By: Brayden Fengler / December 3, 2022
Over the past few seasons, Elias Pettersson has had moments where he’s matched his team’s poor performance and moments where he’s been the shining star amongst an otherwise bland Canucks squad. This season is trending to be more like the latter.
It’s clearer than ever that EP40 has been one of the most consistent forwards on a team that has otherwise been treading water since the start of the season (aside from Bo Horvat, who is playing lights out during a highly contentious contract year). Pettersson is proving with more clarity by the day that he is just as deserving of a payday as J.T. Miller or Captain Bo.
Can’t Take Your Eyes off Him
There are some hockey enthusiasts that value the eye test above all else. There are also many that prefer to keep their opinions based on what the relevant stats tend to say about a player.
It’s not uncommon for a good player on a spreadsheet to not be flashy with what they bring to the table, making them easier to miss when just watching the game as it’s presented. Other times, players who look good on TV are sometimes in reality making other mistakes that don’t show up clearly on a macro level and are only noticed in the underlying numbers.
However, there are players that pass both the eye, stats, and vibe tests with flying colours, and when it happens it’s a beautiful thing.
Elias Pettersson has been looking good to even the most untrained eye. Not only does he physically look stronger this year – thanks to his continued muscle development and off-season training – but his effort to bulk up is showing up in individual plays as well. Petey is getting pushed around less during puck battles, he can stay with the puck longer when forced into a stand-still position, and he doesn’t always have to use his speed alone to get him out of a tough situation.
It All Adds Up
Let’s be real though, more important than how Pettersson looks on the ice, is how his stats are trending as we get further into the season. Among fluctuating reliability from his team, Pettersson has kept his individual level of play at an extremely impressive level.
Pettersson is more than a point-per-game player and shows little signs of changing that pace. He is currently sitting at 27 points after 24 games played. Hockey insiders like to say that American Thanksgiving is often the time when GMs feel that they have a clear picture of their team’s abilities and can see where their talent level truly sits for that year. I believe that the same rule of thumb can be applied to individual players.
Yes, players can start hot and then falter, but it’s a lot harder to put out a raging fire than it is to start one. Pettersson has hit that Thanksgiving mark with vengeance and due to how iffy his team has been, it’s a safe bet that we can expect a similar level of performance from Petey for the remainder of the season. Pettersson has shown this year that he doesn’t need his team to be good in order to play an elite level of hockey every night.
Over the last 10 games, Pettersson has contributed nine points, with five of those points being goals and four being assists. This is a healthy divide showing that Petey is having no problem finishing key chances himself, and is also doing what he can to contribute to overall team performance by setting up his fellow linemates.
Those linemates have largely consisted of Ilya Mikheyev and Andrei Kuzmenko, as EP40 has skated over 150 minutes with them so far this season. That number dwarfs any other line combination that Pettersson has found himself on. Mikheyev hasn’t come out of the gate screaming so far this year with the Canucks, but Pettersson can no doubt thank Kuzmenko to some degree for helping ensure good production on their line as the Russian star has 21 points to his name during his first NHL season.
What Goes Up…
We’ve all seen it before, a player is good and then they’re not, and although I don’t predict that trend for #40 this year, Pettersson has been no exception to it in the past. Petterson has had his share of slow stretches in his young career, stretches that we at StadiumChinatown.ca have rightly, or maybe wrongly, panicked about in the past.
The good news is that historically Petey has taken a dip in production due to external and irregular factors, like how he missed training camp in order to hold off and shore up his latest contract.
When he did come back from that extended time away, he didn’t exactly start strong, remaining a non-factor on the scoreboard for a large portion to start the 2021/22 season. That wasn’t the first time Petey’s production vanished and maybe it won’t be the last, but right now Pettersson looks to only be trending up, and for a team as hard to watch right now as the Canucks that’s great to see.
Interesting Development for the Canucks
The cruel irony of Pettersson’s undeniable performance this season is that as much as it is entertaining to watch, it might not be what management at Rogers Arena wants to be watching right now if the rest of the team isn’t matching his compete level.
After this season, Pettersson is in the last year of his three-year, $7.35 Million AAV contract. A contract meant to be a bridge deal that, depending on how the team handles Horvat’s pending contract, will be a massive price to pay for the club.
Since signing the bridge deal Pettersson has not gotten any cheaper, and even though it was the previous Canucks management group that kicked the can down the road by signing this three-year deal, it needs to be dealt with nevertheless.
Canucks fans can only hope that Pettersson is playing himself into a good deal, but not one that sees him in the same position as the team’s current captain this time next year.