Top 25 Under 25, no. 22: Andre Petersson
Looking to bounce back after a rough season, Petersson has fallen in this edition of Top 25 Under 25, but still holds enticing potential.
Five years out from the draft, and most Senators fans aren't quite sure what to make of Andre Petersson. He has offered periods of sustained, consistent, reliable production, such as in 2011/2012, when he notched a 23 goal season in just sixty games with the Binghamton Senators. This past season, he got off to a slow start, scoring twice, perhaps hobbled by a lower spot on the team's depth chart. By the time the B-Sens rumbled out of first gear and turned the corner towards what would be an impressive campaign, Petersson was injured and done for the year.
He has played one game in the NHL, a fleeting few minutes of ice time. Still, Sens fans have gotten the rare glimpse during training camp and development camps of what Petersson has to offer, namely his quick feet, quicker hands, a release to match both and a rocket of a shot. When on the ice, he is an eye-catching player with nifty moves, elusiveness on the boards and after-burning speed up the middle.
Why, then, has Andre Petersson tumbled down our Top 25 Under 25 rankings, from the 15th spot to the 16th and now the more precipitous drop to 22? Well, for a number of reasons. Here is what I said some seventeen months ago, when he landed the middling gig at 15:
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.
Things sure looked dandy. Of course, riding at a phenomenal clip in his first North American season, one had every reason to think lofty thoughts of the Swedish forward. No question, the labor stoppage hurt Petersson's standings, just as it did every other Senators prospects. It was a missed opportunity to spend time training and playing with the pros. This year's injury deepened Petersson's woes. Ryan put it succinctly back in January, when he wrote:
Andre Petersson can score goals. He can put up points. He's already made his NHL debut, and he was only 5 points shy of leading the Binghamton Senators in points last season. But his 2012-13 has been a bit of a disaster.
Ryan went on to articulate a solid statistical analysis, which provided, among other things, that Petersson has been a slow starter throughout his career. Thus, his five points through seventeen games, though a severe drop-off, might have certainly been an abberation.
Since then, a few important changes have been witnessed among the Senators' forward corps: Cory Conacher was traded to Ottawa from the Lightning, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau cracked the lineup, potting goals and winning over management, coaching staff and fans all in one fell swoop. Though Pageau hardly has a spot reserved on the lineup (a sacrilegious assertion), there is no question that McLean and Murray keep a wary eye on the number of diminutive forwards under the team's employ. Vain though it might seem, by being smaller players, Pageau and Conacher inherently occupy a spot Petersson might otherwise contend for. Add Mike Hoffman to the list, acknowledge that NHL roster spots are, in practice, remarkably finite, and Petersson's path to an NHL job seems a very difficult one.
Of course, if Petersson is able to make a case for a top-six job, something will have to give. If he can overcome his repaired hip and quickly rediscover his notable speed and shot, Petersson will reemerge in the conversation over forward spots. However, competition is rising as other prospects begin to contend for spots. Ultimately, it is high time for Petersson to shake his career tendency towards slow starts. In the final year of an ELC, one could say his future in the organization depends on it.