Faber’s Prospect Rankings #2: Elias Pettersson is the new-age defensive defenceman that every prospect pipeline needs
Photo credit:@eliaspetterso, @canucks, @orebrohockey on IG
By Faber2 months ago
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‘Elias Pettersson’ and ‘Top Prospect’ go together like caramel and sea salt. The Vancouver Canucks made us laugh when they selected Elias Pettersson (D-Petey) in the third round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft but it’s been no laughing matter with him on the ice.
Coming in at 6’3″ and weighing close to 200 pounds, D-Petey is a growing boy who is on the cusp of becoming a man. The 19-year-old, left-shot defenceman impressed the hell out of us during the 2022-23 season and is set to have a massive 2023-24 year.
D-Petey played in 43 SHL games last season. He scored one goal and added six assists in those 43 games with Örebro.
Pettersson began to see an uptick in his ice time during late November of 2022. He was still just 18-year-old and averaged 14:40 of ice time in the final five games before he went to Halifax to play for Sweden in the World Junior Championships. At the WJC, Pettersson led Sweden in shorthanded ice time and averaged 17:52 in his seven games with Sweden.
After the world juniors, Pettersson saw plenty of ice time over his next 20 games in the SHL — including a career-SHL-high of 19:57 on February 18th. He even had a five game stretch where he put up five assists in the SHL. Pettersson was feeling it during the month of February and it wasn’t just the points that were telling us that.
Though there is some offence under the hood, the bulk of what Pettersson does so well is in the defensive zone. This is a defence-first defenceman who can skate at a high level. D-Petey is often the first defenceman to defend the crease or a teammate after a whistle. This is impressive for a kid who was 18 and playing in his first full SHL season.
Now, with 60+ SHL games under his belt, Pettersson heads into the 2023-24 season as potentially the best U20 defenceman in the SHL.
We’re getting real Elias Pettersson vibes here.
D-Petey may not have the godly point totals like OG-Petey in his final SHL season but D-Petey is certainly going to impact games in his own way. His rare combination of size, strength and high-end skating skills make him a top-tier defence prospect.
On top of his physical skills, we really like how this kid thinks the game. Pettersson does a great job of evaluating danger while he chases down dump-ins and seems to be able to use those reads to decide if he has a passing lane or needs to skate the puck up himself. We tried to clip a poor defensive play of his and couldn’t find any glaring mental mistakes in the 12-game sample that we re-watched.
Another impressive thing about this kid was how much bigger he looked at this most recent Canucks development camp. Pettersson looked like he added 10-20 pounds of muscle after a full season in the SHL and he is now primed to begin next season in a top-four role with a young team at Örebro.
Ceiling: Top-four defenceman. We can see Pettersson becoming a top-four defenceman, specifically a three-four type of defenceman. We’re not sure if there’s enough offensive upside to say that we believe he can drive a top-four pairing but he seems to have a lot of high-end traits that would work well with a Filip Hronek or potentially Tom Willander one day. Pettersson is going to calm down whatever pairing he is on and will be a big addition to the penalty kill — that’s where he’s going to eat up a lot of special teams’ minutes.
Floor: 7th defenceman. There are enough good things in D-Petey’s game for us to say that he has a floor of being a contributor to an NHL team. If he can work his way into being a consistent top-four defenceman in the SHL next season, it will be good enough for us to feel rock solid in this kid’s NHL future. You just don’t see 18-year-old defencemen be trusted as much as D-Petey was last season in the SHL unless they are a bonafide top-three pick like Rasmus Dahlin.
Production (and how): Something we will talk about later in the article is D-Petey’s offensive production in his 14 J20 games last season but as for the SHL, D-Petey had one goal and six assists in 43 games. He was not getting power play time in the SHL.
Prediction (for the 2023-24 year): We can see Pettersson becoming a top-four defenceman for Örebro and averaging 16-20 minutes a night. If this is the case, we will predict five goals and 12 assists in something like 48 games.
ETA: It’s going to be at least one more season in the SHL for D-Petey but we can easily see him playing another year in the SHL after this coming season. As much as we’d love to see the Canucks get D-Petey over to Abbotsford, it’s not a bad scenario to have him be a top-pairing defenceman in the SHL for the 2024-25 season. If that’s the case, he’s NHL-bound for 2025-26. Getting a youthful injection of defencemen for the 2025-26 season with D-Petey and Willander feels pretty good for the organization.
We did want to talk about D-Petey’s play in the J20 league as well as some international competition.
Before that, we just need to tell you how much of a rink rat this kid is.
At the end of March, Pettersson played five gams in five nights. He was bouncing up and down between the J20 and SHL teams and played in four different rinks all around Sweden during that week. The kid just can’t stop playing hockey and we love the commitment that we saw from him last year. In total, Pettersson played in 72 games with Örebro’s SHL and J20 teams while also getting into 21 international games.
This kid played in 93 games last year and we probably missed some games to be honest.
When playing in the junior circuit, D-Petey is an absolute horse. He averaged 21:35 in those games and was over a point-per-game with five goals and 10 assists in 14 games.
Here are his five J20 goals — kicking things off with a beautiful overtime winner.
We also saw Pettersson find the back of the net three times in his international play with Sweden’s U20 team.
Pettersson has clearly risen above his third-round pick range and is continuing to impress us every time we see him play.
The next 12 months are going to be huge for him with full-time SHL play and the fact that Sweden is hosting the World Junior Championships in the winter. We will see Pettersson in action with Sweden’s U20 team at the World Junior Summer Showcase next week and expect to see him be one of the big minute-munchers on the team.
If he continues to develop at the rate that he has since being drafted, there’s no reason to believe that the Canucks don’t have a top-four defenceman here with D-Petey.
What we would love to see in the coming months is a continued commitment to being strong defensively while continuing to play physically. If D-Petey can do that over his second full SHL season, we will continue to hype the kid up because he deserves it.
The Canucks have a new-age defensive-defenceman in their pipeline and his strong play in the 2022-23 year is the reason why he comes in at number two on our rankings.
Now, let’s close things out with our number one prospect tomorrow.
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