Elias Pettersson had the greatest season by a rookie in the history of the Canucks.
The 20-year-old Swedish phenom finished his first NHL season with a Canucks-record 66 points (28 goals, 38 assists) in 71 games to lead the team to its best season in four years.
Pettersson was nominated for the Calder Trophy alongside goaltender Jordan Binnington (STL) and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin (BUF) and is the favourite to win the award.
What made Pettersson’s rookie campaign so special was the jaw-dropping plays we saw on a nightly basis. Pettersson brought excitement back to the city of Vancouver and gave fans a reason to be excited for the future.
While Pettersson made a highlight-worthy play on almost a per-game basis, here are the 10 plays that stood out the most.
(Honourable Mention) Pettersson draws a penalty in OT with sweet move
It was almost a first career overtime goal for the ages.
Elias Pettersson drew a penalty in overtime against the Sabres with an obscene dangle that left fans speechless. If Jeff Skinner hadn’t stuck out his foot to trip Pettersson, the young phenom almost certainly would’ve scored one of the prettiest overtime goals in NHL history.
This play deserves recognition because it speaks volumes to what Pettersson did this season. There were countless dekes and dangles, that while impressive, didn’t end up resulting in a goal. Pettersson can make something out of nothing and not everything special he does shows up on the scoresheet.
10. Pettersson breaks away and snipes Dubnyk
The speed, the skill and the shot. It was all on display from Pettersson on this sequence against the Wild.
Pettersson showed no fear to get in front of a slapshot from the point before exemplifying great awareness to immediately cut to the middle and take a breakaway pass from Brock Boeser. Pettersson used his speed to accelerate and break in on Devan Dubnyk before beating the Minnesota goaltender with a perfectly placed shot under the crossbar.
Pettersson’s high hockey IQ, in addition to his speed and sniping ability is on display here. This play helped him secure NHL “Rookie of the Month” for October and illustrated just how quickly Pettersson can go from one end of the ice to the other.
9. Pettersson blasts home 10th goal in 10th game
You knew it was going to a special year for Pettersson when he opened the season with 10 goals in 10 games.
Pettersson unloaded a cannon against the Red Wings in November to become the youngest player in NHL history to score 10 goals in his first 10 career games.
We all knew Pettersson had the dangles and the creativity. He also proved this season he has the shot. Whether it was unleashing a bomb against Carey Price or letting go a cannon against Jimmy Howard, Pettersson proved that even though he’s listed at 6’2″ at 176 lbs, his shot still matches up with the NHL’s elite.
8. Pettersson skates a lap before assisting Boeser
This is the type of goal that illustrates Pettersson’s individual brilliance. The game seems to revolve around him while he’s on the ice — and this is a perfect example.
Pettersson carries the puck into the Flames zone and skates all the way around the net before coming out the other side and spotting a wide open Boeser.
The poise and patience from Pettersson at his age is next level. He never feels forced to make a play and takes his time to make the right one.
7. Pettersson makes brilliant pass to Horvat
Elias Pettersson making it happen in a 1-on-3 situation. The rookie forward showed off his great vision and patience in a game against the San Jose Sharks.
Carrying the puck into the zone against three Sharks, Pettersson slowed down and used exceptional vision to spot Horvat at the right circle before firing a cross-ice pass to him through a sea of defenders.
Pettersson uses tremendous patience to slow the whole play down before making a perfect crisp pass that lands right on the tape of Horvat.
6. Pettersson records first hat trick
Pettersson’s first career hat trick against the Ottawa Senators embodies his complete skill-set.
Pettersson’s talent and creativity was on full display with the three goals he scored against Sens’ goaltender Marcus Hogberg, including the all-important overtime winner.
Petterson made a fantastic drop pass to get the play started on his opening goal, unleashed an absolute cannon to score his second goal and executed a give-and-go with Brock Boeser perfectly to complete the hat trick.
5. Pettersson undresses Rinne on first career penalty shot
It takes serious skill to undress one of the best NHL goalies in the game. Pettersson did just that in a December game against the Predators and former Vezina Trophy winner Pekka Rinne.
After a great drive to the net to draw the call, Pettersson made his first career penalty shot a memorable one with some sweet moves.
Pettersson got Rinne to bite hard on a backhand fake before beating him to the forehand with a slick dangle. It was exactly the type of goal that illustrates just how lethal Pettersson is in a 1-on-1 situation with the goalie.
4. Pettersson snipes first NHL goal
It’s pretty special to score your first NHL goal on your first NHL shot. Pettersson took that a step further and scored his first three goals on his first three shots.
Pettersson’s first NHL goal in the season opener against the Flames is something to marvel at. The rookie came flying down the wing on a 2-on-1 with blueliner Derrick Pouliot and exchanged several glances towards Pouliot before wiring a shot upstairs on goaltender Mike Smith.
Pettersson did a great job selling the pass before showcasing his lethal sniping ability on Smith. The Calgary netminder looked clueless following the goal, as the Pettersson snipe went in-and-out of the net very quickly.
You could make a case for Pettersson’s first NHL goal being his best play of the rookie season. The goal injected life into the city of Vancouver and paved the way for what was to come. Best of all, it told all the fans eagerly awaiting his NHL debut that yes, this kid really is the real deal.
3. Pettersson sets up Boeser while falling
Even while he’s being brought down to the ice, Pettersson still finds a way to deliver. The crafty centreman teamed up with winger Boeser for one of his best plays of the year against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Pettersson showed great hand-eye to intercept a breakout pass from Vegas blueliner Brayden McNabb before going after the puck in the slot. Pettersson stripped Nate Schmidt of the puck before immediately being tripped by the Golden Knights’ defenseman.
With a penalty call on the way, Pettersson showcased ridiculous skill to swing an incredible no-look pass to Boeser in the slot as he was falling down.
It was a world class play by Pettersson, who somehow knew exactly where Boeser was going to be.
The ridiculous set up from Pettersson led to one of the best Canucks’ GIFs of the season.
Boeser’s reaction to the pass: “You’re f**ked. That was f**ked. Holy f**k.”
2. Pettersson sets up Boeser with insane bank pass
Pettersson’s chemistry with Brock Boeser this season was lethal. The two forwards combined for some incredible plays together, including a sequence in November that brought back Sedin twin flashbacks.
With the Canucks facing the Avalanche, Pettersson collected the puck at the Vancouver blueline before spotting Boeser skating into the Colorado zone. Pettersson set up Boeser perfectly with a bank pass off the end boards and the American forward sniped a shot past goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
It was one of five points on the night for Pettersson, who became the youngest player in franchise history to record five points in a game. The goal was very reminiscent of a play the Sedin twins executed against the Red Wings in 2012-13.
1. Pettersson scores jaw-dropping shootout goal
Elias Pettersson dazzled so many times this past season, but this shootout move in March was simply ridiculous.
After already beating New Jersey netminder Mackenzie Blackwood in regulation, Pettersson used an incredible move in the shootout that resembled the famous deke of fellow countryman Peter Forsberg from the 1994 Olympics. Pettersson moved in on Blackwood and got the netminder sliding one way before using a nasty one-hand maneuver to tuck the puck into the net on the opposing side.
What makes this goal so special is that it embodies the creativity and pure skill Pettersson possesses. There aren’t many NHL players that would even think to make a move like this — let alone be able to pull it off.