The story of the 2016-17 Nashville Predators was supposed to be set before it even began. Defensive superstar P.K. Subban was Music City bound, and the mega-personality was expected to ignite all kinds of fireworks for the Predators.
Fast forward through four months of the grueling NHL campaign and Subban has served the Predators well, but has found the story of the year rights hijacked by a far less recognized name–Viktor Arvidsson.
The 23-year-old Arvidsson has been the definition of fireworks for the Predators, using his sophomore season to obliterate expectations and emerge as the team’s most consistently player.
— Thomas Willis (@TomAWillis) February 8, 2017
Twice undrafted because of his smallish stature, the 5’9, 180 lb. winger found a home on the right side of the team’s forward corps last season, chipping in eight goals and eight assists through 56 games as a rookie.
This season has seen Arvidsson riding a rocket trajectory, better than doubling those totals with games to spare. He stands behind only Ryan Johansen in team scoring totals with 35 points in 52 games. His 15 goals and 20 assists place him second and third in those categories for the Predators, respectively.
Justin Schultz. Sam Gagner. Viktor Arvidsson. No others in the NHL have had a better increase in scoring from last season to this season! pic.twitter.com/Z2gA3NT5l3
— FOX Sports Tennessee (@PredsOnFSTN) February 8, 2017
The winger’s explosive play leaves an impression across deeper statistical categories, as well. His plus-15 rating is second on the team and best amongst team forwards. He leads the Predators in shots on goal, holstering an 11.09 SOG per/60 that is 14th in the NHL.
In the world of estimated point shares, his offensive output tops the Predators, his defensive contributions rank number one for team forwards, and his overall rating sits behind only defender Ryan Ellis amongst all skaters on the roster.
Arvidsson’s ability to pose a constant scoring threat isn’t even muted when down a man. Serving as one of the Predators’ top five penalty-killing forwards, he has registered two goals and two assists, tying him with Boston’s Brad Marchand for second in the league in shorthanded scoring.
When the small forward steps on the ice, he clocks in as a possession monster. His 54.9% Corsi rating at even-strength places third on the team, behind only Johansen and Subban. If the statistic is adjusted to a relative percentage, reflecting the team’s performance when he’s on the ice, he jumps even Subban.
— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) January 21, 2017
Basically, what this means is that when Arvidsson is skating the Predators own the puck more than their opponents. They’re playing more offense than defense and generating more shots than they’re facing. These statistics suggest not only that the player can sustain play in the offensive end, but that they are capable of suppressing opponents shots and getting the puck out of their own zone.
Arvidsson’s efforts within that defensive zone have also been commendable. His 33 blocked shots rank third among team forwards, bested only by Austin Watson and Mike Fisher, who both fill more defensive positions on the roster.
Much of the Swede’s game is predicated on blazing speed and a prevalent dog-on-bone work ethic that make him noticeable in less measured categories as well. A handful through the neutral zone, Arvidsson regularly presses behind defenders to generate breakaway opportunities, forcing penalties and setting his team up with a man advantage.
Off the Ice
At this point, there really should be no question that Arvidsson gets protected from the upcoming expansion draft. The Predators are staring down the barrel of only protecting four forwards, and the young winger easily slides into the top two of every statistical category on the front lines. Besides Johansen, wingers Filip Forsberg and James Neal will likely earn protection, and Arvidsson has objectively proven himself as valuable as each of those players.
With his contract expiring at the end of the season and restricted free agency looming, the more pressing question is future salary. The young skater is only beginning to crack open the window of his potential in the NHL, and it remains to be determined whether he will be offered a bridge deal to see how sustainable his success is, or if the Predators will try to lock him up with term.
The best case scenario for the team is Arvidsson agrees to a deal that is a bit more lucrative than this past offseason’s re-signing of fellow Swede Calle Jarnkrok, an agreement worth $12 million across six seasons. Arvidsson will surely hit somewhere closer to a $3 million AAV, depending on the length of the contract, but could argue for a higher earning due to comparative value against the earnings of forwards like Colin Wilson ($3.9 million AAV) and Craig Smith ($4.25 AAV).
Viktor Arvidsson out here making people look silly (or smart if they were hyping him up before the season) pic.twitter.com/T014u30Ixw
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) December 31, 2016
On the ice, Arvidsson can inject a dose of lethal offense wherever he’s placed. Harnessing top line talent, head coach Peter Laviolette has chosen to plug him into whatever line needs a boost, and he’s responded by providing automatic scoring depth.
Having spent much of the season on the team’s top line, Arvidsson has marked five points in five games after being moved to the third line in an attempt to spread the scoring wealth. To illustrate the impact, Jarnkrok, the line’s center, who had only earned 11 points across his first 47 games, has matched Arvidsson’s point-per-game average over the last five contests.
The Predators have been rewarded with an absolute steal for selecting the undersized winger with the 112th pick in the 2014 draft. He provides the team with a heartbeat and a constant threat, no matter what situation he’s playing in or who’s on the ice with him. It’s easy to imagine that the Predators’ season standings would be in a dire situation if not for the emergence of the forward.
Already ascended to fan favorite in Nashville, Viktor Arvidsson is an essential cog in what is shaping up to be arguably the greatest forward group the Predators franchise has ever put on the ice.