Photo Credit: Minas Panagiotakis, Getty Images
Canucks at Five will be a series consisting of draft profiles for potential selections at 5th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
By Scott Rosenhek
The last player I will cover in this series will be Elias Pettersson. He spent the past year playing for Timra IK in the second tier Allsvenskan league in Sweden. For Canucks fans, this was the same team that Jonathan Dahlen played for. In fact, these two were linemates for much of the season.
Pettersson has an NHL frame, but as you can see from his profile, he is very slight. This is largely why we see such a wide distribution of rankings across the board. Please note that the number 2 ranking by NHL Central Scouting ignores North American Skaters out of the CHL, USHL, etc. Craig Button projects Pettersson being drafted 9th overall.
First and foremost, Elias Pettersson has an elite skillset in this draft. He is a good two-way forward who can skate like the wind and can be agile along the boards. His hockey sense and on-ice vision is among the best in this year’s draft class and can be an excellent playmaker. Pettersson produced 41 points in 43 games during the regular season and had 6 points in 3 playoff games.
There is one very important factor to address when discussing Pettersson’s skills. The ice surface in Sweden is much larger than in North America, which allows Pettersson to use his agility to his advantage. There is so much more room to maneuver, meaning he can avoid contact. When he is brought over to the NHL, this advantage will disappear for Pettersson in his current state.
This became very apparent during the U20 World Junior Championships this year. Pettersson was consistently knocked off the puck on the smaller ice surface and was easy to shut down. He only produced one point in 6 games and it also showed that his lack of strength limits Pettersson’s stamina. The prospects knocking Pettersson off of the puck were only 180 lbs, so adding strength will be important to take on the much heavier NHL.
Elias Pettersson is frequently compared to Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk for his high-end skill and responsible defensive play. However, it is clear that he needs to fill out his frame. A team that selects him in the draft this year needs to be very patient with his development. Pettersson signed a contract with Vaxjo Lakers HC in the SHL that runs until 2019-20. This kind of pick is a project that can pay off if supported properly.
It would make a nice story line to draft Jonathan Dahlen’s teammate this year. However, I just don’t think this fanbase or this management group will be patient enough to wait up to three years before they see Pettersson in North America. He is a fantastic talent to have down the road, but I see Pettersson has a high risk, high reward type of player.
If the Canucks were to select him at 5th overall, many would identify it as a reach. And honestly, I think I would have to agree. Players like Cody Glass or Casey Mittelstadt seem like nicer pivots to compliment Bo Horvat in the future. I have also heard rumblings that Pettersson may project better as a winger in the future.
At the end of the day, if the Canucks do select Pettersson, I believe we would be getting a very good player. This type of player may ultimately pay off, but it would take several years to find out. I will say it again, but patience will be paramount for everyone. Rebuilds are not done overnight and making a pick like this would indicate a commitment for the long run.
Here are some awesome highlights for Elias Pettersson from SEER Video.