It has been a week since Vancouver Canucks rookie forward Elias Pettersson was thrown to the ice by Florida Panthers defenseman Michael Matheson. Pettersson was injured on the play while Matheson did not even receive a minor penalty for his actions. Matheson was later suspended for two games by the Department of Player Safety, but the story was already written in the minds of many: the NHL yet again failed to protect one of its young stars. It may seem like a harsh take, but – as The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell writes – it is a difficult one to ignore. The talented rookie undresses the veteran defenseman, only to then become the victim of a dirty play in retaliation, one that the referees did not see as an issue. It is a bad look for the league and one Campbell opines is far too common.
Yet, things could have been worse. Pettersson was placed in the league’s concussion protocol after landing hard on his head, but The Province’s Ben Kuzma wrote earlier this week that there was come concern that he had sustained more than just a concussion. Canucks doctors viewing the hit thought that Pettersson could have suffered from neck and shoulder injuries in addition to what was clearly a concussion. A neck strain in particular, Kuzma relays, can leave a player susceptible to reoccurring injuries and can flare up and cause headaches at any time.
Fortunately, it seems Pettersson has avoided any ancillary injuries. Fears were calmed substantially today when, as Kuzma notes, the promising rookie took the ice with a Vancouver skills coach and seemed to be skating naturally. This would seem to indicate that he is both progressing through the concussion protocol and has avoided injuries that would make skating uncomfortable. Kuzma states that quite a few steps remain – increased training, hard skating, and full contact drills – but this is an encouraging first step. The Canucks will likely have their first-year star back sooner than anyone expected.