Elias Pettersson is looking more like himself. He’s sounding more like himself.
And he’s producing points more like himself than at any other point this season.
Clearly, that’s welcome news for the Vancouver Canucks, because if the 23-year-old centre doesn’t reach the heights that most thought he would, management might need to tack on a couple of years to their retooling timeline.
Don’t look now, but Pettersson has momentum on his side. Since January 16, Pettersson is leading the Canucks in goals (8) and points (17).
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) February 16, 2022
Pettersson achieved the mark in a relatively small sample size of 15 games, and certainly, he doesn’t look as dominant as his finest moments during his first two NHL seasons. But he isn’t far off.
“I feel great. I think I’m creating a lot. I feel like myself out there. I’m [having] fun. I’m playing with confidence,” Pettersson said after Monday’s game when he added two more assists and was named the game’s third star.
Pettersson revealed that he had his wrist taped to start the season, which is an indication that he wasn’t 100% recovered from last year’s season-ending injury. Perhaps that helps to explain why he struggled so much, beyond arriving late for training camp and suffering a crisis of confidence.
“Coming into the season it was a little weird. I still had my wrist taped… I played 26 games last year, I didn’t play a game for eight months or something, so definitely was a slow start for me. It took me way longer than I wanted it this season, but I feel like now and the last couple weeks I’ve played like myself again.”
Looking through a wider lens, Pettersson ranks second in scoring since Bruce Boudreau took over as head coach on December 6, with 22 points in 27 games. Only J.T. Miller has scored more, with 30 points in 25 games.
Pettersson had just 12 points in the first 25 games of the season under Travis Green.
“His confidence was really, really low when I took over,” said Boudreau. “He’s never complained when I put him on different lines. He’d like to play 25 minutes a night but I mean sometimes it doesn’t work out. As long as he continues to do what he does, and make great plays and gets his shot away, I’ll be pretty happy.”
What’s interesting about Pettersson’s resurgence is that he hasn’t been leaned on heavily by Boudreau in recent games. He played just 15:49 against Seattle and hasn’t played over 20 minutes in a game in 11 outings. Playing with Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Höglander, he was effectively on the Canucks’ third line against the Kraken.
Pettersson has found a way to produce, particularly at even strength. He leads all Canucks players in even-strength points (16) since Boudreau took over. And since January 16, Pettersson has 12 even-strength points, which is four points more than anyone else on the team in that span.
Pettersson’s power-play production could still use some improvement, with just six PP points under Boudreau — good for fifth on the team. But he’s back in his familiar spot, on the right-side flank, and looking dangerous on the rare occasions when the Canucks get set up in the offensive zone.
Power play Pettersson 🎉 pic.twitter.com/PldQ0fbPLN
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) February 20, 2022
Since Boudreau took over, Pettersson’s points at five-on-five have come with the likes of Podkolzin, Höglander, Conor Garland, Tanner Pearson, Jason Dickinson, and Alex Chiasson on his line. Miller, Brock Boeser, and Bo Horvat haven’t factored into the scoring on any five-on-five point Pettersson has notched under Boudreau.
Given recent form, you have to wonder when it’ll be time to pair Pettersson with Vancouver’s top guns again, which results in him seeing bigger minutes. He hasn’t played much with Miller or Boeser at even strength of late, which would have been unthinkable back in October.