The Ripples of Elias Pettersson as a Winger

By: Trent Leith / January 15, 2022  

It is no secret and has been very well documented that Elias Petterson is not playing up to his potential. On Thursday night, Elias Petterson was playing left wing on a line with Bo Horvat, and Conor Garland. Pettersson seemed to take a small step back towards being the player that he has been in previous years. With Pettersson on the wing, that means someone else needs to be the third man down the centre, and on Thursday, that was Jason Dickinson. 

Petey on The Wing

Petey on the wing is not something that you love to see as a Canucks fan as he has so much potential down the middle of the ice. Playing the left flank allows Pettersson to simplify his game, as there’s much less on-ice responsibility on the wings than there is down the centre. 

Beaudreau told the media Friday postgame “He wanted to try left wing in the past and I thought I was putting our top six forwards together and our bottom six forwards together,” when talking about Pettersson’s new deployment.

Petterson often played a modified centerman role as face-offs have always been a weak spot in his game. J.T. Miller has often taken draws for Petterson and during the cycle of play Petterson would take back over the centre position when they played on a line together. This allowed Pettersson to take on the added defensive responsibilities of a top-line C, but not have to struggle in the dot. 

Immediate returns on Pettersson’s new deployment seem lukewarm. The eye-test and fancy stats show Pettersson and his line had a very strong game, but he was still held pointless on the game. 

Pettersson had a 77.27 CF% and out-chanced the opposition 13-5 at 5-on-5 that is in direct contrast to the Panthers game on Tuesday where he has 44.44 CF% and was out-chanced 9-11 at 5-on-5. The underlying numbers showed improvement but we should keep in mind, it was only one game. Pettersson passed the eye test too, playing faster and harder while trying to create more like in previous years. The only snag is, it didn’t translate to the score sheet.

Wait so Who is the Third Centre?

It was a disappointing development when Jason Dickinson didn’t pan out as the Canucks’ third-line centre to start the year like he was brought in to be. With that said, however, Dickinson also had a reasonable night. 

The biggest knock on Dickinson’s game since he joined the Canucks has been his poor face-offs. However, Dickinson has never had a strong face-off percentage, averaging only 43.9 FO% across his career, and only 42.3% this season. Thursday night was a strong outing winning five of seven for a 71.4 FO% on the night which lead all Canucks. Jason Dickinson was also second on the team in CF% with 81.8, only beaten by linemate Vasily Podkolzin’s 83.3 CF%. Just like Petey, Dickinson played a strong game, despite not showing up on the scoresheet. 

Brandon Sutter continues to be away from the team and if Pettersson is to play the wing, Dickinson will need to step up to be a reliable third-line centre if the team is to have any success moving forward. It is only a one-game sample size of course, but it was a promising sign from Dickinson. 

It is not uncommon for the Canucks to play two centre’s on the same line, we saw it a lot in the Lotto Line, but it was deemed more important by Travis Green to have his centreman spread out rather than on lines with each other, and it looks like Boudreau is toying the opposite, at least in the short term. 

Should It Stay or Should It Go? 

Pettersson playing the wing is certainly one of the biggest changes Boudreau has implemented, and it isn’t a bad idea to try it. Allowing Petey to play the wing allows him to simplify his game and may hopefully allow him to thrive again. 

If Dickinson can step his game up and play third-line centre, this would allow Pettersson some more time to find his game and allow the top six to be much more lethal long term. I have said it before, but the Dickinson signing could be the most important to the team’s success, and even more so if a strong performance from him can save Pettersson’s season. Saturday morning we should get an insight into Boudreau’s thoughts on Pettersson as a winger when it comes time to take line rushes before the matinee against the Carolina Hurricanes.