The Philadelphia Flyers selected defenseman Jesper Pettersson with the 198th overall pick (7th round) in the 2014 NHL Draft. Pettersson is a small Swedish defenseman who has been playing in the Linkoping system of the Swedish Hockey League for the past few seasons. Here are his basic statistics:
Games Played: 48
Despite his small stature, Pettersson has been branded a “defensive defenseman” by scouts and pundits. Like Lindblom, he spent time in both the SHL (the stats from above) and the Swedish U20 league. He spent seven games in the U20 league and earned six points (2G, 4A). Pettersson also represented Sweden at the 2014 World Junior Championships, on a blue line that included the Flyers 2013 2nd round pick, Robert Hagg. He did not earn any points during the tournament.
At first glance, these numbers look fairly impressive. How many kids can play 48 games in the SHL during their draft year? And a “defensive defenseman” putting up almost a point per game numbers at the U20 level? Not to mention, this guy has WJC experience! How did he slip to the seventh round? Let’s go beyond the numbers a look a little deeper at Jesper Pettersson.
The most important number to keep in mind concerning Pettersson is 1994, the year he was born. His first draft eligible season was 2012. Not only was Pettersson passed over in 2012 and 2013, but he was passed over 197 times in 2014. Therefore, the fact that he a regular in the SHL, though still a nice accomplishment, is not as spectacular is it may have originally appeared.
By the same token, a trip to the WJC as a 19 year old is not an exceptional accomplishment. For example, Team Canada had a 16 year old on their team this past year (granted, Connor McDavid is not your average 16 year old).
All in all, Pettersson’s numbers do not look terrible or overly impressive coming from a 19 year old (he turns 20 next Wednesday) Sweish defenseman.
Pettersson spent 48 games at the highest level in Sweden last season and 14 games there during the 2012-2013 campaign. He has not been much of a point producer, but here is what Flyers scouting director Chris Pryor had to say about Pettersson:
He’s a little bit of an older kid who’s been through the draft a couple times already, but we’ve seen him a lot the last couple of years. He’s not overly flashy, but he just plays the game the right way. He’s not big, but he’s really thick. He’s competitive and has a really good head for the game. And he plays the game the right way. He’s a big leader with the Swedes. He got a suspension at the end of the (World Juniors) when he got in a little pushing and shoving with the Russians, and I think it really hurt the Swedes. He’s really solid on his feet. He’s highly competitive and a character kid.
Eliteprospects seems to have come to a similar conclusion:
Pettersson is a defensive defenseman. Although small in stature, he is very stocky and plays like a much bigger man. He likes the rough stuff and blocks shots. Might also have some offensive upside.
So what does the future hold for Jesper Pettersson and the Philadelphia Flyers organization?
According to Bill Meltzer, one of the most knowledgeable men in the business in terms of European (especially Swedish) hockey, Pettersson will spend another year in the SHL before coming over to North America. In North America he will have the opportunity to compete for an NHL position. Although he may never be an NHL star, Pettersson should be able to be a solid AHLer. His size could limit his ability to play a “defensive defenseman’s” game at the NHL level. However, as a 20 year old, he still has plenty of time to develop.
There is another potential reason to be happy with this selection of Pettersson: Organizational/AHL depth. Next year, the Phantoms will likely have Robert Hagg, Mark Alt, and Shayne Gostisbehere on their blue line. The following year they could add Sam Morin, and then add Travis Sanheim the year after that, assuming neither player makes the Flyers out of camp over the next couple of years. However, there is a very good chance that each of these defensemen will only pass through Lehigh Valley for a short time before entering the NHL.
Hextall seems to have made the Phantoms a high priority. To keep a competitive farm team, there must be organizational depth. A player like Pettersson could, in theory, develop into a solid, top-4 defenseman for the Phantoms for the years to come. Unlike the Flyers high-end defense prospects who will shuffle through Lehigh Valley, Pettersson could be a steadying force on the Phantoms blue line for a while. Therefore, as the defense prospects play their limited time with the Phantoms, they will get to play with a smart defenseman who eases their burden, but also allows them to grow and develop. And during that time, the farm team can stay competitive.
Who knows, maybe Jesper Pettersson will surprise us all and become an NHL regular. However, even if his best days come as a complimentary piece in the development of our prospects, he will still be a solid seventh round pick.
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