking, was a problem, as he lost almost every puck battle and failed to create separation or resistance against opposing forwards.


I watched a number of other games from Arvidsson’s season without doing comprehensive breakdowns of them, and a few trends stuck out to me. The biggest one was that Arvidsson is being pushed out more aggressively into the boards than in previous years, and that his response is to concede and ride the wall.

In the past, teams would attempt to defend #33 with reach and a normal level of aggression, but when that clearly wasn’t working, something changed. Teams recognized that Arvidsson tends to try to skate by players, rather than using skill to go around or through them; he also isn’t the smartest player when it comes to reading a defender and their momentum.

So, if the defender were attacking Arvidsson hard and preemptively pushing his entry into the boards, he’d staple himself to them and negate his own advantages.

The second problem I noticed shows up in a more quantifiable way. As a combined result of the poor entry quality stated above and Arvidsson’s general lack of adaptability as a player, he’s struggled to generate rush attempts. I struggled to find up to data on this, but this still applies and is quite recent; his career rush attempts/60 sits at 0.91.

His 19/20 value for this? That would be 0.3. Yikes. Aside from the general volume drop-off I already talked about above, the rush attempt cratering is most concerning. Arvidsson does the majority of his damage using speed and separation, but the new defensive adjustments have completely nullified him, and he’s been unable to adjust.

Getting fewer rush attempts has led to fewer shots in general, lower quality, and a weak point total. When Arvidsson isn’t speeding up the ice, he tends to struggle; he doesn’t have the vision, puck handling ability or general hockey IQ to be a strong asset in a controlled cycle where speed and aggression mean less, much like a Craig Smith. This is the core problem as I see it.

The third trend is that Arvidsson isn’t a very smart player. He gives 110% on every shift, and that’s commendable, but sometimes he makes really, really dumb decisions, especially in the offensive and neutral zones.

His tendency to skate into the boards? Well, as the primary puck carrier on a lot of the breakouts for his lines (because of his speed) whenever Roman Josi isn’t on the ice, he tends to carry it right into the teeth of the opposing team and turning it over.

What about when he does break in? He usually dumps the puck around the boards and then hangs out in the slot, but his lack of size and awareness of openings to exploit makes his impact minimal.

What happens when he gets a rush attempt? He usually shoots it no matter what, despite awful angles and zero traffic. The latter has been become even worse than in previous years, likely due to him feeling pressure to score and contribute.

Is there hope?

Well, it depends on what you mean. Arvidsson likely isn’t a consistent 60-plus point guy now that teams have figured him out, barring him adding some new dimensions to his game. He projects similarly to a guy like Alex Burrows or Craig Smith; 50 point, 20-30 goal guy who can play on the second line but won’t be a player who drives a line, at least not for a while.

He pretty clearly has been affected by injury, and was playing well before getting hurt, so we’ll see how he looks next season. But as of right now, the likelihood of near 40 goal scorer Viktor Arvidsson returning seems slim, barring another insane shooting % binge like last year.

Next. Nashville Predators: Take Back Your Crown Filip Forsberg. dark

Arvidsson needs to take the offseason to retool his game and go from being a one-trick-pony on offense (of sorts) to a more diverse and versatile player. If he adds a little more playmaking ability and gets more comfortable in Hynes’s system, I doubt he’ll have any trouble living up to his contract.

As for this year? He’s likely not going to return to being hyper-productive any time soon, unless some drastic and sudden change takes place. But if it does, I certainly won’t be complaining.