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CanucksArmy’s 2018 “Midterm” Prospect Rankings #1: Elias Pettersson

Sometimes it really pays off to just swing for the fences. When the Canucks selected Elias Pettersson with the fifth overall pick of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, it came as a surprise to many. They passed on a big-bodied, NHL-ready centre in Cody Glass; a player who most outlets had ranked far ahead of Petersson. While CanucksArmy had Glass a single slot higher, internally there were many authors who felt the team had made the right pick. What the team really needed was skill, and for once the Canucks passed on the safe bet to take a player with high-end upside.

A few days prior to the 2017 Draft, I had suggested on the now-defunct CanucksArmy Podcast that while Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier were likely plug-and play forwards with higher floors, Pettersson could prove to be the strongest forward in the draft. His lights-out performance in Sweden’s top professional league has only strengthened that conviction, and it should come as no surprise that we have him ranked as the organization’s best prospect.

Numbers

Elias Pettersson looks comically good by just about every statistical measure. At just 19, Pettersson led the SHL in points, breaking a 42-year-old record for scoring by a teenager in the process.

Adjusted for era, Pettersson’s most recent season returns 0 statistical cohorts. As a result, the prospect Graduation Probabilities System is unable to evaluate him. To put it simply, his production in the SHL this season was completely unprecedented. For what it’s worth, the two players Pettersson passed to set the all-time single-season scoring record for a teenager in the SHL were Kent Nilsson and Peter Forsberg. He’s in good company.

While Pettersson played for the best team in the SHL this season, it’s important to note that every single one of his most common teammates performed better with him than away from him.

Over a 44-game season, Pettersson only found himself on the wrong-side of the 5-on-5 goal differential three times, and he finished the season with a goals-for percentage of nearly 80%.

At this point, everything in Pettersson’s statistical profile suggests that the question isn’t if he will be a good NHL player, but how good he can be.

Scouting Report

Offensively, Pettersson has virtually no weaknesses. He’s a shifty player who uses his quickness to take the opposition completely out of the picture. His skating, already an area of strength, has only improved since the time of the draft. He was an elite playmaker at the SHL level, and his goal-scoring is rivaled only by Brock Boeser when it comes to players in the Canucks’ system. While he doesn’t have the power or release on his shot that Boeser does (yet), his vision is just as good.

But despite his obvious physical attributes, his biggest asset is the way he thinks the game. His creativity gives him the potential to be a game-breaker offensively at the NHL level. Pettersson doesn’t make the right play, he makes the better play. Even against men, he routinely looked as if he was seeing the game three steps ahead of everyone else. Stylistically, he reminded me a bit of Nik Ehlers when he played for the Halifax Mooseheads.

While Ehlers is a great pro, that comparison may make some Canucks fans wince, given that he’s a winger. That’s the one knock on Pettersson, if you can call it that. While he’s listed as a natural centre, he’s played the bulk of his last two seasons on the right side. If he’s going to play down the middle in the NHL, getting there going to be a slow process; especially because he’s extremely slight. I’d caution against assuming he needs to put on weight, however. Part of what makes him so effective is his quickness and you don’t want him to lose that in service of maintaining a more “NHL-ready” weight, whatever that means.

At any rate, whether he projects as a centre or a winger going forward isn’t really important. He’s the best prospect the team has had in a generation. Feel free to be excited.

  • Bud Poile

    Gretzky’s rookie NHL year has him listed at 165 lbs and 5’11”.
    EP now weighs 172 lbs..

    http://theprovince.com/sports/hockey/nhl/vancouver-canucks/canucks-top-prospects-no-1-elias-pettersson
    “I’ll never forget it, we drafted him on the Friday and on the Saturday he came back down to our table,” Canucks president Trevor Linden said. “That is rare in itself. He then asked us about every single player we drafted, wanting to know all about them.

    “Then Sunday he flies out to Vancouver. I was in the office early Monday morning. He shows up there in his gym clothes already and says ‘Hey, I need to work out.’ He’s a driven and committed kid and that is going to serve him well.”

  • Moneyball

    There are some really good prospects in the pipeline. Vancouver seems to specialize in European prospects. I wonder if a guy like Jesse Puljujarvi would do well in Vancouver?

  • argoleas

    Although I do believe that eventually Pettersson will transition to a center, this could actually take a few seasons, maybe as many as 3. But should he just work out better as a RW, it behooves Canucks to draft a center. In fact, considering the complete lack of depth of that in the prospect pool after Gaudette, they should seriously consider drafting a versatile center either this or next yr with one of their top 3 picks. For example, should they secure a Dman with their 7th, and most likely another with their 37th, their 68th will probably be a center, or maybe their 1st rounder in 2019 will be a center (assuming BPA). And no, that will not be Hughes. We will never draft higher than 4th in the current drafting scheme.

    • Puck Viking

      Hughes next year book it!!

      Dahlen Hughes Petterson
      JV Bo Brock
      Gadjovich Gaudette Lind
      Liepsec MacEwan Lockwood

      Demko
      DiPietro

      We just need to load up like crazy on defense cus its horrible.

      • Assuming this is a lineup from 2024 since there’s no Eriksson.

        It’s vanishingly unlikely that all of Dahlen, Gadjovich, Gaudette, Lind, MacEwan, Lockwood, Demko, and DiPietro make the NHL – only two of those players have played in the NHL and for under ten games each. The Canucks would be incredibly fortunate if *half* of these players hit the 200 games played mark.

    • ManicSt

      I can see that – Henrik Zetterberg played the wing for years before being moved to centre. I’m not too bent out of shape if Pettersson plays the wing for his whole career, either. Let him be the player he is, not the one that pundits want to say the Canucks need.

  • Burnabybob

    The Canucks have a nice pool of prospects. They should have the makings of a good team within two more drafts if they don’t already. I suspect this year they will draft a defenseman and next year they draft another top six winger. Jack Hughes (C) is the early frontrunner of the 2019 draft, but Dylan Cozens (C) looks good, too.

  • truthseeker

    Hopefully he can fill some of the offensive void left by the Sedins. Looking forward to seeing him play. With a little luck the canucks will have another calder finalist.

    Vegas into the finals. Nice. Love to see the eastern canadian media (mostly TSN) getting their sh….. handed to them after their arrogance after game one. Practically proclaimed the Jets the winners after game 1. A 4-2 win and they’re acting like Vegas wasn’t even in the same league.

    It’s really a great story. I hope they finish the job.

    • Bud Poile

      $500 m can buy a cup shot with Gary.
      Too bad for the Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators (expansion), Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues ,Washington Capitals,Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets franchises.

      • wojohowitz

        Bettman has never been more popular with the owners as the price of a new franchise is going up, thanks to Vegas and the wanna be new owners are lining up to buy. $700m, $800m, $1b.

    • canuckfan

      If it is true that the Oilers are looking to move their draft pick at number 10 spot perhaps they may want Nilsson and we can sign another backup over the summer. Pettersson will be fun to watch and if he can produce 30-60 points and another player gets into the lineup and does the same the points the Sedins had will be replaced.

      • Defenceman Factory

        If the Oilers are shopping their 1st round pick the Canucks should be very interested. You don’t believe they would trade a 1st round pick for a back-up goalie do you?

        • canuckfan

          It’s the Oilers you will never know what their thinking is unless you try they traded a couple of their first round selects for lesser players Nilsson just won the world championship with a good save percentage. Nilsson isn’t a bad goalie he was looking good up until he and his wife had their first baby which would change an awful lot of what happens at home such as sleep which could have had a real effect on his game. If we keep him and he picks up where he finished at the World Championship there will be a pretty good competition at training camp for the top two positions and if Demco starts in the AHL Nilsson may have value before the All Star break and then move Demko into his spot to learn the game at the NHL level. I think Nilsson signed for 2 years so need to trade him before the deadline.

  • Locust

    Anyone else notice the total lack of foot speed in Laine?
    Once he gets going he looks like he can skate but from a standing start, he looks like a plug. Almost Murzyn like….

    • canuckfan

      Still would love him on my team it may be because he is still young and is still learning how to read the play on the fly and is just used to playing in the offensive zone, plus he has never had the coverage he got in the playoffs so will need to find ways to break through that coverage.

  • El Kabong

    Hey CA, can you guys post a top ten prospect retrospective?
    Let’s look at the top prospects from the last five years and see how our talent pipeline is improving or not.

    • Bud Poile

      Yeah,let’s look at the last 10 years-the six drafts from the Gillis regime and the four drafts from Benning’s.
      Let’s see….Hutton,Gaunce and Schneider for Bo.
      That was quick.