Image via Matthew Henderson
Let’s clear things up right away before proceeding any further. Just because you’re both Swedish, and a defenseman, doesn’t automatically mean that you will be a Nick Lidstrom (no one is that good), Mattias Ohlund, or even an Alex Edler (yes, better, closer-to-home potential comparables).
Peter Andersson is not going to be any of those. He’s number 19 on our list for a reason. He’s a guy that’s aware of the size he possesses and he knows how to use it (*laugh track plays*), but the question with him is whether or not his skating will improve enough to make him a legitimate NHLer.
Let’s take a look at the guy who didn’t even crack our list last year.
He didn’t make the list because we didn’t know what to think of him. His pedigree was mixed. He didn’t impress at prospects camp, sure, but that’s a weird venue to judge players.
Peter Andersson can defend. Handling the puck is not at the top of his list, though everyone seems to talk about it.
All the questions at Canucks prospect camp in 2012 were ‘are you the next Alex Edler?’
A year ago, The Province’s Jim Jamieson put that question to Dave Gagner.
Canucks director of player development Dave Gagner said the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Andersson, 21, has been compared to a young Alex Edler but that it’s unfair to take it too far at this point.
“He moves the puck really well and plays a similar game in that he moves the puck well, plays on the power play and sees the ice well,” said Gagner. “But don’t forget Edler came over to play in North America at a much younger age [Canucks D-man Edler played in Kelowna for the WHL Rockets at age 19] and that really helped his transition.”
Andersson will certainly need at least a season with the AHL Chicago Wolves before contending for a job in Vancouver.
A year later, he’s clearly not. He didn’t light up the AHL, but he did take a solid step forward in dealing with attackers.
It was an unfair comparison for a defenseman who was coming out of lower-level Swedish hockey, for his first foray into the North American professional game. He didn’t look great in last year’s camp, but once he found his rhythm in Chicago, he progressed quickly.
"I would be surprised if he doesn’t make the NHL at some point," says Chicago Wolves commentator Jason Shaver. "Defending is his specialty. When he was out of the lineup he was certainly missed."
Of course, it was a weird year in Chicago. The team had lots of good bits, but never pulled it all together. They’d do well one game, then the scoring would disappear the next. Or the penalty kill would be a mess. It was always something with them.
"One of the reasons the penalty kill struggled was when he was out of the lineup," Shaver said.
The biggest positive, from Shaver’s perch above the ice, was how Andersson adapted his game to the smaller ice surface.
"When Peter goes into the corner to battle for a puck, he knows how to use his body. He’s not a big hitter but he knows how to use his size," Shaver said.
In January, Andersson told Canucks Army that he was feeling more and more comfortable.
While it’s doutbful Andersson will make the NHL this season, he’s come a long way in just a few months.
"It’s pretty tough to go from small to big, but I think it’s easier to go from a big rink to a small rink, and I don’t know why. I like the small rink more. First it was pretty tough for me, it was lot of new plays and systems, but now it feels way better," Andersson said. “You can hold the puck more as a dman back home – they don’t come at you that hard. Here, you know a guy’s going to come hard every time you touch the puck.”
Andersson said he’s paid close attention to the likes of Joslin, Chris Tanev and Kevin Connauton.
"They are the top guys on the team; I want to be better than them. I look every day at small details from those guys – they are very good guys on the ice and off the ice," he said.
Having been called up to this coming week’s abbreviated Canucks training camp, Andersson said he needed to remember his strengths, while remembering what else he wants to improve.
"I’m pretty big so I want to play tough; keep it simple but be a two-way dman," he said. “Of course I want to put up more points, but two points for the team is most important. I work hard to protect the puck, protect the net, block shots, do what I can for the team. But of course, I want to put up more offence but it’s different here from Sweden.”
As the season wore on, he also gained the trust of the coaching staff – when Drance ran the numbers in April, he found that Andersson had played the second-toughest minutes on the squad.
Going into 2013-14, Andersson finds himself with as a good a shot to make it as he’ll likely ever get. There are depth minutes to be had, and he has shown that he can handle the physical game. But what about his skating? And will he stay healthy or will his injury troubles from 2012-13 carry on?
Both will tell the story.