At around seven o’clock on June 30th, Emil Pettersson’s name was called on the draft floor inside the Prudential Center in scenic Newark, New Jersey. But in Sundsvall, Sweden (or about 10 miles outside of it, rather), Emil Pettersson had been waiting up, refreshing his internet until two o’clock in the morning to find out that he had been drafted by the Nashville Predators with the 155th pick overall in the sixth round of this year’s draft.
“I didn’t expect anything,” says Pettersson when asked if he knew he was going to get drafted. “But I had talked to a few clubs before the draft.” Obviously, one of those clubs was Nashville. The nineteen year old was the only Swedish-born player drafted by the Predators in this year’s draft and their first ever out of the Timra IK system, a team about 400 miles north of Stockholm on the east coast of Sweden.
For Pettersson, coming to Nashville Predators development camp during the second week of July was an entirely new experience. He had virtually no idea what to expect. Prior to coming to camp, he didn’t know much about the city or even the team (“I knew Filip Forsberg had been traded here,” of course), he didn’t know any of the other players in the dressing room (“But I have made some pretty good friends while I’ve been here”), and he had never traveled to the United States. “It’s been amazing so far,” he says about his first visit to the states. “The people are really nice. It’s a different culture compared to Sweden, but I think it’s nice.”
Pettersson has no issues expressing his excitement about being at camp or describing his style of play. He started learning English when he was in the third grade. “I’m an offensive player,” he says. The centerman put eighty-plus points on the board in the last two seasons combined with Timra’s junior team. In the fall, Pettersson will play on Timra’s “big team” in the HockeyAllsvenskan. With his hometown so close to the city, one can only assume it was his favorite team growing up. However, it was not. “Their biggest rival, MODO, was my favorite,” says Pettersson. “Timra was the best team I could go to, though. They’re good with juniors and they like me there, so it wasn’t a hard choice.”
This past season, Timra was a part of the Elitserien (recently renamed “Swedish Hockey League”) but was relegated to the Allsvenskan for the first time in 13 years. At the end of the regular season, the two lowest ranked teams in the Elitserien/SHL play in a relegation series with the top four teams from the Allsvenskan (best compared to the American Hockey League in North America). The top two teams from that series qualify to play in the SHL the next season while the other teams are demoted to Allsvenskan. Timra was one of the teams that was demoted this year.
“But it’s good for me,” says Pettersson about playing in the Allsvenskan next season. “There are more juniors on the team now, so there’s a bigger chance for me to play.” And he seems to know what he needs to do to improve in order to get that ice time. “I need to gain weight and strength and improve my defensive game,” says Pettersson, who weighs in right under 160 pounds. But he has plenty of things to add to the list that he’s confident about as well. “I’m good with the puck, a good skater, an offensive player. I score a lot of points. I’m a pretty good face-off man too.”
Pettersson is still one of the youngest players on an already young team, but there are still a handful of players to whom he is their senior and has been with the team longer. He thinks because of this, he could have the opportunity to step into a leadership role, especially, as he pointed out, “they like [him].” “We have a lot of leaders here. Almost everyone’s a good leader,” says Pettersson’s fellow-countryman, Filip Forsberg, as he motions to the other players in the dressing room. Emil Pettersson’s upbeat and confident attitude make this statement ring all the more true.
Photo by: Sarah Fuqua
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