Publicerad: 2023-01-27
It’s been one of the most talked about breakthroughs of the season. Axel Sandin Pellikka, 17, has been phenomenal on the blueline for Skellefteå in the SHL, he was the only player born 2005 on Team Sweden at WJC and his draft stock is rising by the hour.

Not a lot of SHL fans had heard about Axel Sandin Pellikka coming in to this season. No wonder, the 2005 born D-man spent the majority of last season with Skellefteå AIK’s J18 team. His development during the last 12 months has been astonishing.

”My own expectation this season was to play regularly with J20, get to practice with the men’s team and maybe get to try the SHL level. I could never imagine things going this well”, Sandin Pellikka says himself.

"So this is what it’s like playing in Canada?"

When Craig Button, the esteemed TSN draft guru, released his updated draft ranking in mid january, the player who had made the biggest leap on the list was Axel Sandin Pellikka, from number 27 to number 10. A major reason for that is the succes at the world juniors, where Sandin Pellikka led Team Sweden in ice time, averaging almost 20 minutes per game.

”I received a lot of ice time so I could prove to myself that I have the stamina to play a full game at high pace and still be able to play my game. We had a really good group of guys and was really close to reach the gold medal game”, he says, and à propos the atmosphere adds:

”It was like… oh, so this is what it’s like playing in Canada? It was almost unreal.”

From debut to a regular

So how did Axel Sandin Pellikka even end up in the Swedish squad for the World Juniors? Of course, one explanation is that blueline ace Simon Edvinsson stayed with the Detroit Red Wings, but mostly it was simply because he couldn’t be overlooked based on the way he was playing in the SHL. His very first game at the big stage was september 20th, when Skellefteå travelled to Linköping, and Sandin Pellikka himself remembers the experience very well.

”I was with the team at practice the day before the game, when Anton Olsson injured himself. Pierre (Johnsson, assistant coach) told me right away that I was going to get my SHL debut. So, of course I was really excited, but I think I only played 55 seconds that game, kind of just entering the ice and then leaving again without even touching the puck.”

Axel Sandin Pellikka laughs when retelling it. And even though it would not show on that short shift against Linköping, it soon became clear that this 5'11" defenseman could handle himself among pros.

”I feel confident out there, being able to utilize my strenghts without holding back”, he says. ”My skating is probably one of my best qualities and I’d say that I have good vision and skills also. I think that’s what’s made the transition to the SHL work well for me.”


Scored a smooth shootout goal

As the season went on, Axel Sandin Pellikka hammered his name to the lineup. By november, he not only participated, he even scored the game winning goal in the shootout against Växjö.

”I have a few moves when it comes to penalty shots, but I had done that one on the warm ups and scored, so I went with that one. I’ve always liked to take penalty shots, having the puck by my stick, deke and stuff. I feel like that’s something I’’m good at and I guess the coaches had picked that up”, Sandin Pellikka says.

After returning from the World Juniors, it was announced that Axel Sandin Pellikka had signed a senior contract with Skellefteå, keeping him at the club through 2024/25.

”That was obviously something I had strived for ever since I came to Skellefteå when I was 15 years old. Though I didn’t think it would come so soon.”

There’s a lot of hockey to be played before the draft, and Axel Sandin Pellikka emphasizes that he tries to live in the moment, not looking ahead. But he admits that he has a favourite NHL team.

”Yeah, I’ve always liked the Chicago Blackhawks. That stems back from when my dad went to Chicago on a business trip and brought back a Patrick Kane jersey to me. He’s a special player that I’ve looked up to a lot.”

Johan Hagesund
SHL:s huvudpartners