Everyone cool to get a little hyperbolic about Elias Pettersson?
The Vancouver Canucks are one of the best early-season stories going and the arrival of Pettersson last year very quickly started changing what seemed possible for this franchise long term. I’ll acknowledge that, in past years, I’ve been what Pardon The Interruption’s Tony Kornheiser calls “loud wrong” about this organization’s decisions, specifically its unwillingness to embrace a raze-it-to-the-ground approach.
Well, if you’re going to find guys like Brock Boeser at 23rd overall and Pettersson at No. 5, you don’t need to trade every desirable veteran commodity you have for picks and prospects — or get a shred of luck in the draft lottery.
Pettersson scored two goals on Saturday in a win over the San Jose Sharks, the first of which (give an assist to Boeser) was a delightful disjointed play that elevated his hand-eye prowess for the world to see.
Pettersson now has 86 points in 85 career games and I’m ready to leap into some outrageous and fun territory by asking if he has a chance to become the best centre drafted fifth overall or lower in the past 30 years. If you go back to the 1988 NHL Draft — when, by the way, Vancouver selected franchise icon Trevor Lindon second overall — you’ll find only one pivot drafted beyond the first four picks finished his career with a points-per-game mark of 1.0 or better, none other than Pettersson’s countryman Peter Forsberg.
Pettersson turns 21 in a week and I’m hoping anyone with common sense understands the point of this exercise isn’t to declare the skinny Swede already superior to the likes of Jeremy Roenick (eighth overall in 1988), Pavel Datsyuk (171st in 1998) or Patrice Bergeron (45th in 2003): It’s to give everyone who’s snoring by prime Pacific Time a firm idea of just what this kid has been up to and where he appears headed.
Let’s just agree “Foppa” would be proud.
Other Weekend Takeaways
• San Jose is in a world of trouble right now. The Sharks, losers of five straight, are last in a Pacific Division that has seen the Canucks, Oilers and — to a lesser degree — the Ducks get off to surprisingly great starts. Just as a team like Vancouver can arrive ahead of schedule, an older club like San Jose gets over the hill so fast in today’s NHL. More than any other organization that has not hung a championship banner, San Jose — which has missed the playoffs just twice in two decades — deserves the benefit of the doubt. But the Sharks cannot get a save right now, a trend that’s carried over from last year when they were still able to overcome substandard goaltending. This is as ugly as it gets in Northern California.
• He didn’t make it onto the gamesheet, but nice to see Evgeni Malkin back with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday after missing 11 games with a lower-body injury.
• On Friday night, Nathan MacKinnon recorded a goal to give him at least a point in each of Colorado’s first 13 outings. That’s the longest stretch to start a season since Henrik Zetterberg notched one in Detroit’s first 17 games in 2007-08. The Avs have bigger things to worry about right now, of course, with both Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog on the shelf. MacKinnon’s goal was the only one Colorado scored this weekend during losses to Dallas on Friday and Arizona 24 hours later, when MacKinnon’s streak was snapped.
• Major stick tap to Ryan Getzlaf, who became the first player to suit up for 1,000 NHL games in an Anaheim Ducks uniform on Sunday night. Though the Blackhawks spoiled the party in overtime, the Ducks captain picked up an assist. His longtime running mate, Corey Perry, will hit 1,000 for his career when Dallas visits the Calgary Flames on Nov. 13.
As for Getzlaf, check out this tribute video from his four biggest fans.
• It was quite a scary scene when Scott Sabourin collapsed to the ice on Saturday after attempting to body check David Backes of the Bruins. Thankfully, it appears the Sens forward is in good spirits and will be okay.
• I am all in on the Washington Nationals celebrating their 2019 World Series title with the ferocity of the 2018 Stanley Cup-champion Washington Capitals. (Side note: baseball bodies definitely look more congruous with beer-chugging than hockey bods).
There are about 100 more clips like this from the Nats’ visit to the Capitals game Sunday night.
Red and White Power Rankings
1. Vancouver Canucks (9-3-2) – What a fit J.T. Miller has been on this club. The left winger has 15 points in 14 outings riding shotgun beside Pettersson and Boeser.
2. Edmonton Oilers (10-4-1) – Leon Draisaitl, the co-king of three-on-three overtime, did it again in the Oilers’ 2-1 extra-time victory in Pittsburgh on Saturday. Draisaitl is tied with Brad Marchand for the most OT goals (nine) since the start of the 2016-17 season. Of course, most of the credit for the win over the Pens goes to 51-save man Mike Smith.
3. Montreal Canadiens (7-5-2) – The Habs were dropped by Dallas on Saturday, but they have to be happy picking up four-of-six points on a roadie that went through Arizona, Vegas and Texas.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (7-5-3) – Three home games coming up for the Leafs this week, which will almost certainly dovetail with John Tavares returning to the lineup.
5. Calgary Flames (8-7-2) – David Rittich was fantastic during a 3-0 win in Columbus on Saturday. Calgary just wrapped a tough three-in-four stretch by snagging four-of-six points on the road. It’s a start for a club that — like the one directly above it on this list and the one directly below — needs to get going to meet expectations in the city.
6. Winnipeg Jets (8-7-0) – Lost in all the talk about the Dustin Byfuglien saga suddenly getting more complicated and contentious is the fact newcomer Neal Pionk has been terrific on the back end after coming over from the Rangers in the Jacob Trouba trade.
7. Ottawa Senators (3-8-1) – Saturday started a run in which Ottawa will play 17 of 24 on the road between now and, basically, Christmas.
In Your Ear
You may have noticed the entirely average 6-5-2 record posted by the Tampa Bay Lightning so far? Erik Erlendsson of Lightninginsider.com joined co-host Rory and I on the latest episode of Tape to Tape to explain what is and isn’t worth worrying about when it comes to the Bolts.
• The New York Islanders go for their 10th straight win on Tuesday night when they host the Sens. Spoiler alert…
• Zdeno Chara is slated to play career game No. 1,500 on Tuesday in Montreal. Among active players, only Sharks Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have suited up for more contests than “Big Z” and nobody has played more minutes than the 36,067:04 logged by Chara since he debuted with the New York Islanders on Nov. 19, 1997.
• The NHL heads to Stockholm, Sweden this week as Victor Olofsson’s (I mean Rasmus Dahlin’s) Sabres will clash with Victor Hedman’s Lightning for games on Friday (Sportsnet, 2 p.m. ET) and Saturday (Sportsnet, 1 p.m. ET).