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Pettersson’s Roaring Rookie Start Among Best in NHL History

16 points in ten games is the best mark for a rookie this century, and nearly the best of all-time.

Vancouver Canucks v Detroit Red Wings
Elias Pettersson #40 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his first-period goal with teammates against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on November 06, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Elias Pettersson’s roaring start to the season isn’t just catching the attention of Canucks fans, but from fans and media across the NHL.

Even with hype building across the league for the soon to be 20-year-old, is it possible that he isn’t being hyped up enough?

Think about Pettersson’s incredible start to his career. Ten games in, he has 16 points. That eye-popping total got me thinking, how does Pettersson’s hot start compare to starts from other rookies in NHL history?

Ten games is a small sample size but hey, you only play your first ten games once. I wanted to compare Pettersson’s 10 game start to other rookies with hot starts, partly out of curiosity, and partly to see the range of players that also wowed with their NHL audition.

It’s not always common for rookies to explode right off the bat, although some of the best usually show their worth right away. Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid both had ten points in their first ten games. Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemeiux had 14 and 13 points in their first ten respectively.

However, it’s been an uncommon occurrence for players to register more than 10 points in their first ten games this century. Here’s a list of players to do so.

With this being the 19th season since the lockout, it’s pretty eye-opening to see that only ten rookies have surpassed ten points in ten games during their rookie season. As you can see, Pettersson’s start clearly stands out among the rest. Other than Pettersson, there were only three other players to surpass 11 points in ten games: Patrick Kane (13), Sidney Crosby (14) and...Cory Conacher (12)?

I’ll go out on a limb by saying that Pettersson is a little more Kane and Crosby than he is Conacher. Bold take, please be nice in the comments.

Here’s how these rookies fared in their first full season.

It must be noted that Conacher’s 29 points did come in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, even if it did feels like he fell off a cliff to that extend.

Really, it’s been an uncommon occurrence in the league for the past 25 years, although hot rookie starts start to be normalized in the early 90’s. In the graph below, there is a list of some notable rookies to post more than ten points in their first ten games. Some of the most notable names are included here.

Vitaly Yachmanev was an intriguing name to me, solely because between 1992-93 and 2005-06, the only rookies to best 10 points in their first 10 games were him and Brad Richards, according to my research at least. All praise the dead-puck era.

Joe Juneau’s mark is the most surprising one on the list, but he also played a combined 29 playoff and regular season games the year before. Because he didn’t cross the 25-game threshold, he was still a rookie in 1992-93.

As for the rest of the list, it’s chalk full of Hall of Famers. For every Alexandre Daigle and Yachmanev, there are a laundry list of NHL legends.

Here are how these players fared throughout their entire first rookie season.

Despite what Dave Pratt might tell you, Pettersson is unlikely to keep up at 1.6 points-per-game.

Not even the wunderkind himself is that good. That being said, it’s been a long time since the NHL has seen a rookie this talented, and this complete at both ends of the ice.

Aside from the offence, lots has been made about his defensive prowess as well. At even strength, the “flashy centre” is currently third on the Canucks in takeaways. Despite being a heavy target for opponents, he’s only taken the tenth-most hits per-60, while drawing the third most penalties on the team. Among forwards, he trails only Tyler Motte, Antoine Roussel and Jay Beagle in blocks per-60.

In “Little Things” fashion, he’s making plays all over the ice.

In terms of the points, Sportsnet saved me from making another chart. Their chart is a lot prettier than mine, so I apologize.

There you go, an incredibly special player rewrites the record books, and it likely won’t be the first time.

While we’re all holding our breath waiting to see how Pettersson’s rookie season unfolds, most aren’t expecting the goal-per-game pace to continue. That being said, here’s one other stat to throw your way.

Hockey Reference has put together the “Adjusted Points” stat on player profiles to adjust for era. They have Pettersson’s expected stat line for the season to read 51 goals, 31 assists by the end of the year.

A 50-goal campaign would absolutely throw the hype train off it’s tracks in Vancouver. While 50 goals might be a reach, it’s starting to look like that 30-goal, 30-assist prediction for Pettersson coming into the season might be his floor.

After reading all of this there’s only one conclusion: Pettersson isn’t being hyped up enough in this market. I know that’s saying something considering he’s all most Canucks fans want to talk about, but his rookie campaign is incredibly unique. What’s he’s accomplishing as a rookie might never be repeated in this market.

Keep. The. Hype. Train. Going.