Viktor Arvidsson’s first North American season can only be viewed as a success.
The 22-year-old played the majority of the 2014-15 season with the Nashville Predators’ AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, leading the team in scoring with 55 points (22 goals, 33 assists) in 70 games but appeared in six NHL contests for the Preds.
The Skelleftea, Sweden native went undrafted three years in-a-row before being selected by the Predators in the fourth round (112th overall) of the 2014 draft. Nashville’s rolling of the dice on the undersized 5-foot-9, 172-pound left-winger is proving to be well worth it.
One of the variables for Arvidsson’s success was how well he’d the transition to the North American style. Though he admits it was difficult, he adapted fairly quickly.
“[The transition to North American hockey] was pretty hard,” Arvidsson said. “It’s so much faster here. You have to make decisions right away and sometimes even before you get the puck. You have to be able to have the courage to take it to the net because that’s where [goals] happen on this type of ice surface. You have to be brave and go to the net.”
Due to a string of injuries in the Preds’ lineup, Arvidsson was able to make his NHL debut against the Buffalo Sabres on Mar. 21. A player’s first NHL call up is always memorable, but Arvidsson nearly missed his opportunity.
“I missed the call from [Admirals head coach Dean Evason] first,” Arvidsson said when reflecting on what happened after he received the news. “Then, I called [Evason] up, and he told me I got called up. I asked him if he was kidding, and he said ‘no no, your flight is leaving in two hours.’ It was breathtaking. I couldn’t believe it. It was so fun.”
Arvidsson was impressive in his six-game stint, showing he was not going to be intimidated against elite competition. In his first two NHL games, he totaled 6 shots.
Viktor Arvidsson named the game’s 3rd star in his NHL debut. Finished with 12:52, 3 shots and 1 hit. #Preds
— Brooks Bratten (@brooksbratten) March 22, 2015
“I just tried to play like I did in Milwaukee the whole year,” Arvidsson said. “I came up, and I knew what they wanted from me. I just tried to do my best and show them I’m ready to play in the NHL.”
Much of Arvidsson’s display of confidence can be credited to his fellow Swedish teammates who made him feel comfortable and welcome.
“Filip [Forsberg], [Mattias] Ekholm and Calle [Jarnkrok] showed me the way,” Arvidsson said. “I stayed at their place a couple of times, and they showed me around. They helped me a lot.”
With several games of NHL experience under his belt, Arvidsson is seeking full-time employment in the big leagues for the upcoming season.
“I’m stronger and more mature,” Arvidsson said. “I played in North America for one year and got the feel of the NHL, and I feel like I am ready.”
Arvidsson is going to have a tough time cracking the Predators’ roster out of training camp. Eight players – Arvidsson, Gabriel Bourque, Kevin Fiala, Calle Jarnkrok, Steve Moses, Miikka Salomaki, Colton Sissons and Austin Watson – are competing for just three open roster spots, making training camp more exciting than ever in Nashville.
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Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW