We are now a little over 48 hours away from the 2023 NHL draft. As we begin to wrap-up our evaluations of players that the Washington Capitals could potentially pick with the eighth overall selection, today we will look at defenseman Axel Sandin Pellikka.
AXEL SANDIN PELLIKKA – (18) – 5’11” – 181LBS, RD, Skellefteå AIK J20 (J20 Nationell)
Sandin Pellikka is one of the most dynamic defenseman in this draft. He’s an offensive blue-liner that has been compared to Erik Karlsson.
The Swedish rear-guard had 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 31 games with Skellefteå AIK of the J20 Nationell Swedish Junior League. He was named the J20 Nationell best defensemen this past season and his 16 goals were the most in the league among defensemen. The 18-year-old represented Team Sweden in the Hlinka/Gretzky cup and he won the silver medal.
Sandin Pellikka could also be one of the best overall skaters in the entire draft. His slick skating ability is what makes him so fun to watch. He is agile on his edges and has great speed. He makes it look so effortless.
Sandin Pellikka is terrific on zone exits because of his elite skating. He can beat a forechecker with his speed and then throw a tape-to-tape outlet pass from anywhere.
His shot is also excellent from the blue line. He likes to put a lot of weight into his wrister which makes it more powerful. Sandin Pellikka doesn’t have the quickest release, but if he gets time and space, he will make teams’ pay.
The biggest area of improvement for Sandin Pellikka is his defensive zone play and strength. While he does have a very high hockey IQ, he is not positionally always aware of where he needs to be in his own zone and this leads to scoring chances for the opposition. The right-handed defenseman tends to get knocked off the puck easily if he is in the corners and facing a high forecheck.
He’s got really good edges and mobility and has shown improved speed in straight lines to pull away from chasers (with more room for growth there still). He walks the line to get shots through at a high level, wants the puck in the offensive zone and has the skill and shot to make things happen when teammates find him off the point or as the trailer off the rush (which he often activates into). He keeps his head up in the neutral and defensive zones and is a confident puck carrier on exits and entries. Though he’s not big, he’s athletic and he plays hard and engages in battles in the defensive zone with some sneaky strength. He’s got a good stick. He does a good job maintaining gaps and matching opposing forwards step-for-step skating backward, and times his close-outs and pinches effectively. He’s competitive and can really shoot it with a pinpoint accurate shot, a wrister that comes off hard.
Sandin Pellikka is a highly creative and intelligent puck-mover. He has excellent puck skills, showing the ability to beat opponents often with skill. He can improvise well with the puck, while also showing strong playmaking ability with the poise to make plays from the blue line at the highest levels. He is a goal-scoring threat who can score from range but also pinches well to get scoring opportunities. He skates well enough, and can make plays on the move creating offense off the rush and from blue-line activations. Sandin Pellikka lacks ideal NHL size for a defenseman but he competes well and doesn’t shy from using his body to lay into opposing forwards. His defense will be his main question at the NHL level, but I think he plays hard enough to be a top-four defenseman.
NHL Central Scouting: 7 (among EU skaters)
Elite Prospects: 15
Daily Faceoff: 11
The Hockey News: 14
By Jacob Cheris