Detroit Red Wings’ Axel Sandin Pellikka’s incredible road trip to the 2023 NHL draft

Detroit Free Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As if being selected by an Original Six franchise with a history rich in Swedish picks, Axel Sandin Pellikka’s final journey to the 2023 NHL draft was one for the memory.

The bad air quality that has blanketed so much of the United States in recent days disrupted Sandin Pellikka’s plans to fly from New York to Nashville. It got to the point that the best option was to drive.

“We got into New York and everything was going well, but then the flight got delayed,” Sandin Pellikka said after the Red Wings picked him 17th overall. “Eventually it got canceled and we had to find a solution. My agent made us get into a hotel, so we stayed one night. We tried to find a good solution and the best one was to drive.”

“It was a 15-hour drive. The last four hours I was driving and my arms started to feel numb. I looked over at my agent and he was laying there, sleeping. It was a new experience for me. I’ve only had my driver’s license for like a month before I got to drive here in the U.S. It was a fun road trip.”

Sandin Pellikka, his younger brother, 2021 Wings draft pick Liam Dower Nilsson (coming to Detroit for next week’s development camp) and his agent, Claes Elefalk, got into one car, and Sandin Pellikka’s parents, grandfather and grandmother.

ALSO … : Red Wings select Nate Danielson with No. 9 pick in 2023 NHL draft

“They were driving behind me and as soon as I went over the speed limit, my mother would call my agent and say, just tell (him) to slow down, he can’t be driving like that,” Sandin Pellikka said. “She looks out for me.”

Other than listening to the song, “Country Roads,” once, the group spent the time talking. Well, talking and the occasional pit stop.

“We stopped at all the good things America has to offer — Chipotle, Five Guys, those kind of places.”

Sandin Pellikka said the last 20 minutes, he “didn’t know if I was sleeping or driving or dreaming.” They arrived in Nashville around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, and spent Wednesday walking around and enjoying a big lunch before heading to Bridgestone Arena for the draft.

Contact Helene St. James at Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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