is reporting Andre Petersson will play his first NHL game today against the Anaheim Ducks, and all things considered, it's a pretty remarkable feat. At this time last year, some were wondering if his injuries would allow him to play at all this season, let alone in the NHL.
For those who haven't followed the saga of Petersson, he was drafted in the 4th round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the same draft where fellow Swede Erik Karlsson was selected 15th overall and current fan favourite Zack Smith was picked in the third round. Petersson played in the 2009 and 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships (winning Silver and Bronze, respectively), but it was the 2010 tourney was his coming out party. Petersson finished the 2010 tourney tied with Jordan Eberle as the leader in goals with 8 goals in just 6 games, and was sixth in points with 11. That year was his first full SEL season, and he scored 10 goals and 15 points in 37 games -- very respectable numbers in one of the world's top leagues.
Things weren't so rosy the next year, as Petersson had to shut down his season due to a recurring back injury. The pain bothered him for a year and a half before he finally decided to go to Ottawa for treatment, and was rewarded with a symptom free back just a few months later. Oh, he was also rewarded with a three-year contract with the Senators. He stuck around Ottawa and received rave reviews for his skill from Binghamton Senators coach Kurt Kleinendorst:
Petersson has done a fine job showing off those skills in his first AHL season, with 12 goals and 25 points in his 30 games thus far. He's second in points on the Binghamton Senators, and the guy in front of him has only one more point in eight more games.
"We’ve said all along that he may be our most skilled player."
"Honestly, I don’t know that you could watch him play and look for skills and say that he’s got a weakness at anything."
The question marks around Petersson have always been his size and his defensive effort. His 5'9", 172lb frame will certainly be in for its toughest test in the NHL, but all signs point to an improved work ethic in his defensive effort, thanks to the fine coaching of Kleinendorst. Kleinendorst has consistently praised Petersson's improved defensive awareness, and despite playing on a Binghamton team that is at the bottom of the league, Petersson is still sitting with a positive plus-minus.
After watching so many NHL debuts on the Senators in the past few seasons, we can all appreciate that Petersson probably won't be able to wow us too much in his first game -- there are significant adjustments (not to mention nerves) that will prevent that. Still, it's exciting to see another new player enter the fold as the Senators continue to reap the benefits from their solid drafting in recent years.