Pint-sized Pettersson likes to play physical

Pint-sized Pettersson likes to play physical
July 16, 2014, 10:00 am

The Flyers took 5-foot-8 defenseman Jesper Pettersson (left) in the seventh round of this summer's draft. (AP)

One way to describe Stockholm-born defensive prospect Jesper Pettersson?

Chunky.
 
Though he’s barely 5-foot-8, he’s 187 pounds, as wide as an aircraft carrier and has the muscle to back it up.
 
“Height-wise, he is small, but stature-wise, he is wide and really strong on his feet and competitive,” said Chris Pryor, the Flyers' director of scouting.
 
You might find it strange the Flyers quickly signed their seventh-round pick (198th overall) from June’s draft this week, well ahead of others, but there’s a reason.
 
At 19, Pettersson is eligible to play for the Phantoms this season. The Flyers wanted to get that resolved now so he'll be ready in time for training camp this fall.
 
“Yeah, he was able to come over and play this year,” Pryor said. “That was intriguing for us. We’ve seen him a lot over there. The kid got a chance to play over here, and it was part of the conversation.”
 
Pettersson, who completed his final day of Flyers development camp on Tuesday, admitted to being surprised that things unfolded so quickly for him.
 
“I didn’t think I would come to this camp and they would sign me,” he said. “I was a little surprised, but I’m happy it happened.”
 
Actually, Pettersson had his sights set on the Phantoms all along after playing 48 games with Linköping’s top club in the Swedish Hockey League last year.
 
“I knew I was gonna play here when I got drafted,” he said. “It’s something I talked about for a long time.”
 
His three-year, entry-level deal -- like all others -- is two-way and has bonuses for games played. At the very least, he would earn $575,000 in NHL salary. If he hits the "games played” bonus, that goes up to $645,000.
 
He may be small, but Pettersson threw his weight around during the scrimmage drills on the camp’s final day.
 
Size is always going to be an issue for him if makes the NHL. Then again, there have been other small but physical defensemen in the league.
 
Kimmo Timonen comes to mind. Barely 5-10, wide and “thick,” as they say.
 
Pettersson’s idol as a kid growing into his hockey skates was a fellow Swede.
 
“Yeah, Niklas Lidstrom I looked at,” he said. “He was really easy with his play, easy things.”
 
How Pettersson handles 230-pound forwards coming at him with speed will go a long way toward determining whether he has an NHL career.
 
“It’s been my whole life,” Pettersson said of his height. “Many people say I’m a small player and I’m too small to play. I always go into the corner with a big guy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big or small guy.
 
“It doesn’t matter how small or big I am. I’m comfortable with my style."
 
He’ll need a few years at the AHL level to adjust.
 
“He has to get acclimated,” Pryor said. “The ice, the angles are different, not as much time or space. It’s a different game when they come over.”
 
Smaller players can play far more freely and without injury on the larger ice surface of Europe. Not so much here where they are more vulnerable to the hits and have less room to maneuver.
 
“You can probably go back and forth," Pryor said. “Some guys say it is an easier game over here because you have less time and space.
 
“Jesper is very competitive with good feet and very aware defensively without the puck. He plays a solid defensive game. He should pick up the game quickly over here.”
 
Pettersson is looking toward his first year in the AHL to show people he can take the punishment.
 
“I like the physical play,” he said. “On the small rinks, you get more physical, more hits. That’s what I like.”

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