BUFFALO, N.Y. – His goals have been scored with quality, dazzling displays made to be played on loop.
His points have come in quantity, with six in three games tying him for top spot with Swedish teammate Rasmus Dahlin and American Casey Mittelstadt.
Yet, Elias Pettersson isn’t satisfied with his performance at the world junior championship so far.
“I’m happy with my points, but I think I need to play better and create more chances on five-on-five,” he said.
“I always have high expectations of me. On the power play, we’re playing really well. I feel I’m not – me and our line – creating chances as I want on five-on-five.”
Expectations of the Vancouver Canucks 2017 fifth-overall pick were sky high coming into the world juniors. Some of that was self inflicted. He told Sportsnet 650 in an interview before the tournament that he wanted to “dominate every game.”
Despite the offensive output, he hasn’t gotten to that point through three games – all Sweden victories.
“That’s what I want to do. I’m not saying that I’m going to do that every game,” the six-foot-one, 165-pound winger said. “That’s what I want to do. But not yet.”
“I think he started off OK,” Swedish coach Tomas Monten added. “He feels a lot of excitement coming here. Maybe some pressure as well. I think he’s a player that can do that. He also can create space for his linemates.”
For all the so-so reviews of his play, Pettersson took over in the third period of Sweden’s 7-2 win over Switzerland on Saturday.
With one assist under his belt already, Pettersson took a pass from linemate Alexander Nylander and tried to feed captain Lias Andersson to complete what would have been a fancy tap-in goal. Instead, the puck went off Swiss defenceman Tim Berni and in.
Pettersson’s second goal was a thing of beauty. It was an incredible individual effort, a power move from the blue line in, as he left Swiss defenceman Simon le Coultre and goaltender Matteo Ritz in his wake. It was also arguably the nicest goal of the tournament. He describes it this way:
“I got a pass from Lias. First, I thought I was going to take a shot, but I saw the defender react to that. I fake him out and stickhandle [and make] my go-to move on the goalie.”
Neither he nor Nylander said they were the least bit surprised by the outcome. Nylander called the goal “unreal.”
Count Andersson, who replaced Linus Lindstrom as the wingers’ centreman for the third, among that group.
“He can do that. That’s Elias’ goal,” Andersson said. “We’ve seen him do that in practice a couple times. He’s a skilled guy. I’m not surprised at all.”
It was the second goal of the tournament that showcased Pettersson’s skill.
The goal he netted Thursday against the Czech Republic on a Swedish power play was a perfectly-placed wrister just below the crossbar.
Add his world junior play to what he’s produced in the Swedish Hockey League for the Vaxjo Lakers and the Canucks and their fans have a lot to be excited about.
Pettersson was leading the SHL in scoring before leaving for the world juniors, a rare feat for a 19-year-old player. In his absence he’s dropped to third with 35 points, but he’s played five fewer games than the other four players in the top five.
Although he isn’t sure if he’ll join the Canucks next season, he’s well versed in what’s going on around the team. He reviews team statistics and watches as many of the team’s Eastern time zone games as he can.
He also pays attention to the hype surrounding him.
“I read sometimes, when I have nothing to do, on Twitter,” Pettersson said. “It’s a lot of fun that they’re very excited for me. That boosts my confidence to train even harder.”
But in Buffalo he hasn’t met his expectations. Monten believes recording one assist in six games at the 2017 event left him wanting more.
“He had a tough tournament last year. He used that as an experience,” Monten said. “He wants to show that was just a one-time thing.
“Of course, he had a really good season so far at home. If you’re an offensive player you want to stay on the hot streak. I can’t blame him [for feeling that way].”
If there’s a time for Pettersson to play up to his standards, it’s now. Sweden’s victory over Switzerland was its 43rd consecutive in group play at the tournament, a streak now in its 11th year. However, the Swedes have just one gold medal – in 2012 – to show for it.
Russia is next on the schedule on Sunday. Working more of his magic at even strength will go a long way if Sweden is to win gold.
“We won three straight games now. We need to work out some small details in our game,” Pettersson said.