Best Pettersson fits among revolving door of Canucks linemates this season

Mar 3 2022, 7:00 pm

Elias Pettersson is back.

Although many were trying to pinpoint the moment this occurred, we now know the game where he truly turned it around.

On January 16 against the Washington Capitals, the Vancouver Canucks were in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

At that point, Pettersson, hadn’t registered a point in four games.

Then, he did this.

Following that ankle breaker, Pettersson added another goal against the Capitals en route to a 4-2 Canucks victory.

Since that win and the end of his four-game pointless streak, Pettersson has 11 goals and 21 points in his last 18 games.

The 23-year-old has managed to recapture his on-ice mojo, despite playing with a revolving door of linemates.

In that win over the Caps, Pettersson actually played wing alongside Bo Horvat and Nils Höglander.

During the Canucks’ next game against the Nashville Predators, Horvat’s COVID-induced absence meant Pettersson had to go back to playing centre, where he spearheaded a “kid line” with Höglander and Vasily Podkolzin.

That line showed flashes in that game, but like most line combos featuring Pettersson this season, it was short-lived.

Early in Bruce Boudreau’s tenure, Pettersson had some limited success playing with Podkolzin and Conor Garland.

And, at the Canucks latest practice, Pettersson was skating with Garland and a rotation of Höglander and Phil Di Guiseppe on left wing.

“Petey sometimes is playing really good, and one of the guys on that line isn’t,” Boudreau said after practice this morning. “It’s difficult sometimes… when he’s maybe your second best offensive player, you gotta try to find guys that can finish for him. Last game, and I thought he played ok, was Chiasson, but he had four golden chances, all set up by Petey. We need guys at that point that hopefully can finish.”

It’s clear that Pettersson has played on a line with a barrage of different teammates this season. So, who has he performed best with?

Looking at 11 Pettersson line combinations

According to MoneyPuck.com, Pettersson has spent at least 20 minutes with 11 different combinations of players this season, which is more than any other Canuck this season.

Here’s a look at those combinations, ranked by expected goals:

Pettersson Line Minutes Games xGoals % Goals%
Höglander-Pettersson-Podkolzin 63.1 14 69.6% 83.3%
Höglander-Pettersson-Miller 21.9 8 64.7% 100.0%
Miller-Pettersson-Garland 21.3 12 62.5% 50.0%
Dowling-Pettersson-Podkolzin 26.9 5 60.0% 100.0%
Garland-Pettersson-Podkolzin 102.4 18 52.5% 66.7%
Pettersson-Horvat-Garland 44 7 51.3% 25.0%
Pettersson-Miller-Boeser 126.7 26 47.9% 50.0%
Höglander-Pettersson-Boeser 33.9 13 47.1% 0.0%
Pearson-Pettersson-Garland 28.2 14 42.9% 80.0%
Dickinson-Pettersson-Boeser 37.5 6 40.9% 100.0%

The numbers suggest that Höglander, Pettersson, and Podkolzin have been one of the most effective trios for the Canucks this season.

While their 109.1 PDO suggests they’ve benefitted from puck luck, they are controlling 57% of scoring chances and 67% of high-danger chances when they’re on the ice together.

The issue with this line right now is with Boudreau’s lack of trust in Höglander. Some of the underlying numbers suggest that the 21-year-old has been unlucky, but he is forcing plays with the puck. Now, he’s seemingly lost the trust of the head coach.

Although Pettersson has played with a ton of linemates, he’s only seen 50+ minutes with three different combinations.

One of those is the aforementioned line with Garland and Podkolzin. That trio started out hot but then cooled. Overall, they’ve only controlled 43.9% of shot attempts.

The other of those units is The Lotto Line. Most of those minutes came under Travis Green when he was desperately hoping they’d rekindle their chemistry.

Going back to that line would likely be successful. They were extremely unlucky with an on-ice shooting percentage of 3.3% this season. However, reuniting them would leave an alarming hole at third-line centre, where the Canucks don’t really have anyone they trust in that spot.

Isolating Pettersson’s performance by teammate

There’s one glaring surprise among Pettersson’s on-ice success with individual linemates, as highlighted by the table below.

With Pettersson TOI With CF% With GF% With xGF% With SCF% With
Brock Boeser 242.93 55.8 40.0 52.0 52.3
Conor Garland 233.47 48.5 57.9 52.0 51.4
Vasily Podkolzin 224.27 50.2 76.9 56.6 50.2
Nils Höglander 205.35 53.8 50.0 54.1 51.2
J.T. Miller 196.12 53.3 55.6 49.1 53.6
Bo Horvat 77.32 55.2 28.6 56.6 58.6
Tanner Pearson 62.72 48.8 41.7 51.8 48.5
Jason Dickinson 51.10 47.8 100.0 42.5 40.0
Alex Chiasson 50.37 47.9 20.0 58.1 49.0

The table above, which is sorted by time on ice together, shows that Boeser is Pettersson’s most common linemate this season.

The bulk of those minutes did come under Green, but the duo has some surprising results together considering their ineffectiveness early in the season.

Boeser and Pettersson controlled 55.8% of shot attempts together, but ridiculous bad luck resulted in them scoring only three goals together in over three hours of even-strength ice time.

Aside from Boeser, the most obvious candidate to play alongside Pettersson is Podkolzin. The 20-year-old has shown enough tenacity in the offensive zone, coupled with good defensive awareness to be trusted with the Canucks’ most talented forward.

Pettersson still one of the Canucks’ best play drivers

When you rank all of the Canucks line combinations (minimum 20 minutes played) by expected goals, lines featuring Pettersson snag four of the top five spots.

Pettersson linemates

Courtesy of MoneyPuck.com

You can see from above that he’s accomplished that with five different linemates.

So, what’s best for the Canucks in terms of an optimal lineup?

Sticking with the kid line seems like a good idea considering their ability to control play. If that’s the case, the best option would be to reunite Tanner Pearson, Miller, and Boeser (57.9% xGF) while sticking Horvat and Garland together (51.2% xGF) with another winger.

Another outside-the-box idea would be to put Pettersson with arguably his two most successful wingers in Podkolzin and Boeser, while reuniting the Pearson, Horvat and Höglander line.

That would leave Miller and Garland (51.3% xGF) to form another line with an unknown winger.

Trevor BeggsTrevor Beggs

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