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Photo Credit: Hockeysverige.se / Twitter

Pettersson making his mark on the SHL playoffs

Don’t know if you’ve heard of this Elias Pettersson kid, but he’s making sure everyone is aware of him now.

After breaking records in the regular season, Canucks prospect Pettersson was being tightly checked in the first few games of the SHL playoffs. He wasn’t playing poorly but it was clear that Brynas and Malmo were honing in on the young forward.

There were whispers in the wind that maybe Pettersson was going to struggle with the tighter play. After a few games, the former 5th overall pick started to get his feet under him. He started to make those little plays that we had seen throughout the year. At first, they weren’t hitting the back of the net but over the last few weeks, he has become the dominant player that we had seen throughout the SHL regular season.

In particular, Pettersson has looked great in the SHL finals.

Vaxjo has outscored Skelleftea AIK by an 11-0 score en route to a 2-0 series lead and the games have looked every bit as the score indicates. Petterson has been making skilled plays all over the place. You can see the confidence growing with each passing game. One such example was this drop pass from the first game of the series on Tuesday:

The confidence and awareness to make a play like that are hard to even fathom. Although the Lakers didn’t score on that play, it was an eye-opening for observers.

Later that game, Pettersson was able to find the back of the net:

The goal was nothing to be excited about as he just pushed the puck over the line, but the ability to cycle around in the neutral zone and then attack the zone with speed is encouraging. He also has his eye on the puck from the moment he loses it and is smart enough to make a hard stop to put the lucky bounce away.

Pettersson ended the game with one goal and two assists.

Game two went on Thursday and Pettersson picked up right where he left off. Midway through the second period, there was a quick montage of his puck handling while being engaged. The Canucks prospect has shown a tremendous ability to get his opponent to reach for the puck before dragging it away. It forces the opponent to engage further and then Pettersson is able to move around him or move the puck to a teammate. Just another time where his patience with the puck was on display.

That patience paid off with his second goal of the SHL finals:

Pettersson made a great play at the line to gain entry and then slip behind coverage. Grabs the puck and has the patience and awareness to go around as far as possible before roofing it over the goalie. It was just another great play for the young Swede that highlighted his great offensive instincts. After the goal, the broadcast showed the Skelleftea AIK coach:

Pettersson ended game two with one goal and one assist to bring his total to two goals and three assists in the first two games of the best of seven series. Although Vaxjo has scored 11 goals, Pettersson has been part of 45% of those. With a little more luck and execution, the score would’ve been more lopsided and Pettersson would’ve had an even beefier stat line.

Let’s also not forget his OT winner from the last round:

It’s great to see that Pettersson has been able to battle through the tighter checking and come out the other side as the player that he was throughout the regular season. When the Canucks selected him with the 5th overall pick, there was concern that he wouldn’t be able to handle the tougher playoff hockey. Yes, the SHL playoffs won’t be as physical as the NHL postseason but it hasn’t been a cakewalk in the slightest. The mental toughness to turn the other way and keep battling is a skill that many players lack.

At this moment, Pettersson leads the SHL in playoff scoring and if Vaxjo continues to dominate the series, it’s fair to believe that won’t change. He currently leads Oscar Moller of Skelleftea AIK by two points.

After setting the regular season SHL record for the most points by a U20 player, Pettersson has a chance to do the same thing in the playoffs. Following his two-point performance on Thursday, Pettersson sits second in U20 single-season playoff scorers:

Image: Elite Prospects

If he can replicate his performance from the first two games over the remainder of the series, Pettersson could end the 2017-18 SHL season as the regular season leading scorer, playoff leading scorer, most prolific U20 regular season scorer, and the most points by a U20 player in the SHL playoffs.

That would be one serious mark left on the SHL for the Canucks prospect.

      • I’m confident he’s going to be a good NHL player and hopeful he’ll be a great one, but until he steps onto NHL ice and starts producing, it’s nothing but hope. He could turn into a consistent 40-point scorer. That would be okay. It’d be amazing if he turned into the next Peter Forsberg or Henrik Zetterberg or Daniel Sedin, but we shouldn’t count on it.

  • truthseeker

    Nice to see!

    I hope the canucks don’t baby him and give him a good long look in the regular season to start next year before making any decisions about the minors. I get the vibe the kid will just know how to handle the NHL. Much like Boeser. Some kids don’t need the minors at all.

    It’s going to make for some interesting potential line combinations.

    • TD

      Would be okay with them sending Pettersson to the minors if it with the purpose of trying to develop him as a centre. The AHL has lots of practice time compared to the NHL with all the negotiated days off. Montreal kind of wrecked Galchenuk by bringing him in as a teenager, saying he would be their future #1 centre, but only playing him on the wing. With no development time and only practicing as a winger, Galchenuk never reached his potential. If the Canucks think Pettersson will be a winger (which is where he played for most of the last two years) then bring him up. If not consider stacking a line with Dahlen as well and let him learn in Utica.

      Personally I think he will end up as a winger who controls play like Gaudreau does in Calgary in which case playing on the Canucks next year is fine.

      • truthseeker

        That is a good point. Hopefully they make the right decision. They can always just try him at center throughout the preseason and see what happens. If he looks like he can handle it then use him there at the beginning of the regular season.

        I think the key with young players is just to be straight forward and honest with them about what you want to do. Temper their expectations, so if there is a setback they understand it’s not a huge deal.

        • truthseeker

          the center/wing thing aside, I don’t like to put rules on it like that. If he’s good enough he’s good enough and there will be no need to put him in the minors for any reason. Like Brock. Never needed it. He can get used to the smaller ice in the NHL if he shows he can compete and excel in camp.

          • crofton

            One difference being Brock has always played on this ice size….midget and Jr. levels not withstanding. Pettersson has not. He got a whiff at WJC. Believe me I’d love to have him, but the competition is a grade or two higher, the boys are bigger and nastier in many cases. I’d rather not see him get overwhelmed…but if he’s ready, he’s ready.

      • truthseeker

        Isn’t he in the situation where that 10 game thing doesn’t apply because the Swedish league is professional? Couldn’t they play him as long as they want and then send him to the minors if he needs it? Like after 20 games or something?

  • wjohn1925

    It’s hard not to get excited about this guy. He has quite the skill set. Hope is all we live on these days, so why not enjoy the ride (better odds than a 649).

  • Nuckleston

    I very excited for Elias as I think he is a heck of a talent.

    I was reading somewhere that people were saying that due to the proliferation of Swedish players in the NHL, the SHL isn’t as high level as it used to be. Does anyone know anything about that, or am I just miss remembering?

    • Yeah, I was reading how the SHL is trying to convince NHL teams to keep Swedish prospects in the SHL for more than 1 year. They hate the fact that Swedes can’t root for their best players because they jump to NA as soon as they get the chance. The fact that prospects can develop in Europe without burning a year of ELC should be a major reason to send prospects to the SHL, Liiga or the Czech league.

    • SHL has bigger ice so more room and less board battling. Each league has it’s share of domestic players and ex-NHLers. Since the AHL has teams directly affiliated with NHL teams, players are more likely to be facing NHL-type competition. Pettersson will have to think quicker in either the AHL or NHL but he seems to have that “elite hockey IQ”.

    • Fred-65

      On the Vaxjo team the next best point totals were put u by a 26 year old named Andrew Calof, who hails from Nepean OT. I’m sure he’s a household name …. in Nepean. The 4th highest points total is helf by Winnipeg native Brendan Shinnimin, and we all know Brendan right. You have to be careful with comparing leagues is the point. In the KHL play-offs the leader is tied and one of those is good ‘ole Matt Gilroy, from North Bellmore NY. Linden Vey was a league leader for a long time in the KHL

  • Killer Marmot

    Joakim Lindström won this year’s Guldhjälmen (Gold Helmet) award for the most valuable SHL player as voted on by the players. Yet Pettersson had better statistics, made even more impressive by his age.

    Well this final series matches up Lindström against Pettersson, and so far Pettersson is giving the SHL players reason to question their choice.

    I think, though, that Pettersson is still up for the Guldpucken (Gold Puck) award as the best Swedish player in any league. Unfortunately, there’s this guy called Erik Karlsson who has won it the last two years in a row.

  • Gampbler

    I’m excited by the powerplay prospect of Pettersson lining up where Henrik used to with Brock set up on the other side, both with the ability to one time and make passes. Pettersson won’t transition to center in his first year if at all in the NHL, but if he succeeds at LW, who cares?

    • Pettersson has been playing RW for most of the year. I can’t see him being a LW because when he cuts to the middle, it puts him on the backhand. Virtanen, of all people, should be playing LW because that’s where he was best in Utica. Once he gets past the defender, he can cut to his forehand and drive the net. On his backhand from RW, he’s going behind the net and not taking shots.

      • Gampbler

        I’m pretty sure he was lining up as a LW most of the year and played on the right side on the PP. The traditional thinking behind playing on the same side that you carry the puck is that you protect the puck with your body and with your reach from the defender when skating down the wing, which gains you at least a few feet to protect the puck (much like a running back carrying the ball on the outside of the defender) Guys like Pettersson can go wherever the open ice is though so he doesn’t look the north/south winger.

  • apr

    You should listen to the lates Pat-Cast with Patterson and Botchford. Botchford said that Gradin thought Petterson could/should have played with the Canucks this year. He further elaborated that the Nucks only had Makar rated higher Petterson. Bringing in Glass and Villardi was just a ruse; while the Canucks talk up Dobson and Bouchard – the player they really want is Hughes (if don’t get Dahlin). Hughes is having a much better season than Makar. While Dahlin would be great, I’d rather first overall next year and announce Jack Hughes at home. Though both would be great – but we’re not Edmonton.

    • Initially, I drank the CA Koolaid on Hughes but the more I think of it, I have the following questions:

      – Don’t we already have a similar player in Stecher? Small, smart, good skater but no booming point shot.

      – We have Juolevi on the way for LD and while more is better, we don’t have a similar calibre player in RD on the way. A Top 2/4 RD like Bouchard or Dobson fills a developmental need. A big two-way RHD with a cannon shot goes well with Pettersson on RW on the 4F-1D power play.

  • I love the idea of Pettersson joining the Canucks next year, but this young man needs to be ready first. My guess is he thinks he is, like every confident young man, but probably isn’t.
    I hope he spends time here first to get used to the place,(that’s easy), learns and understands English, and adjusts to life away from home. From what I’ve read, he needs to bulk up. Protein shakes, strength training, and large amounts of Angus AAA. Someone from the Canucks organization should take him under his wing. He shouldn’t start in Van until all this other stuff is looked after.

    It’s called putting him in a position to succeed.

    • LTFan

      I’m sure the Canucks have dieticians, strength coaches, etc. etc. working with all their prospects. To get in great shape work out with the Sedins. While no longer on the team – I would say they are still the “Gold” standard for being in excellent physical fitness.

  • Rodeobill

    I’m less concerned than others regarding his bulking, he will fill out naturally as he ages but he just needs to not be frail. Whatever size he needs to be at to keep playing like this is cool by me. We will need someone to prevent other teams from intentionally headhunting though. Maybe we can get Odjick or Semenko to come out of retirement.

    • I’m pretty certain the 160lbs number is from last summer. I know I gained 10lbs of (mostly) muscle when I was 19 and I was *not* a professional athlete. He’ll likely come into next season at 175lbs min.

      • I read a news article that said he was 157 lbs at last year’s WJC, 161 lbs at the Canucks prospects camp and 167 lbs by December. He knows that he needs more muscle and is doing what he needs to fill out his frame.

      • Many skinny European kids have trouble putting on weight. Eat like a horse and nothing happens. For many, this is hard to imagine, but these kids really have to work at it, to gain body mass.
        Some people are just meant to be skinny, others not.

        • Ser Jaime Lannister

          Get the kid some creatine and TEST! with a gruelling strength training program all summer should be easy to add some weight and muscle! Hope he works out with JV, remember those IG videos of him squatting 315?

        • TD

          Pettersson looks like a very thin person on a thin frame. Even with some added muscle he may never reach reach or exceed 180. He looks pretty solid on his skates and agile enough to survive.

    • @Rodeobill
      To play with confidence in the NHL, you can’t be a soft skill guy. This website believes intimidation is no longer part of the game, or of importance, but I strongly disagree. When the Bruins man handle the Leafs, or a guy like big Buff plays at 300lbs and keeps up, you can’t expect a 160 lbs guy not to feel a little intimidated. Add to this Vancouver’s lack of pushback, it’s a concern and needs to be addressed.

      • Fred-65

        I tend to think that the Gudbranson signing was part of the “insurance plan” for Pettersson. If Gudbranson is any thing he’s likely one of the toughest players in the league, He handled Washington’s Wilson like he was playing with him. One problem is EG injuries might be making him an infrequent visitor to the penalty box. Let’s hope he’s ready to go come Sepetember. I really liked the respect Lucic gave EG when he layed that big hit on him, he looked, recognized and the skated away, say’s a lot

  • Holly Wood

    I feel he will be able to handle the offensive role fairly quickly(20-30 games). It will be the defensive responsibility that may slow his playing centre. A couple months in Utica playing centre may not hurt. Glad we are not making the decisions.