Red Wings Draft Targets: Axel Sandin Pellikka

The Hockey Writers

It’s no secret that the Detroit Red Wings need to bolster their defense and the solution may be found in the 2023 NHL Draft. Axel Sandin Pellikka, a right-shot defenseman hailing from Sweden, is a standout candidate for one of the Red Wings’ first-round picks. He rose from being a late first-round pick or even a second-round pick to being almost a sure thing to go in the top 20.

2023 NHL Draft Detroit Red Wings Targets
2023 NHL Draft Detroit Red Wings Targets (The Hockey Writers)

He is ranked anywhere between fifth overall to 16th by TSN, The Hockey News, and NHL Central Scouting which means he could be a bit of a stretch for the Red Wings to select. However, it’s worth discussing him and the value that he would bring to the team as the rebuild continues to hit a crucial point.

Sandin Pellikka is Pretty Swede

The 2022-23 season was nothing short of busy for Sandin Pellikka as he played for Skellefteå AIK’s J18, J20, and Swedish Hockey League (SHL) teams in addition to representing Sweden on the international stage. He played in the U18 International Junior Tournament and U18 World Championship as well as the U20 International Junior Tournament and U20 World Junior Championship. In the SHL, he played in 22 games with a total of five points (two goals, three assists) which is not too shabby for a 17-year-old defenseman making his professional debut. At the junior level, he tallied 36 points through 31 regular season games with Skellefteå AIK J20. 

Related: THW Draft Guide


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The U18 World Championship was a standout tournament for Sandin Pellikka as he had five goals and 16 assists in just 19 games as Sweden brought home the silver. He was named to the All-Star Team, the Best Defenseman of the tournament, as well as one of the Top 3 Players on his team. The honors didn’t stop there as he was recognized as having the most goals as a defenseman by J20 Nationell (North) (13 goals) and J20 Nationell (Overall) (16 goals) on top of being named the Defenseman of the Year.

Sandin Pellikka is the best offensive defenseman in his draft class and has strong puck-handling abilities that make him a very unique player. Standing at 5-foot-11, he’s on the smaller end for modern-day NHL defensemen but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in skill. When in the offensive zone, his confidence is undeniable and it carries back to his presence on the blue line as he is well-engaged and present when facing the opposition.

“Sandin Pellikka is an offensive defenceman with legitimate first-unit power play upside. His puck skills, playmaking, shot, and the ability to walk an offensive blue line make him a credible scoring threat with the puck on his stick, as does his ability to process options and make plays at speed off the rush.”

– Jimmy Hamrin (from 2023 Elite Prospects Draft Guide)

Fitting In With the Red Wings

Regarding Sandin Pellikka’s fit in the prospect pool, he’s perfect. There is a wide open gap for him at his position which means there are little to no reasons for the Red Wings to pass him up if he is available. He’s got the offensive upside and drive for scoring or participating in scoring plays that the Red Wings are looking for, as well as fulfilling one of their greatest positional needs.

Axel Sandin Pellikka Team Sweden
Axel Sandin Pellikka, Team Sweden (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Potentially one of the most lacking areas of the entire Red Wings depth chart, right-side defensemen are few and far between in this organization. The top prospect would likely be Antti Tuomisto, followed by Anton Johansson, Seth Barton, and Tnias Mathurin. Then on the current roster, Moritz Seider carries the load while Gustav Lindstrom follows suit to the best of his abilities.

So, Why Choose Sandin Pellikka?

To put it simply, the Red Wings desperately need to fill out the right side of their defense and Sandin Pellikka’s talent is impossible to pass up. In my opinion, his ceiling seems to be a top-four defenseman and his floor is a middle-four defenseman. If selected by Detroit, he could eventually fill the slot underneath Seider which would give the right side a much-needed boost. Seider is a strong defensive defenseman who also has stunning offensive abilities so having a strong offensive defenseman to follow his shifts would make the Red Wings a force to be reckoned with.

Related: Red Wings Draft Coverage

The major downside is that Sandin Pellikka might be slightly out of reach for the Red Wings with their 17th overall pick. This pick might even be dealt or moved by the time the draft rolls around so it’s a very grey area to discuss at this point. However, the skill he possesses is impossible to overlook, especially since he checks one of the biggest wish list criteria for the Red Wings as a right-shot defenseman.

Other Quotes

“The biggest knock against Sandin Pellikka is his size and lack of strength. He isn’t weak, but will need to compensate for his lack of monstrous size and aggression with good edge work and weaving his way out of trouble. He could get stronger, and should naturally do so as he ages. Regardless of what he lacks, he makes up for it with his smart passes, mobility, and puck-carrying prowess.” – Caleb Kerney

2023 NHL Entry Draft Guide Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli Banner

“Extremely skilled player with fantastic skating ability. Fierce competitor who performs well beyond his age group. Has performed well at the senior level when given the opportunity. At the junior level, he is a good two-way defenseman with offensive potential. There’s no denying that he’s an incredibly talented player.” – Skellefteå J20 cohead coach Martin Sandgren (from 2023 Elite Prospects Draft Guide)

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