Finding the best fit for Elias Pettersson (D) on the Abbotsford Canucks’ blue line

Photo credit:Abbotsford Canucks Twitter Account
Dave Hall
27 days ago
Elias Pettersson has been assigned to the Abbotsford Canucks.
No, this isn’t an April Fools’ Day joke. And no, the Canucks haven’t demoted their freshly-signed $92.8-million-dollar star centre.
Elias Pettersson’s season in the Allsvenskan finished last week, meaning the 2022 3rd-round pick of Vancouver could officially cross the pond to join the Abbotsford Canucks for their final 14 games of the 2023-24 regular season.
Pettersson’s Swedish rights were held by Jonathan Lekkerimäk’s SHL club Örebro, but Pettersson spent the bulk of his season with Västerås IK of the Allsvenskan.
Pettersson played 43 games with Örebro last season as an 18-year-old. Pettersson was loaded to Västerås—his hometown club team—after struggling to find ice time through four games of this season in Örebro. It was a good fit, as Pettersson carved out a proper role, averaging over 17 minutes per game.
For what it’s worth, Pettersson could have returned to the SHL to join Lekkerimäki in his playoff push once his Allsvenskan season had ended. However, the Canucks’ organization felt that bringing him over and acclimating his game to the North American style as quickly as possible was the best course of action.

His season at a glance

While his season wasn’t spent at the SHL level as ideally hoped, the now 20-year-old still had a commendable 2023-24 campaign.
Most of his year was spent on the third pairing unit, where he averaged 17:46 of ice time. Despite patrolling the third line with no power play minutes, he managed to tally three goals and 14 points, ranking third among U21 defenders.
Pettersson made his presence known despite playing just 34 games, the fewest among full-time defenders on his team. He finished fourth on the team with 26 hits and 10 blocked shots while driving strong territorial results at 5-on-5.
He tossed in an impressive showcase at this year’s World Junior Championships, providing shutdown minutes and contributing two assists during Sweden’s run for a silver medal finish.

What to expect

With 14 games remaining in the Abbotsford Canucks’ schedule, there will be plenty of time for him to integrate into his new environment, familiarize himself with the systems during practice sessions, and eventually slide into the lineup.
While his exact spot in the lineup remains uncertain, we anticipate Pettersson playing a significant role on this backend—perhaps not immediately, but certainly by next season.
Pettersson’s style of play, highlighted by its aggressive edge and never-quit attitude, will add a sorely-needed dynamic element to Abbotsford’s blue line—especially their already elite penalty-killing unit.
He plays the game like a dog with a bone and can only be described as a bully on the ice who makes each shift tough for his opponents.
Offensively, he makes a good first pass and uses his aggressive nature to out-muscle opponents and advance the puck up the ice. He’s also unafraid to join the rush when opportunities arise and can contribute points from time to time.
Don’t get it twisted; the speed of the AHL and the smaller rink size will significantly challenge Pettersson in controlling his gap and adjusting his overall defensive game. However, thanks to his eager and rugged playing style, he should fit in nicely quickly.

Where does he fit?

With the deadline passing by without any further assets being shipped out, the organization has a clear idea of their depth chart for the remainder of the season.
Pettersson is going to have to fight for minutes, and it may take some time for him to ease into the role, but we fully expect Pettersson to slide in sooner rather than later.
With Christian Wolanin still sidelined due to injury, the left side of the lineup currently features Nick Cicek, Matt Irwin, Akito Hirose and now Guillaume Brisebois, who returned to the lineup after missing the entire season with injury. The extent of Wolanin’s injury is still unclear, but we assume he’ll be back at some point to resume his place as the leader in 5-on-5 and power play minutes for defencemen.
Until then, the top spot at even-strength on the left side belongs to Cicek, who has done a commendable job in Wolanin’s absence.
Irwin is a solid veteran who has scored big goals when the team has needed them most. His experience is invaluable and will be essential when they make the playoffs.
Then there’s Hirose, who missed most of the season with a lower-body injury. Since returning, Hirose hasn’t shown much, contributing zero points while looking lost in the defensive end. While it’s understandable that Hirose is a step behind after missing so many games. However, even before his injury stint, Hirose’s play left much to be desired for someone his age.
If there were any skater to sit and be replaced by Pettersson, it would likely be Hirose. What Hirose lacks in size and aggressiveness, EP26 makes up for in spades. Come playoffs, that raw physicality will be sorely needed.
Brisebois, who looked solid in his first game back, certainly throws a wrench into the rotation. However, come NHL playoff time, he and Irwin will likely be recalled as depth options for Vancouver.
In the past, Brisebois has played on his off-side to accommodate the Farm’s bloated left-side depth. He could theoretically move to the right side and bump out one of Jett Woo, Cole McWard, or Filip Johansson. Or Colliton could roll with an 11-forward, 7-defender roster, which he’s done several times this season.
Heading into the final stretch, seeing who wins the 3LD spot between Hirose, Brisebois, and Pettersson will be interesting.
Looking a little more long-term, both Cicek and Irwin are on expiring deals, opening up a space for Pettersson to earn a spot in the regular rotation next season.
Organizational depth is the name of the game, and with a range of options available, the Farms’ backend has never looked deeper.
No matter where he plays, Pettersson’s abrasive game should provide a welcomed addition to an Abbotsford team amid a dogfight for playoff position.
The Farm holds a two-point lead over the Calgary Wranglers for the second-last spot in the Pacific Division Calder Playoff bracket. They have a 12-point cushion on the 8th-placed Henderson Silver Knights, who are falling way out of playoff contention with a 2-8-0-0 record over their last ten games.

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