Now that the Vancouver Canucks have their 2017 first-round pick Elias Pettersson locked up to a maximum-level entry-level contract, the next question about the talented young forward will be when will the Canucks see him playing with the team?
With talk of him possibly being loaned back to the SHL for another season to a potential start with the Utica Comets in the AHL to adjust to the North American game, to immediately throwing the 19-year-old into the fire with the Canucks, there are multiple options.
One of the biggest obstacles is the fractured left thumb that Pettersson sustained while playing in the IIHF World Championships. According to Mike Halford of The Athletic (subscription required), Pettersson has already underwent a surgical procedure and will have his wrist in a cast for the next three to four weeks. Then the team must decide whether it is willing to put him out for the team’s annual summer prospect camp in the first week of July and then the Young Stars Classic in Pentiction in September.
Regardless, Halford writes whether he plays in either of those events or not, he expects that Pettersson will still be in a Canucks uniform at the start of the season, writing that while Vancouver general manager Jim Benning didn’t guarantee that Pettersson would be on the opening-day roster, he came awfully close.
“We’ll see where he’s at when he comes to training camp,” Benning explained. “We had Brock Boeser step in and be a big part of our team last year, and I think [Pettersson] can come in next year and step in. With the Sedins not playing, we’re going to have openings on the power play and we need offensive skill players, and I think he’s going to be one of those guys that can fill that need for us.”
The team also intends to start Pettersson at the right wing position before eventually moving him to center. That switch to center could last anywhere from two to three months to even his entire rookie season.
“Up the middle he gets more puck touches, and he can handle the puck [and use] his vision of the ice to make plays,” said Benning. “At some point he’s going to play centre for us.”
The scribe adds that rumor has it that Pettersson could be slated on a line next season with center Bo Horvat and rookie winger Jonathan Dahlen, a fellow countryman and former Swedish teammate. In fact, don’t be surprised if Pettersson ends up on the power play as well. With the loss of both Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin, the team will have multiple holes in their power play lineup and it is believed that Pettersson will likely take over Henrik’s spot on the half wall, his preferred spot.
“[Pettersson’s] got a great release on his shot,” Benning said. “On the power play, if we have him on one side and Brock on the other, we’ve got two real good shooters. I think he’s going to step in and make the adjustment and be successful.”