‘I’m going to stick up every time for my teammates’: Chatting with Pettersson and Lekkerimäki after Abbotsford debuts

Photo credit:@orebrohockey on Twitter
Tyson Cole
24 days ago
Two of the top three Vancouver Canucks prospects made their long-awaited home debut in Abbotsford Tuesday night against the Manitoba Moose
Jonathan Lekkerimäki debuted on March 29th against the Colorado Eagles. Elias Pettersson joined his fellow countrymen the next night against the same Colorado Eagles opponent. Both players were held off the scoresheet – however, both made lasting impressions in their debuts. 
Lekkerimäki was initially awarded an assist on Max Sasson’s 17th goal of the season. The assist was later nullified after a review that deemed the Eagles defenceman had possession despite fumbling the puck.
Pettersson made his presence felt physically, taking an interference penalty after landing a big open ice hit in the neutral zone. After Lekkerimäki was hit and dumped into the Eagles’ bench, Pettersson was the first Abbotsford Canuck player to come to the defence of his teammate. 
“I’m going to stick up every time for my teammates,” Pettersson said when asked about the hit on Lekkerimäki. “If that happens again, I’m going to be there again.” 
The physical aspect of Pettersson’s game is certainly something he intends to bring over to North America. 
“I’m trying to bring more physical plays here on the smaller ice. I think it’s much faster in the corners, and you need to be physical and not give too much time to your opponents.”
When asked if playing in the AHL has been a physical change compared to the Allsvenskan, Pettersson replied, “Yeah, I think so; it goes much faster here. You can’t hold onto the puck as much as the Allsvenskan. It’s more physical here, too.”
I asked both Pettersson and Lekkerimäki how the transition from the SHL to North American ice has been. Here are their responses.
EP: “I think it’s been good. I like the smaller ice. I’ve played on it before, so far, so good.”
JL: “In the beginning it was different, but now it feels better.”
Lekkerimäki’s statement that it feels better now bodes well when looking at his stats from Tuesday night’s game. He finished the game with a whopping five shots on goal, one shy of Linus Karlsson’s team-high six shots. His play proves that he’s gotten more comfortable at the AHL level in just his third game.
“First game was not my best, but now it feels better,” Lekkerimäki replied when asked if he was more comfortable. Lekkerimäki would later explain that the difference in confidence resulted in his increased shot volume and just playing his game.
I asked both Swedes what the biggest adjustment they had to make since transitioning to the AHL was. Here are their responses:
EP: “You can’t hold onto the puck as much as home (Allsvenskan). I’m trying to be faster, scan before I get the puck, and make quick plays.” 
JL: “The board play. There’s a lot of battles along the boards, and getting pucks in and pucks out is different.”
Lekkerimäki went on to add that the AHL has more speed and physicality than the SHL and that he’s fitting in better now than he was in his first game.
“He found himself in some good areas to score,” Abbotsford Canucks head coach Jeremy Colliton said about Lekkermäki’s home debut. “Hopefully, he can gain some confidence from that. I think a big part of his identity is he scores in those situations. If he can get a little more volume, like he did tonight, it’s only a matter of time until he breaks through.”
“He’s learning the league, learning what it takes,” Colliton explains his thoughts on Pettersson’s game thus far. “I thought when he was moving it (the puck) North, even the indirect play he made caught three forecheckers and ends up being a too many men call, little stuff like that. He’s learning, and that’s good. You know what, we don’t need more than that. That’s an important part of becoming a pro and being more reliable.”
Hearing the coach praise both of these young players just a handful of games into their AHL careers should have Canucks fans excited for their futures in the blue and green. 

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