VANCOUVER — There is a pretty good debate on the West Coast about who is the greatest player in Vancouver Canucks history.
You can argue that Trevor Linden was the greatest Canuck while still acknowledging that the heart-and-soul captain was far from the franchise’s most talented player. Henrik Sedin just retired as the greatest scorer in Canucks’ history, but he and his brother Daniel never generated the sheer excitement that Pavel Bure created for fans who had never seen anything like the Russian Rocket, before or since.
But if you ask the guys who played with Bure in the 1990s, many of them will tell you there was no one more talented than Alex Mogilny. He produced a 55-goal, 107-point season in 1995-96 after his trade to Vancouver, then checked out mentally when the team deteriorated and it became clear the Canucks weren’t going to win no matter how many goals Mogilny scored.
At least Mogilny, who is one of the most interesting players in franchise history, had four more years on the West Coast to work year-round on his golf game before leaving for New Jersey and then Toronto, where Pat Quinn squeezed the best the winger had left to give in the National Hockey League.
We introduce this context, if not necessarily the actual debate, because in St. Louis on Sunday the Canucks’ just-turned-20-year-old rookie, Elias Pettersson, became the first Vancouver player since Mogilny 23 years ago to register multiple five-point games in the same season.
Pettersson had a goal and four first assists (and was plus-five) in the Canucks’ 6-1 win against the Blues. Linemate Brock Boeser had a hat trick, also the first Canuck since Mogilny to do that in St. Louis.
The victory validated Vancouver’s 5-3 home win Thursday against the Nashville Predators and appears to have definitively ended the team’s month-long slump that hit its nadir at 1-10-2 before last game.
The Canucks are on a win streak for the first time since Nov. 2, when Pettersson had five points and Boeser four in a 7-6 overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche. They are also brimming with hope through these players.
In the first 12 games of Vancouver’s slump, when Boeser was mostly injured and expectations on Pettersson were heightened, the Swede managed just three goals and five points. As coach Travis Green said, the NHL was on to him.
But now Boeser is healthy and skating better after missing 11 games with a groin injury, the Canucks are much tighter defensively in the wake of their losing streak, and Pettersson looks dominant again.
He has played 26 games in the NHL and has 15 goals and 15 assists. Could Pettersson be the best player in franchise history? It’s a ridiculous question after 26 games. But write it down and ask it again in four or five years. It may not be ridiculous then.