Pettersson Is Playing Elite, Despite His Linemates

By: Trent Leith / February 27, 2024  

In Brian Burke’s book: Burke’s Law, he mentions several times that there is nothing Canadians hate more than overpaid hockey players. In Vancouver, we have no shortage of history with overpaid players. But I think Burke had it wrong, I think there is nothing Canadians hate more than players about to sign a huge contract.

Let’s think about what the Leafs have gone through in the last few years. Nylander took tons of heat before each of the last two contracts he has signed. Marner took a PR beating when he was negotiating for a new contract and now, Pettersson is taking unwarranted criticism from Vancouverites.

Pettersson has been taking a beating on social media recently due to citing poor play this season, especially against top teams in the NHL. There has been a lot of talk about attitude problems and being entitled.

Things are heating up to the point that even Elliotte Friedman was reporting on Saturday Night Headlines on Hockey Night In Canada that other teams are seeing the temperature rising surrounding Pettersson and are calling to try and trade for him.

“One of the things that I think has developed over the last couple of weeks in Vancouver is the amount of noise around Pettersson and what that has led to his teams calling the Canucks and asking ‘what exactly is going on here and could he be available'”

Now, any GM worth his salt is casting a line in the water to see if Rutherford will bite, regardless of how unlikely. But just the fact we are getting to this point is problematic. A lot of that has to do with all the social media noise, and resulting media attention (I recognize the irony of this statement in this article).

Pettersson has been very clear since the beginning of the season that he does not want to talk about a potential contract during the season. He wants to focus on winning. Pettersson is a pending RFA, so the club still has control of the situation should his contract expire.

However, we have recently seen RFAs leveraging what little power they have to force their way out of town. Just look at Matthew Tkachuk. He forced his way out of Calgary, and since then, the Flames have fallen off a cliff, and the Panthers have made it to the Stanley Cup Final with Tkachuk.

I think that was an outlier and not the rule, however. I think Pettersson just doesn’t see the need to rush. Once the season is over, he can sign and everything will be fine.

Fans’ criticism for not signing to give the franchise a path forward is reasonable. I would disagree, but it is reasonable. However, criticizing his play is not.

The Numbers

Elias Pettersson is top-10 in points this season as of Saturday night 73. That doesn’t sound like a player that isn’t producing points. He is also top 15 in power-play goals (10), power-play points (26), goals (29), assists (44) and points per game (1.24).

That is not a player that is not producing. He is doing great points-wise and is on pace for 102 points this season, that would be his second 100-point season in a row. Pettersson is also on pace for his second 40-goal campaign in a row.

His Linemates

This production is all being done while playing with sub-par linemates. Pettersson’s two most consistent linemates this season have been Ilya Mikheyev (404:19) and Andrei Kuzmenko (242:39). In that time, Kuzmenko scored eight goals, and Mikheyev has scored 10. Despite that, Pettersson has 44 assists. His two most common linemates have only combined for 18 goals, and he has 44 assists.

Let’s assume Pettersson got an assist on every single one of Mikheyev and Kuzmenko’s goals. He has assisted on another 26 goals this season. 16 of those have been on the powerplay, with 10 having been assists outside the powerplay, and his two most common linemates.

Pettersson has played the majority of this season at even strength with two players who are offensive duds. It is incredibly difficult to produce offence with no offensive support on the ice with you. And despite that, Pettersson is 14th in the league in even-strength goals and 8th in points.

In minutes with Boeser (190:30) and Miller (168:42) at even strength, his linemates have scored 13 goals. That is one goal for his linemates per 27.6 minutes on average with Miller and Boeser, with Mikheyev and Kuzmenko, they averaged only one goal per 35.9 minutes of ice time.

There was simply no finish on the ice with him for the majority of this season and despite that, he is a top ten points earner in the league.

Pettersson is doing just fine. Let’s all take a deep breath and enjoy the ride.