The 2023 NHL draft is projected to be forward heavy with plenty having potential to be elite. When looking at defencemen, this draft is weak compared to others and there’s no clear cut top defender of the draft. There’s a few defencemen that should go high in this forward=dominated draft and that few includes Axel Sandin Pellikka.
Axel Sandin Pellikka is a Swedish, offensive-minded, defenceman whose draft stock soared early into the season. He’s said to have pretty much every skill you want in an offensive defencemen and powe rplay quarterback.
Who is Axel Sandin Pellikka?
|Axel Sandin Pellikka||RD||Right||5’11”||181lbs|
Sandin Pellikka’s on ice production
|2019–20||D-3||U16 Elit||Skelleftea AIK U16||20||1||8||9|
|U16 SM||Skelleftea AIK U16||3||0||1||1|
|J18 Elit||Skelleftea AIK J18||6||0||0||0|
|2020–21||D-2||U16 Region||Skelleftea AIK U16||1||2||0||2|
|J18 Region||Skelleftea AIK J18||4||0||1||1|
|2021–22||D-1||J18 Region||Skelleftea AIK J18||16||7||6||13|
|J18 Nationell||Skelleftea AIK J18||14||2||6||8|
|J20 Nationell||Skelleftea AIK J20||14||1||2||3|
|2022–23||D+0||J20 Nationell||Skelleftea AIK J20||31||16||20||36|
Axel Sandin Pellikka really came out of nowhere as before this season, he didn’t have any stats that stuck out. He didn’t play many games and put up few points. In his D-1 year, he did have a stronger showing compared to the rest, scoring 13 points in 16 games.
Now we reach present day and Sandin Pellikka’s draft year has been huge for him. To start, he had a great showing in the J20 Nationell putting 16 goals and 36 points in 31 games as a defender. He then received playing time with Skelleftea AIK’s SHL team where he didn’t produce as much with only five points in 22 games, but he did only get roughly eight minutes of ice time per game.
For the past two seasons, Sweden has called on Sandin Pellikka to play for his country. It didn’t start out good as he barely produced at the U17’s with three points in nine games. Fast forward to this year and it doesn’t get much better at the World Juniors. On a fourth place Sweden team, Sandin Pellikka put up only one point which came in the bronze medal game.
Now we look at the most recent tournament, the U18s. To simply put it, Sandin Pellikka was phenomenal. This time around, he scored at over a point per game with 11 points in seven games. He also helped Sweden reach the gold medal game where they unfortunately lost to the USA in overtime.
The feats from this tournament don’t stop there. Sandin Pellikka was named one of Sweden’s top players of the U18s. He also received the honour of being named defenceman of the tournament by both the media and the IIHF.
Axel Sandin Pellikka’s strengths
Skating and puck control
Axel Sandin Pellikka excels in both edgework and speed. Often, Sandin Pellikka uses his edgework to deke his opponents and leaves them with their ankles broken. Being able to change direction smoothly and quickly is another useful skill he possesses. He uses his fast turns to leave the challenger attacking him seem lost on the play. This can cause the opponent to overskate and have a harder time catching Sandin Pellikka and his team on the rush. His smooth turns also allow him to get around players easily, developing an offensive chance.
Now on to his speed which completes his amazing skating. Sandin Pellikka often seems to be faster than his opponents which allows to easily transition up the ice without being caught from the behind. He has explosiveness to his stride and uses this to his advantage, hopping into the rush early and leading to an offensive opportuinity.
Sandin Pellikka’s puck control ties into his skating. It’s impressive how while he’s making quick turns, he never looks to struggle with keeping the puck under control. Opponents have a hard time getting the puck off his stick because of the speed he stickhandles at.
Shooting and passing
Every single good offensive defensive is at least good at shooting or passing and Sandin Pellikka is great at both. Sandin Pellikka holds a very nice one-timer which is hard and accurate, causing goalies to have a hard time stopping it. His wrist shot is about as good as his one-timer. Fast and accurate is a way to describe Sandin Pellikka’s wrist shot and is a big reason why he lead defencemen in goals in the J20 league this season.
His passing is either as good or even better than his shot. To start, he can dish out some great saucer passes, either on the fly or to kick start the rush. These pasts very usually lead to scoring chances or goals. His vision of being able to spot open teammates is also great and will always seems to deliver some nice passes.
Axel Sandin Pellikka’s areas of improvement
Size and strength
As a defencemen that’s under six-foot and two hundred pounds, it’s not too surprising that Axel Sandin Pellikka’s size and strength might hold him back. His overall compete level seems solid— always looking like he wants to fight for the puck—but his stature puts it to a stop. When in corners, he can easily be knocked off the puck due to his current build. Engaging in a puck battle usually ends with Sandin Pellikka losing the battle or on the ice because the opponent being able to out muscle him.
Like most offensive defencemen, Sandin Pellikka struggles with the defensive part of his game. These problems seem to come from the lack of commitment and being lazy on the ice. Sandin Pellikka will miss his defensive assignment, and instead of attempting to bounce back and catch a player he’ll likely be able to catch because of his speed, he’ll simply puck watch and allow the opposing team to get a scoring chance or goal. When being pressured in the defensive end, he appears to panic, cough up the puck easily, and looks lost on the play.
Axel Sandin Pellikka’s comparables
Axel Sandin Pellikka himself has said he’s been compared to Dallas Stars defencemen, Nils Lundkvist. This comparison makes a lot of sense, both offensively talented with strong skating, but have problems in the defensive end. Some have drawn comparisons to Tyson Barrie, John Klingberg, and even a lesser Erik Karlsson for the same reasons.
Fit with the Flames
Axel Sandin Pellikka is projected to go to anywhere between tenth and eighteenth overall which means there’s a chance he’s there when the Flames likely pick at sixteenth. His offensive skills could attract some NHL teams and see him go higher than projected, but his defensive struggles and size could see him go lower than projected too.
Picking Sandin Pellikka would continue the trend of Calgary being mini Sweden as he is Swedish. On a more serious note, Sandin Pellikka would help strengthen the Flames defensive pool that seems bleak aside from Jeremie Poirier.
The right side of the Flames defence seems set currently with Rasmus Andersson and Chris Tanev, but Tanev isn’t getting any younger and it would be nice to have some fail safe. Sandin Pellikka could eventually bring offence to the blueline that the Flames seemed to be missing this season if they do choose to draft him.
Axel Sandin Pellikka is one of the top defenders in a weak defensive class. His offensive skillset is sure to provide some results at the NHL level. His ceiling and floor are quite far apart and range from a number one defencemen to a bottom pairing defenceman that receives some power play time. It’s most likely that Sandin Pellikka will be a top-four offensive defenceman that scores 40 to 50 points while quarterbacking a power play.
Projection: Top-four offensive defenceman
All TWC 2023 NHL Draft Profiles
Check out more of our individual player profiles of selected 2023 NHL Draft prospects:
Connor Bedard | Matvei Michkov | Adam Fantilli | Leo Carlsson | Zach Benson | Andrew Cristall | Oliver Moore | Will Smith | Ryan Leonard | Eduard Sale | Colby Barlow | Axel Sandin Pellikka | Dalibor Dvorsky | Brayden Yager | David Reinbacher | Nate Danielson | Riley Heidt | Matthew Wood | Quentin Musty | Mikhail Gulyayev | Calum Ritchie