Canucks' Pettersson left off Sweden's Olympic hockey team roster

Jan 16 2018, 6:40 pm

It’s been a fine season so far for Canucks prospect Elias Pettersson.

At just 19 years of age, the youngster was leading the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) in scoring. With 36 points (12-24-36) in 28 games playing against men, he would likely still be leading the league in scoring had he not missed games to play for Sweden at the World Juniors.

He still has the best points-per-game average in the SHL, at 1.29. Remarkably, he also still holds a seven-point lead over the next closest scorer on his team, the Vaxjo Lakers.

So that’s why it came as a surprise to many on Tuesday when Pettersson was left off Sweden’s Olympic roster.

Like Canada’s roster that was released last week, Sweden has a number of familiar names on their team. Jhonas Enroth, Joel Lundqvist, Viktor Stalberg, and Anton Lander each have more than a 100 games of NHL experience.

So the competition is fierce.

Defenceman Rasmus Dahlin, the consensus No. 1 prospect heading into the NHL Draft in June, is also on the team.

But he’s the only junior-aged player to make it.

With seven points in seven games, Pettersson finished tied for the Team Sweden lead in scoring with medal tossing Lias Andersson and Alexander Nylander. They were/are all candidates for the team, as there’s still a small window of opportunity open.

Sweden has left two forward spots open for their team, to be announced in the coming weeks. Perhaps a strong string of pro games could remind Sweden management of Pettersson’s talent.

He’s making a good case already, scoring two goals on Tuesday, mere hours after he was snubbed.

Or perhaps they’re waiting on the health of Andersson, who played with a shoulder injury at the tail-end of the World Juniors.

Or both?

All of the other forwards chosen from the SHL are scoring near a point-a-game pace – with the exception of Lundqvist, who captained the 2017 World Championship team to a gold medal. Rightly or wrongly, a tie usually goes to the veteran in this type of situation.

The biggest reason for Sweden to pick Pettersson is his work on the power play. With 25 players making the squad, there’s room to use him in a specialist role.

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