By: Brayden Fengler / April 7, 2023
Elias Pettersson has come close, but never before has he reached the 40-goal milestone in one season. Last year Pettersson struggled out of the gate but turned on the jets near the back half of the season to finish off the campaign with 32 goals in 80 games played.
This year Elias Pettersson has only played 76 games and the Swedish star is already at 37 goals on the year. Pettersson has hardly struggled this season. In fact, he has consistently been among the team’s top performers all year round.
With just four games left to play, can Petey reach this milestone, and how many more games is it gonna take him?
Elias Pettersson’s production this season has been one of the few positive and consistent things about this version of the Vancouver Canucks. There have been plenty of consistently poor components of the 2022-23 Canucks, their collectively bad defence, their disappointing goaltending, and their goaltending injuries through the bulk of this year’s campaign.
However, Elias Pettersson has not been held down by any of this, in fact, the star seems to be thriving in an environment that hardly seems to warrant such continually impressive performance.
This season Pettersson has earned himself 1.29 points per game. the highest points per game record out of any current Vancouver Canucks player during this season.
In fact, excluding Bo Horvat, who technically sits second in this category with 1.10 points per game out of his 49 games as a Canuck this season, next to Petey is J.T. Miller. J.T. just cracks the point-per-game player mark at an even 1.00, clearly defining EP40 as the most consistent and reliable producer for Vancouver throughout the balance of the year.
The Internal Race for 40 Goals
With one less game under his belt, Elias Pettersson currently sits one goal behind Andrei Kuzmenko in the race for top goal scorer on the Vancouver Canucks. Kuzmenko’s 38 goals sure put him closer than Pettersson to that 40-goal mark, but Kuzmenko, as steady as he has been, isn’t even a point-per-game player for the Canucks over the course of the season.
Goals-wise, Elias Petterson has scored five goals during his last ten games, which even in that small sample size points to his consistency. Pettersson’s season-long production sits at 0.49 goals per game, with EP40 consistently netting one goal per six periods of play over the entirety of the season.
Kuzmenko has virtually the same goals-per-game rate as Pettersson, but most recently Kuzmenko has scored under this rate during his last 10 games, as he sits with four goals through those contests.
Before scoring in their most recent game against Chicago, Kuzmenko saw a three-game drought after scoring in their contest against St. Louis. Going even further back Kuzmenko, only scored one goal in the Canucks’ five games before the game in St. Louis.
This marginally inconsistent production from Kuzmenko was most likely a result of his deployment by coach Rich Tocchet. During two of those games before Kuzmenko’s goals in St. Louis, Kuzmenko was only deployed for 13:12 minutes one night and then 11:34 minutes on the next.
Kuzmenko’s deployment has picked up a bit since dropping as low as 11 minutes a night, but it has never been and continues not to be as high as the 22-24 minutes a night that Pettersson is regularly given.
Even with somewhat varying deployment, there was a stretch from mid-February to mid-March where Kuzmenko never went more than one game without scoring a goal for his club. So these extended stretches of games without goals are a somewhat new development for Kuzmenko. Even though Kuzmenko is one goal closer to the 40-goal mark, I think there is a good chance that Pettersson gets there first.
What are the Odds
Back to Pettersson, who has four games left over the balance of the season. The Canucks face Calgary, L.A., Anaheim, and Arizona.
The last time the Canucks faced these four teams, with the exception of the Kings, Pettersson earned himself a goal in each of the contests.
L.A. and Calgary are the toughest opponents out of the remaining four for Vancouver, but even still, “tough” is a generous statement for this competition. Yes, the Canucks are no superstars themselves, but none of their remaining opponents, are anything that this team can’t handle on a good night.
To reach that 40-goal mark Pettersson would need to break the ceiling of his current goals-per-game projections by a margin of 25%. He needs to find 25% more production, in these last few games.
The Canucks have had the most trouble with the Kings out of all four remaining opponents this season, and as that was the team that held him pointless during their last competition it’s the safest bet that perhaps the L.A. game is the one where Petey lays an egg. But if he can just repeat what he did in the last match-ups against the Flames, Ducks, and Coyotes, then that 40-goal notch is his.
Even assuming that one of the Canucks’ remaining four games will be a stinker for Pettersson, Elias has earned himself an average of three goals in three games a total of seven different times this season. Most recently over the stretch of the club’s three games against Chicago, St. Louis, and Calgary.
It is far from impossible for Elias Pettersson to earn 40 goals this year. The strength of competition remaining is in Pettersson’s favour, and as stated three goals in four games or even three goals in three games is far from a foreign concept for #40 this season.
If Kuzmenko reaches the 40-goal mark that would be great as well and speaks to the value that the Canucks look to extract from him over the next two years of his contract. But Pettersson has been a Canuck since the 2018-19 season.
Even if this production makes his price tag more expensive during his next contract talks which will begin shortly, he deserves and is capable of reaching the peak of 40 goals in a single season.