By Thomas Harrington
Marcus Pettersson played in the SHL this past season, Sweden’s top professional league. He will be a member of the San Diego Gulls this coming season.
For the first time in his career, Pettersson played the entire season in the SHL, a significant accomplishment for a player who was 20 for most of the season. The SHL is arguably the third best hockey league in the world, behind only the NHL and KHL. In previous seasons, Pettersson had bounced between the SHL and the SuperElit. In the 2015-2016 season, Pettersson was in the SuperElit for only three games, and he hasn’t been back since. Overall, he scored two goals and nine points in 41 games and averaged 17:39 of ice time per game. The two goals matched his output from the previous season, while the nine points was a new career high from him. He was sixth in ice time on the team among defensemen. Unfortunately, Pettersson suffered an injury in mid-February and missed the rest of the season, including the playoffs. Despite missing the end of the season, Pettersson still ranked fifth on the team in blocks with 40. Every single player who finished with more blocks than he did played in more games, and only two of them were defensemen.
A year ago, my number one goal for Pettersson was to play the entire season in the SHL, something that he was able to accomplish. He’s not a big time scorer, but I had hoped for him to reach the 10 point mark. While he wasn’t able to do that, if he’d stayed healthy, he likely would have. Since he only missed that threshold by one point, I consider this past year a successful season for Pettersson from an offensive standpoint. The one thing that he wasn’t able to do was force his way into Skelleftea AIK’s top four, but that was less of a goal and more of a hope. Still, getting consistent ice time in the SHL is a good sign of his development, and over 17 minutes a night is definitely consistent ice time.
This coming season, Pettersson will be coming to North America and will be a member of the San Diego Gulls. San Diego’s blueline won’t be as deep this season as it was a year ago, so he’ll have a chance to get a fair amount of playing time. As with most young players, I do expect a transition period and for him to struggle when the season begins. I won’t put an offensive expectation on him, instead, I’d just like to see him play as much as possible. Between Andy Welinski, Keaton Thompson, Jacob Larsson, Jaycob Megna, Jeff Schultz, and Steve Olesky, Pettersson won’t have to step into a top four role right away. Instead, he’ll have a chance to learn Anaheim and San Diego’s system and get some time on the team’s third defensive pair.
Pettersson could develop into a solid second pairing defenseman. He doesn’t have a ton of offensive skills and isn’t overtly physical, but he’s a good skater with good defensive instincts. He’s also developed into a strong shot blocker, something that has become a huge part of the game in the NHL over the last several seasons. That skill could really benefit him as he continues to develop in the AHL.
Pettersson will most likely not be making his NHL debut this season. Larsson, Megna, Welinski, and Olesky will most likely be the first callups from San Diego when Anaheim runs into injury trouble. However, with Kevin Bieksa being a free agent next summer, there will likely be room on Anaheim’s blueline for another player. Larsson would be the favorite to get it, but if Pettersson plays well enough this season, he could have a shot at it. However, I think it more likely that he makes his NHL debut in the 2018-2019 season, but not on a full-time basis. I don’t think that will happen until the 2019-2020 season. If he becomes a full-time NHLer sooner, then the Ducks will have another great young defenseman on their team.
Pettersson is signed for two more years and will be a restricted free agent when his contract is up. Having rarely seen him play, I don’t know how well he’ll work in Anaheim’s system, but I do think that it’s likely he gets an extension then. However, if things don’t work out between him and Anaheim, he could end up going back to Sweden, similar to what Nick Sorensen has recently done. It remains to be seen how well he fits into Anaheim’s system, but I’m hopeful that the Ducks have another Swedish gem in their system.
My next prospect update will be on Brent Gates, Jr.
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August 11th, 2017