Pettersson enjoys playing in North America

By Aaron Vickers

Although he may not be intimidated as the Krueger that shares his given name, Fredrik Pettersson assures you he’s still coming.

He isn’t afraid to let you know it, and Oiler fans should be excited he is coming.

Pettersson, a Swedish forward and Edmonton Oilers prospect, has made it known that his only goal is to play in the National Hockey League.

“I’m going to do everything I can to get there,” he said recently, his eyes burning with intensity. “You can tell everybody I’m going to make this. You can tell everybody.”

Although he wasn’t certain he was even going to be drafted, Pettersson has been possessed by the thought of playing professional hockey, especially in Canada. Much to his delight, the Oilers drafted the Swede 157th overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

“I wanted to be drafted by a Canadian team,” he said, noting he got his wish. “I want to play in Edmonton one day and I’m going to do everything I can do to play there.”

One crucial step for Pettersson to inch closer to his goal was to get acclimatized to not only the North American style of play, but the Canadian culture as well. He was offered this opportunity when the Calgary Hitmen selected him 48th overall in the 2005 CHL Import Draft.

The adjustments he had to make on the ice, says Pettersson, were a big adjustment.

“Compared to Swedish hockey, the hockey here is so much faster, and I like that,” admitted Pettersson, who hit the ground running with four points in his first three games.

He added with a smile, “It’s way tougher too, and a lot of trash talk.”

The adjustments made off the ice were much larger for the Swede, made significantly easier by his Hitmen teammates.

“I went to the camp this year and it was so fun,” said Pettersson, one of two Europeans on the club. “Everyone was so nice.”

It also didn’t hurt that the Calgary Hitmen faithful welcomed their Euro with open arms. Joining a team expected to be starved for scoring, fans quickly jumped on the Pettersson bandwagon. With 16 points in his first 16 games with the club, Pettersson endeared himself to the fans. It’s a relationship that Pettersson loves.

“I’m just trying to play my game and they like me,” he said with an honest smile. “I like them too. It’s actually so cool to play here because it is so fun.”

Long before the pats on the back from teammates and the cheers from fans came the decision to leave his club team, Frolunda, and join the ranks of the Canadian Hockey League, one that was not one taken lightly by the fireplug forward. Not only was he leaving the team and system he grew up with, Pettersson left behind family and friends to embark on an entirely unknown culture.

“I thought it was going to be so difficult in the beginning because I was leaving my family, all my friends, and all the players from Frolunda, where I used to play and have been playing with for so many years.”

The decision proved to be a good one for the right winger. After leading the Hitmen in points before leaving the club to represent Sweden at the World Junior Championships, Pettersson finished the season third in team scoring with 22 goals and 53 points, with a +15 rating.

“This is the best decision I’ve ever done in my whole life – to come over here and play hockey.”

A trip to Vancouver and the chance to represent his native Sweden in the 2006 IIHF World Junior Championships may have swayed the Hitmen’s second leading goal scorer.

“That was so fun,” said Pettersson of the event, which saw him register five points in six games en route to helping Sweden to a fifth-place finish. “I was a little bit disappointed where we ended up because we had a pretty good team this year and I thought we were going to go pretty far.”

With the Hitmen in the postseason and Pettersson’s not-so-immediate future in question, the forward still doesn’t know what next season holds for him. In all likelihood, he’ll return to the Hitmen, although it’s something that hasn’t been discussed with the native of Goteborg.

Regardless, Pettersson is content staying on this side of the Atlantic Ocean in the near future, in an attempt to further his hockey career.

“I’m still going to play in Canada next year,” he said. “I’m not going back to Sweden to play. You never know what the Hitmen want to do with me. If they want to keep me, they’ll keep me, but I’m going to stay here in Canada.”

The decision could’ve been helped by his experience at the World Juniors in Vancouver.

“It was so cool. It was so huge. I watched the final between Canada and Russia, and it was – wow. I couldn’t believe it. It was a junior game. Nobody was sitting down and watching. Everyone was standing and screaming.”

Drafted out of Europe, Pettersson is even offered the luxury of turning pro and joining the Oiler affiliates in either the ECHL or American Hockey League. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, although Pettersson isn’t under contract with Edmonton yet.

And although he didn’t divulge the topics, the Oilers haven’t been a stranger to Pettersson this season.

“I’ve been talking to a few guys (from Edmonton),” said Pettersson, sporting his trademark grin.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.