Off the Radar: Arvidsson hoping to build off of strong WJC showing

By Mike Farkas

Viktor Arvidsson - Sweden

Photo: Swedish forward Viktor Arvidsson has been a productive player for his country in international play (courtesy of Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Surpassed by opponents and passed over by scouts, Viktor Arvidsson is a frequent silver medalist without an NHL affiliation. The latter figures to be changing this summer, though, after his impressive performance for Sweden at the recently-concluded World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia.

Many scouts will tell you that the World Junior Championship isn’t so much a place to find draft-eligible talent, but rather a one-stop shop for observing young talent in an atypical situation under sometimes foreign conditions. On occasion, however, players may jump out and make a positive impression and Arvidsson has done just that.

Despite starting on the lower lines when the tournament commenced, Arvidsson worked his way up the depth chart, showing tremendous energy and showing off terrific skills and creativity. Eventually, he worked his way up to the top-six, played frequently on the power-play and even saw some time on the penalty kill. The last item sticks out as somewhat uncommon for a player of his size and skill level, but he’s been working on his defensive game intently, and it shows.

“Viktor has worked very hard to develop his defensive game,” said his junior coach in Skellefteå, Hans Wallson. “The progress has been good and he feels confident in his game in all zones, which has meant that he now plays regularly in the Elitserien.”

He plays regularly indeed, something that is no small task for a junior player employed by the Elitserien’s top ranked team. Arvidsson isn’t a top-six forward on the club, but many unsung juniors like him wouldn’t be expected to feature prominently. He does see some time on the league’s best power-play, as well.

“He has always scored a lot of goals,” Wallson recounts accurately – Arvidsson’s only year at the J-20 SuperElit level saw him lead the team with 25 goals in 43 games, third best in the league. “Viktor’s strength is his offensive game; he has a very good slap shot, good technical skills and fast hands.”

Though his stat totals may look modest at the Elitserien level – seven goals and 12 points in 49 games – he is the only junior-aged player getting significant time on a club with mostly more experienced talent. Arvidsson is making it tough to keep him down in the lineup and he made a similar case for himself in short order with the Swedish junior team, as well.

He tied for the lead in goals (4) on the silver medalists despite limited exposure early on. Unfortunately, in Arvidsson’s young career he has found himself on teams that have come up just short of the prize. In addition to the second place finish at the World Juniors, he took home silver – also against the Americans – at the 2011 U-18 World Juniors and at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, a bronze medal was awarded to him. This isn’t just an international phenomenon either; in his home country, he has a silver medal at the J-18 and J-20 levels. Undoubtedly, the Kusmark, Sweden native hopes to make a wholesale change of fortune in short order this spring and summer by capturing a championship at the Elitserien level and by being selected at the NHL Draft.

Former NHL general manager and current NHL analyst Craig Button believes that at least the latter will come true.

“[He’s a] good skater who is fairly quick and finds a way to get himself open,” said Button of Arvidsson. “He plays with enthusiasm and energy. Should he be drafted? Yes…definitely worthy of being drafted in the [later] rounds, in my opinion.”

Button cautions that being drafted is just the first step in the process and that he needs to continue to make these forward progressions in order to have a shot at the National Hockey League.

Arvidsson certainly is far from a lock to become an impact player at the NHL level. He’s only listed at 5'9” and 176 pounds which lends itself to a bit of concern even though the NHL is no longer wallowing in the mire that it was 10 years ago. He also could stand to be a better puck distributor and use his linemates more frequently. The on-ice product certainly could use some polish, but the potential is there. Off the ice, the character is there, too.

“Viktor has very good character and works very hard both on the ice and in the gym,” Coach Wallson noted. “He loves to compete and wants to win at everything he does.”

That was certainly on display in Ufa throughout the WJC and Wallson agrees that he was one of Sweden’s top players at the tournament. For the sake of an NHL future, let’s hope the hordes of NHL scouts in attendance agree and a take a chance on the skilled spark plug from Sweden.

Follow Mike Farkas on Twitter via @MichaelFarkasHF