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:
Elias Pettersson ? pic.twitter.com/G5BC6pA1hW
— C More Sport (@cmoresport) April 17, 2018
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:
The look you get when you realize you have no way of stopping Elias Pettersson pic.twitter.com/Z5YGxwqe3s
— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) April 19, 2018
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:
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) April 8, 2018
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:
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.