Never have the Vancouver Canucks had so many gifted prospects at one time – scoring by the dozens in leagues on both sides of the Atlantic – and never have they had an offensive prospect as tantalizing as Elias Pettersson.
OK, once they had an offensive prospect this talented. But Hall of Famer Pavel Bure was a long time ago. Even Brock Boeser, the rookie who still leads the Canucks in scoring despite suffering a season-ending back injury four weeks ago, didn’t have the pedigree and jaw-dropping potential of Pettersson when he came to the NHL.
Selected fifth overall by the Canucks last June, Pettersson had a record-shattering season in Sweden. The centre-winger won the Swedish Hockey League scoring title as a teenager despite missing a bunch of games for the world junior championship.
The wiry 19-year-old had 24 goals and 56 points in 44 games for Vaxjo and is the highest-scoring teenager since the 1970s in Sweden’s top professional league. He was drafted as a playmaker, but Pettersson’s quick, heavy shot and ability to beat players one-on-one were revelations.
At six foot two and 165 pounds, he obviously needs to add some weight and strength this summer. But with a Canucks team desperate for scoring and hope, Pettersson seems at least an even bet to be in the NHL next fall and playing a prime role in Vancouver.
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
THATCHER DEMKO, G
The Canucks’ goaltender of the future continues his trajectory towards the NHL, improving on a strong rookie campaign during his second development year in the American Hockey League. The six-foot-four 22-year-old was 23-12-4 with a .921 save percentage for the Utica Comets to earn an emergency recall and NHL debut on Saturday, when the Canucks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-4. The organization’s original plan was to groom Demko for three AHL seasons, but he may be too good to keep out of the NHL.
KOLE LIND, RW
The power forward from the Kelowna Rockets is finishing his year in the AHL after an outstanding WHL campaign that saw him amass 39 goals and 95 points in 58 games. Drafted 33rd overall last June, the six-foot-one 19-year-old plays with a physical edge that should help his adjustment to pro hockey. He has an outside chance to make the Canucks next fall.
ADAM GAUDETTE, C
The 21-year-old may only be a fifth-round draft pick (2015), but he was also only the leading scorer in college hockey this season and a Hobey Baker Award finalist after producing 30 goals and 60 points in 38 games at Northeastern. He was fast-tracked to the Canucks last week. Gaudette needs to fill out and get stronger but could be a full-time NHLer soon.