Video Room: Elias Pettersson is the Real Deal
Criticism of the Vancouver Canucks is widespread, and most of it is well-earned. But they sure did get it right with their 2017 first round draft pick.
Elias Pettersson is an absurdly smart hockey player. He’s creative, and he knows how to read the ice and find options someone else might not even consider. But he’s also a really hard worker. He doesn’t contribute by chance. He’s tenacious as can be, and his smarts show up just as often when he doesn’t have the puck. In one game featured in this piece, a play that didn’t make the final gif cut happened on his first shift: he fell back and played like a defenseman even as the broadcast talked about him securing the rookie points record for the Canucks, and while there wasn’t an immediately visible reason, he clearly saw the need for coverage and just did it himself.
Canucks fans: you probably already know this, but this kid is for real.
Here, on March 20th against the Ottawa Senators, Pettersson showcases his skating. In particular, you can see his agility and ability to move in tight spaces; how he can move with the puck to protect it, changing angles on a dime to accomplish this. And Pettersson does most of it while skating backwards. He’s clearly been reading his options during all of this, because from there he quickly makes a decision and passes the puck out of danger. It’s a little moment, but the little moments add up.
In this play from the Canucks’ November 2nd game against the Colorado Avalanche, Pettersson showcases another seemingly small moment that tells us a lot about his abilities. Here he receives a pass off the boards and flicks it directly to Boeser. Let’s break down what all is involved in that. First, he gets himself into position to collect the puck effectively as it bounces off the boards. Then he passes it directly to a teammate without a second thought.
For this to work, Pettersson has to know exactly where Boeser is going to be—not where he is, but where he’s going to be—so that he can get that pass off not just quickly but accurately. It’s kind of like muscle memory, and it’s one of those very small things that when done correctly (and used as a repeatable skill) is important. Boeser scores off the pass, too. Those two make a decent team.
On December 9th against St. Louis, Pettersson scored his 15th goal of the season. This goal shows off some of the key aspects of his game, including his incredible hands, his lateral movement and ability to use his agility in traffic, and the way that he can slow the game down for himself to get his shot off. Of particular note, and something that is evident elsewhere in his game as well, is the fact that Pettersson shows no hesitation whatsoever.
Here, in the same game, Pettersson is all over the ice from the beginning of his shift that, in the end, leads to a Nikolay Goldobin goal. It’s a great example of his relentless nature and how that tenacity leads to him creating opportunities for both himself and his teammates. From the beginning of the play, when he collects the pass and carries it out to the end when he’s buzzing around waiting to pounce on the puck he passes to Goldobin, you can tell that Pettersson sees everything.
In this last play from the St. Louis game, Pettersson passes to Boeser for Boeser’s hat trick-completing third goal of the game. It’s another example of those hockey smarts Pettersson is so blessed with. Watch Pettersson throughout this quick sequence—he knows exactly where he needs to be to get to the puck, and he makes sure that he gets there. He then shields the puck with his body, because he knows he’s got two St. Louis players right on him, until he can flick it back to Boeser, who gets into a clear lane and shoots. It’s a great answer to a St. Louis goal that happens shortly before it, and it’s also Pettersson’s fifth point of the game.