PENTICTON, B.C. – They have different memories of the actual goal, but Elias Pettersson and Jonathan Dahlen agree that they scored the first shift they ever played together as boys in Sweden.
Dahlen thinks it was during an under-18 game for Timra in 2014, but Pettersson vividly remembers it occurring with the U-20 team that same season.
“I remember someone on the first line got injured,” Pettersson said Sunday. “I was the extra forward, so I got to play on the first line with Jonathan. I was doing a wraparound and I missed the puck and lost it, and then he put it in.”
A garbage goal?
“Yeah, a garbage goal,” Pettersson said. “We score those sometimes, too.”
We’ll have to take his word for that because most of the goals they scored this weekend for the Vancouver Canucks were beautiful.
The Swedish friends, high-scoring linemates for the three seasons before last one, combined for six goals as Canucks prospects swept two games from the Winnipeg Jets’ rookies, winning 6-4 Sunday and 8-2 Friday during Vancouver’s annual Young Stars tournament.
Pettersson, 19, is a dazzling prospect who is expected to make the Canucks’ National Hockey League roster this fall after a record-breaking season last year in the Swedish Hockey League. But Dahlen, 20, looked just as good in Penticton, joined on a line by Western Hockey League grad Kole Lind, 19.
Offensively, the three were superb, even if they were trapped in their zone for extended periods Sunday before two of the Winnipeg goals.
“Today, I’m a little bit disappointed that I missed a lot of chances,” Dahlen said. “And defensively, we have something to work on there. But it’s not a big problem. We just have to talk about it and we’ll get better.”
Dahlen buried a shot on a two-on-one and later scored into an empty net, while Pettersson blasted in a one-timer on a Canuck power play.
The Canucks drafted Pettersson fifth-overall in 2017 after the centre’s 41-point season in Timra. His linemate, Dahlen, had 44 points that year when he was pilfered by the Canucks from the Ottawa Senators in a trade for Alex Burrows, whose NHL contract was bought out in June.
Burrows had the best years of his career in Vancouver as the “triplet” playing alongside Swedish twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who retired from the Canucks in April. And now, along come Pettersson and Dahlen, who are not related but play like brothers.
“Some of you guys say we’re the new Sedins,” Pettersson told reporters before the tournament. “But we’re not there yet; we don’t have that chemistry yet. If we get there one day, we’ll be more than happy. Me and Jonathan are very excited to get things going here.”
Penticton was a testing ground for Pettersson and Dahlen, a low-risk chance for the Canucks to see if their chemistry would translate to North American ice.
Pettersson had never played on the smaller ice surface; Dahlen had just two games last year in the American Hockey League before the Canucks decided to send him home to Sweden, where the winger spent the first half of the season recovering from mononucleosis. That’s why Dahlen stayed with Timra in the Swedish second division while Pettersson moved up to Vaxjo, where he was named the league’s most valuable player after winning the SHL scoring title as rookie with 56 points in 44 games.
“You can tell there is a natural chemistry there and they feed off each other,” Canucks player development director Ryan Johnson said. “And I thought Kole Lind complemented them well. Kole’s a smart player and I figured he would kind of mix in with those two quite easily.
“It’s a glimpse of maybe what something looks like in the future.”
He meant in the NHL. Dahlen and Lind are second-round picks who have progressed significantly since their draft years.
“All three of them probably have different time periods and each one has different things they have to work on,” Canucks head coach Travis Green said. “But ultimately, you hope that in a couple of years they could be a line in the NHL. For me, the whole line (combination) thing is so far away. You just want good players. In my mind, when I look at this group, we’re going to have some good options here in a couple of years.”
With the Canucks opening training camp Friday in Whistler, Pettersson said the best aspect of the two prospects games was getting accustomed to North American hockey and the North American rink.
“We both were nervous coming into the first game on Friday,” he said. “We wanted to show we could play hockey on North American ice, too. So it was nice to get goals quickly, for both of us. The hockey itself is more back and forth, and it takes more (toll) on your body than it does back in Sweden.”
Pettersson and Dahlen have been imagining themselves as NHL linemates since the Canucks acquired them four months apart in 2017.
“Oh, yeah, absolutely,” Pettersson said. “We both are dreaming of that. We know it will be a long ride and hard work to get there, but hopefully we will do it as soon as possible. Yeah, it’s our dream to play together.”
A lot of people in Vancouver are having the same dream.