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The Little Forward That Could: Viktor Arvidsson

Undrafted Twice, 'Undersized' Arvidsson is Far Exceeding Expectations

by John Glennon @glennonsports / Email: jg1sport@aol.com

It took Viktor Arvidsson three years to convince the NHL to draft him.

He plays now as if he's making up for lost time.

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Nashville Predators forward has been operating in overdrive ever since establishing himself on the NHL level last season, one made memorable when he scored an overtime goal against San Jose to force Game Seven in the second-round playoff series.

He's somehow managed to turn things up a notch yet again this season for the Preds, who have won three-straight games and seven of their last nine heading into Sunday's contest at Winnipeg.

On a team that's featured a number of key contributors over the last few weeks, it would be hard to find a more valuable skater than Arvidsson, whose high energy, speed, skill and fearlessness make him an inspiration - to teammates and Predators fans alike.

The buzz he creates on almost every shift is becoming reminiscent of former Predators forward Jordin Tootoo, though the two have different playing styles.

"The way he plays, he's almost like an unsung hero out there," Predators goalie Pekka Rinne said of Arvidsson, who has 13 points (6g-7a) in 20 games. "As a teammate, I'm a huge fan, but as a hockey fan, too, I think it's easy to relate to a guy like that.

"He's undersized, but he plays like a big man. That's something I imagine fans really love - `Wow, look at this guy. He's really something.'"

Video: NSH@TOR: Arvidsson gets one by Andersen on break

It took the NHL a while to give the little guy the smallest of chances.

Arvidsson first became eligible for the Draft in 2012, but was ignored by all 30 teams through seven rounds. The scenario repeated itself during the 2013 draft, with teams more concerned about his lack of size than they were impressed by his big point totals.

The snubs only fueled Arvidsson, who made a conscious decision during the summer of 2012 to plug even more juice into his game.

"When I got up to the Elite League in Sweden, they wanted me to work on my strength and stamina so that I could play at a high level every game and every shift," Arvidsson said. "I worked really hard, and I think it helped me a lot. Since then, I've been an energy player. Before that, I was kind of an average player."

The Predators took a chance on Arvidsson in 2014, selecting him in the fourth round. He's overachieved ever since.

The 23-year-old Swede not only made the American Hockey League All-Rookie Team in 2014-15, but also made his National Hockey League debut that year. He arrived in the NHL faster than any of his fellow 2014 draftees chosen after the first round.

While his biggest moment at the NHL level occurred last year with the overtime backhander in the playoff game against San Jose, Arvidsson is making a much more consistent impact for the Predators this season.

Video: SJS@NSH, Gm6: Arvidsson's backhander wins it in OT

Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette moved him onto the team's first line - alongside Ryan Johansen and James Neal - earlier this season and hasn't regretted the decision for a moment. Arvidsson is fifth on the team in points, is the only player on the team with at least six goals and six assists, and has put 61 shots on goal - second only to Neal.

"There's always something going on when he's on the ice," Laviolette said. "He's constantly in motion. He's just a noticeable player out on the ice. And I think the more he grows with experience, the more you're going to notice him."

One of the things that makes Arvidsson so entertaining to watch is that he's either unaware or unconcerned about the size he surrenders in comparison to most other players.

In a recent game against Tampa Bay, for instance, there was Arvidsson battling away for a loose puck in the crease despite the presence of two monstrous Lightning defensemen - 6-foot-7 Andrej Sustr and 6-foot-6 Victor Hedman. Arvidsson's feistiness so aggravated Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop that the 6-foot-7 netminder - almost as tall as Arvidsson even while on his knees - felt compelled to punch the Preds forward in the thigh.

"He is a perfect example of making the most of what he's been handed," Johansen said. "He understands his size, but he doesn't go on the ice thinking he's going to be pushed around. He goes out there and he wins most of his battles. He's a great role model for kids that are watching and that are smaller players."

Added Rinne: "There are times at practice where I'll get mad at him because he's like (former Preds forward Patric Hornqvist) - he goes to the net and he whacks and whacks. I'm like, `OK, easy there, buddy.' But that's just the way he works and I appreciate that. That's the way he gets under people's skin."

Video: STL@NSH: Jarnkrok ties the game off feed from Wilson

What's also appealing about Arvidsson is the ever-present enthusiasm in his game, whether he's flying down the ice to forecheck or celebrating another Predators score. In a recent Preds game against St. Louis, a streaking Arvidsson made a two-footed leap through the Blues' crease following a goal - and Arvidsson hadn't even scored it.

"The joy he brings to the game is just awesome," Johansen said. "But it's not just what you see in games - it's what he brings to the room and to practices.

"He's just an upbeat, upbeat character. He's really been our Energizer Bunny since the start of the season."

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