The Edmonton Oilers dipped into the European free agent pool a few times this past spring. On top of adding Mikko Koskinen, the club signed little known Swedish defender Joel Persson to a one-year contract in May. After toiling in the third tier of Swedish pro hockey, Persson exploded onto the scene in the SHL a season ago.
Persson registered 34 points (6-28-34) in 51 games while posting a +17 rating for Vaxjo HC. He’s only 5’11” and 170 pounds, but there are a lot of things to like about Persson, including his ability to play a physical game while also moving the puck.
We don’t know much about Persson, and we won’t get the chance to see him in North America this coming season. That said, we need to shed some light on Persson, and that’s the point of the “Just Who Is” series.
So…..Just Who Is Joel Persson?:
Although he is relatively small, as mentioned above just 5’11”, Persson still has the ability to play a physical game. He’s not afraid to get into it, and won’t shy away from contact. That should make him an appealing player for the Oilers, and should help the transition to North America should he eventually come over.
His bread and butter is, without doubt, his offensive ability. Persson isn’t a shutdown defender by any means, and provides his value via his exceptional puck moving ability. He’s got the ability to advance the puck up ice with a strong first pass, and has shown the ability to dish the puck to set things up in the offensive zone.
Although Persson is prone to making mistakes with his defensive play, mainly choosing when to pinch, he’s got the ability to adjust well and recover seamlessly. That, in large part, is due to the exceptional speed that he possesses.
This player is a real mystery however. He went from irrelevant to NHL teams in the Swedish third tier to becoming an impact offensive defender on one of Sweden’s top hockey clubs. It’s been an interesting year and a half for Persson.
Via On The Forecheck, here’s a look at Persson’s style of play.
Persson, like Pilut, is a young defenseman near the top of his team in scoring. The 23-year-old has 5 goals and 29 points in 42 games which is good for fourth on the Lakers and first amongst defensemen. A quick note: Emil Pettersson’s younger brother, Elias (a Canucks prospect), is tearing it up for the Lakers this year with 45 points in 35 games. Persson doesn’t shoot as much as Pilut does but the numbers are still impressive.
The 2017-18 campaign is Persson’s first in the SHL. In fact, he actually jumped straight from the third-tier Swedish league, Hockeyettan, to the SHL this season, and the transition has been fairly seamless. In 38 games last season, Persson scored 40 points. Jumping two leagues and still posting nearly 0.70 points-per-game is impressive. It does certainly help that Vaxjo is steamrolling their competition this season with 17 more points than second-place Djurgarden.
Persson has an identical build to Pilut but might play a more physical game. He is signed by Vaxjo for the next two seasons.
What Can We Expect?:
Even though Persson is under contract with the Oilers, he won’t be playing in North America this coming season. Persson will return to Vaxjo for a second season, as the Oilers loaned him back to the team almost immediately after signing him to a contract.
This is a huge year for Persson. He’s going to show what he really is this coming season. Is Persson actually the player he appeared to be a season ago, becoming an impact player in the SHL? Or did he simply ride a heater and is closer to the defender that couldn’t break out of the third tier in Sweden?
He’s going to get the chance to prove himself, and in turn likely earn an invite to Norther America a year from now with the Oilers organization.
Oilers fans should be hoping that Persson can hold a full-time job in Sweden for a second straight season, and post somewhere around 25-30 points. Asking him to repeat his dream season might be asking too much, but asking him to be a full-time player with decent stats shouldn’t be out of the question.