Top 25 Under 25, no. 15: Andre Petersson
Given the emergence of Erik Karlsson as an NHL star and in the interests of having a varied prospect pool, Sens fans can count themselves lucky that their team has not been built around a mentality that would seem to promote "truculence" above all else. Still, the amount of diminutive forwards who are Senators-in-waiting is a little more than one would expect. The list prominently includes Stephane Da Costa and last year's fourth-round pick Jean-Gabriel Pageau, as well as Louie Caporusso (currently preparing to fight for the ECHL's Kelly Cup after the Elmira Jackals clinched a playoff berth earlier this week). Finally, there is the 109th overall pick of the 2008 Entry Draft, Andre Petersson.
What separates these players from other prospects is that other aspects of their game have to be elevated above larger types who can build outward from their size advantage. That is not to say that a small player can not excel in the NHL, but that to get to that opportunity in the first place, their skill-set has to be varied and consistent. It seems that every time such a player is coming into the league, the inevitable comparable that fans and media come around to is that of Martin St. Louis. Not only is it an irritating tendency, but in the case of Andre Petersson, it frankly does not apply.
Petersson went through the HV71 junior program, working his way up to the main team where he played for his final two seasons before turning pro. The season before the Senators drafted him, Petersson was a point-a-game player on Sweden's U18 club. He also played for HV71's U20 club.
In the two seasons he spent with HV71's main SEL club, Petersson had just a shade under 0.5 points-per-game. After year two, and at the end of last season, he turned pro, signing a three-year, two-way entry level contract with the Senators organization. His transition to play in Binghamton took all of about three weeks before he was putting up competitive numbers. Since then, his performance has been exemplary. His 38 points in 51 games ranks as fourth on Binghamton for the season. For a player coming over from the Swedish Elite League, he has been producing at an impressive clip.
Petersson played his first game in the NHL during the same western road swing as Mark Borowiecki. He saw limited minutes, spent most of his time on the fourth line, but still had an energetic presence and threw his (limited) weight around. The key to Petersson's game is that he plays without much inhibition. He tears up the middle of the ice with slick moves and smooth skating. He also has an absolute cannon of a shot that has shown itself consistently on the powerplay during the AHL season. Although he exposes himself to being knocked around some with his net drives, Petersson can engage in physical play and fight for himself with decent perimeter play. Bulking up is obviously a concern, but Petersson's secret is keeping his speed intact and being able to beat players around the outside. He is not the first player on this list to have such a limitation, but Petersson is either playing in a top-six role or he is not in the NHL at all.
Having made a timely transition to the NHL game, Petersson has an advantage entering the coming training camp. He exhibited an ability to adjust quickly and effectively to a new system. Competing with a handful of others, he has to prove he can do that at the next level.