“We don’t have a superstar.”
New General Manager Patrik Allvin will soon learn the type of chaos he can make with comments like that in a Canadian market. His comment was picked up by all the local news outlets, radio shows and podcasts, and spread far and wide as debate ensued as to whether or not there was a superstar on the Canucks roster. Swedish centreman Elias Pettersson may fit that description best, but his rollercoaster season this year has left that in doubt.
Pettersson had a tough start to this season, along with the rest of the team, and his struggles led to a lot of criticism. With all the noise ramping up around Pettersson, he managed to turn things around and has been one of the best forwards on the team in 2022. His strong play has led to more trust from the coaching staff and he’s being relied upon in more situations than ever before.
“I want him to feel important because he’s vital to this team,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau about Pettersson earlier in the year.
While it’s jumping the gun to call Pettersson a superstar right now, he’s well on his way to becoming one. The former-Calder Trophy winner is still extremely young yet has already shown the ability to be a productive NHL player. If he continues on this path, it won’t be long before his name is mentioned alongside the Matthews and McDavids of the league.
Why Pettersson is well on his way to becoming a superstar
From his very first game as a Vancouver Canuck, Pettersson has been able to get fans out of their seats. No matter if it’s with a perfectly placed wrist shot, a no-look pass through traffic, or one of his signature dekes, Pettersson is an exciting player to watch. He has an exceptionally high hockey IQ as he sees the game a step ahead of everyone else. While far from the most physically imposing player, Pettersson can takeover games and he does in a beautiful way.
Pettersson’s impact translates to the box score and he is an analytics darling. While he went through his fair share of struggles this season, likely at least partially due to a nagging wrist injury, he still is tied for second on the team with 12 5-on-5 goals. That’s far from the only category where he’s near the team lead and this is including the most difficult stretch of his career, one that he is now firmly out of as he’s been on a 100+ point pace for the last few months.
Don't forget that Elias Pettersson was a TOP10, maybe even TOP5, center in the 2019-2020 season already. The Canucks also have legit number one defenseman in Quinn Hughes and very good goaltender in Thatcher Demko. Vancouver has a potential to make some deep runs in next years. pic.twitter.com/bGA6pnC0TY
— Andy & Rono (@ARHockeyStats) April 8, 2022
While some may worry that Pettersson’s playstyle will struggle to translate to the more physical playoff-style hockey, his 2019-20 performance should quell their doubts. He scored 18 points in 17 games and was the team’s best forward, at times looking like the only one that could create offence against a stifling Vegas Golden Knights defence. He did all that while just 21-years-old, showing that no moment is too large.
What are the next steps for Pettersson?
To take that next step and become a full-fledged superstar, Pettersson needs to improve in a few key areas. If he wants his name to be mentioned next to the elite in this league, he will need to show a little bit more. To start, he needs to be more consistent. While an injured wrist might partially excuse his poor play to start the season, he can’t go through prolonged dry spells anymore. He needs to find a way to bring his best on every night, no matter if it’s a playoff game or a Tuesday night matchup against the Arizona Coyotes.
One way that he can become more consistent is to find ways to impact the game even on off nights. True superstars are always noticeable even if they fail to get on the scoresheet that night. On nights when Pettersson is shut down offensively, he sometimes struggles to make a difference in other areas. Head coach Bruce Boudreau is trusting him with some penalty kill minutes and that should help him round out his game.
The Canucks are in a very important transitory period for their franchise and big decisions are going to be made. Can the team count on Pettersson to be the best player on a Stanley Cup contender? There’s no reason to think not as Pettersson has been on the fast track to NHL superstardom since he entered the league. While there have been hiccups in the road, those are normal developments for any young player.
Pettersson is one of the best young talents to ever put on a Canucks jersey and a tough stretch at the start of this year doesn’t change that. He’s seventh all-time in points-per-game for the franchise and has the chance to be in Hart Trophy contention for years to come. When all is said and done, Pettersson’s jersey could be hanging next to the Sedin twins, his countrymen, in the rafters.
Would you call Elias Pettersson a star? If not, do you think he’s on his way to becoming one? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.