By: Brayden Fengler / October 28, 2021
We’ve been here before. Early into the season, with the number of games played not even in the double digits and the question is starting to percolate in Canucks fans’ minds: Where oh where is Elias Pettersson?
Now don’t worry, you didn’t miss anything, he’s signed, he’s on the ice, but when Canucks fans think of what Petey can be, his performance so far this season does not live up to those expectations. The same could be said about Pettersson at the start of last season as well, he came out of the gate slow, and of course, we even wrote an article about it back then as well.
So here we are now, another season has started and Petey lags behind in expected production. Is this just a slow start after a season that ended with an injury, or are expectations too high to begin with?
EP40 After Seven Games
Seven games into his new three-year $7,350,00 Million AAV contract and it does not appear as though the Swede has earned it just quite yet. In my last article for StadiumChinatown.ca I talked about how Jack Rathbone is a player that may not be lighting a fire under the analytics community yet, but he is playing to the eye test. Well, unfortunately, Pettersson is playing to neither of those areas right now.
Petterson has looked nervous at times, unsure with the puck at others. He hasn’t been able to truly get a solid one-timer off from his lethal corner pocket spot in a way that he has in the past. Of course, he hasn’t looked drastically out of place either, but right now he is playing just as a piece of the team, rather than the star of the show. Pettersson needs to be better, he’s getting paid and expected to produce more.
So far this season Pettersson sits with a -3 plus-minus and four points in seven games notching three assists and one goal. These numbers play into the fact that he has been a contributing factor in goals for his team, which is good to see. But number 40 has yet to be the solo force that the Canucks need him to be from time to time. Petey is a player that should be able to shift the dynamic of games when he’s playing to his full potential.
Although not as electric as fans would’ve hoped for, his numbers to start this season are a minor improvement over the first seven outings of last season’s campaign. To start off last season Petey was held to just one goal and one assist after seven games. However last year’s team was worse, there is no doubt about that, this year’s team may not be playing like superstars just yet, but on paper and in practice this team has better pieces than last year’s Canucks.
With that said, having Pettersson just make a marginal improvement because his team has made a marginal improvement is not enough to be a sign of true improvement for number 40 himself.
If this team was the same one that was iced last year, would Pettersson’s numbers be worse than they are now? The real question that this is all getting at is can Pettersson rediscover the ability to elevate his team, and not just rise with the tyde and reap the rewards of overall team improvement.
Too Much Faith?
Again comparing the first seven games of another NHL season, The 2019-20 season, a season where Pettersson earned himself 66 points in 68 games, the young star began that year at nearly a point a game after seven outings, +2 with two goals and four assists.
Now you might be thinking, “really? we’re splitting hairs and writing 1000+ words because of a two-point difference between Petterson this year and Pettersson two years ago?” And to that I would say, are you new to Vancouver sports? And then I would also say, that his points are somewhat providing a smokescreen to his on-ice game, he hasn’t been in positions and controlled the puck in ways that have made anyone go, “and that’s why he gets paid the big bucks”.
This fanbase has already seen after seven games, why Bo Horvat is the captain, why Conor Garland is a good addition, that Quinn Hughes is indeed improving and that Rathbone is a smarter choice than Olli Juolevi, but we have not seen Pettersson justify his contract, at least not yet.
More to Chew On
If you’re one to panic, it’s times like these that make you zoom out on the Hockey Reference page of a given player and wonder if their hype has really lived up to their overall production. Pettersson has been in the league for three seasons with this current campaign being his fourth, but really Petterson has only played just over two full seasons’ worth of games, at 172 games played, excluding playoff appearances.
Most of Pettersson’s outings were two seasons ago now, as 139 of his NHL games played, happened before the last abbreviated season. Of course in that season Pettersson suffered a wrist injury which only allowed him to complete 26 games, with the last one being March 2nd, 2021.
With that said, has Pettersson simply gotten a bit cold? Maybe the 22-year-old just hasn’t really gotten back into a steady rhythm since the season that ended during the pandemic. In Pettersson’s last 10 games before his injury, he was just finding his rhythm again, as he was a point per game player with 5 goals and 5 assists in the time frame, contributing individually and as a valuable team player. The man was shooting at 20% during those 10 games.
Give it Time
Pettersson seems to be a player that needs a long runway to get going. These last two seasons he has not exploded out of the gate, but he’s always grown to his alien-like legendary status at some point in a given year. There should be no reason to think that Pettersson won’t yet again eventually get there in his own time this year as well.
Missing training camp and losing the chance to develop chemistry with some new Canucks is likely setting him back more than it would have if his contract was figured out a bit sooner, but that’s where we are now. Looking at Pettersson as the 5th man down the Canucks leader boarded for points might be upsetting, especially as he only has one more point than Tyler Myers (don’t think about it), but it should only be temporary.
If Pettersson never gets his groove this year, then I think it will be fair game to entertain a more pessimistic outlook on his slow starts in the years ahead, but give him time. We know Petey is his biggest critic, so he won’t let himself muddle around in the middle of the points sheet for very long.