VANCOUVER – The Henrik Sedin retirement was not a hoax. It just looks like he’s still running the Vancouver Canucks’ power play – wearing a different number and with a better shot.
It’s uncanny how much 19-year-old rookie Elias Pettersson looks like Sedin, his Swedish forerunner, when he has the puck on the sideboards. Already the Canucks power play operates through the teenager.
“It must be the Swedish connection or something like that,” centre Bo Horvat said. “(Elias) is super smart. He makes all the right plays at all the right times. To have that patience and that skill at such a young age, he’s going to continue to get better.”
Thursday, for the first time in the National Hockey League pre-season, the man-advantage unit included both Pettersson and Brock Boeser, an early Calder Trophy candidate for this season and last year’s rookie-of-the-year runner-up.
Pettersson and Boeser may also turn out to be the most the most dangerous Canucks forwards to come along since Hank and Danny Sedin won consecutive NHL scoring titles nearly a decade ago.
Vancouver’s new power-play unit, which looks anything but experimental, generated goals for Horvat and Sven Baertschi on terrific passing plays as the Canucks overcame a two-goal deficit and beat the Los Angeles Kings’ split-squad 4-3 at Rogers Arena.
“I like it,” Boeser, who scored 29 goals as a rookie, said of the new power play. “As you saw tonight, there’s a lot of options opening up. There are a countless amount of options. If they play Pettersson, I’ll have more room on my side. And if they play me, it will open up things on his side. It’s pretty fun.”
The Kings followed the same game plan they used so often against the Sedins, trying to batter the Canucks’ best players. They took nine penalties, and Vancouver’s two power-play goals were the difference in the game.
Baertschi tied it 3-3 with 4:13 remaining in the third period on a tick-tack-toe passing play with Horvat and Pettersson. It was Baertschi’s cross-ice feed, after a cheeky pass by Pettersson back between his skates, that allowed Horvat to open scoring in the first period.
Pettersson, the 2017 fifth-overall draft pick who won scoring and MVP titles last season as a teenager in the Swedish Hockey League, said the most important component of the power play is unpredictability.
“If I’m always trying to find Ben Hutton (at the point) and then over to Brock for a one-timer, they’re going to stop that pass,” he said. “And if I always try to find Bo down low, they’re going to stay in the way of that pass. So I’m trying to be unpredictable every time so they don’t know where I’m going to pass it.”
“It’s early still but there are a lot of promising plays out there,” Horvat said. “It just shows having all those threats there just opens up more ice for us. Pre-season or not, we’re working to get better. To get confidence early, scoring goals on the power play and getting chemistry, is going to be important for us.”
Hutton, who appeared on his way out of the organization last spring, logged 30:02 of ice time and was the lone defenceman chosen by coach Travis Green for the first-unit power play.
Vancouver’s No. 1 goalie, Jacob Markstrom, made 29 saves in his first start of the pre-season. Nikolay Goldobin, who was removed from Pettersson’s line in the third period, scored the shootout winner.