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2021 Canucks Top 25 Under 25: Despite slow start, superstar Elias Pettersson deserves #1 spot

There was no disagreements among our voters. Everyone had Pettersson at #1.

New York Rangers v Vancouver Canucks
Elias Pettersson #40 of the Vancouver Canucks looks up the ice during their NHL game against the New York Rangers at Rogers Arena November 2, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Welcome to the 2021 Edition of the Vancouver Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Rankings. The list includes all players born after January 1st, 1997. Seven staff writers (Beggsy, Westy, Kent Basky, CanucksAbbyFan2, Markus Meyer, Noah Strang, Harsunder Singh H) and two outside writers (Daniel Gee & Cam Robinson) cast votes for the project.

There hasn’t been a lot of positivity surrounding Elias Pettersson to start the 2021-22 season.

Here’s hoping that a second consecutive spot at #1 in our Top 25 Under 25 rankings is the boost he needs.

Despite the negativity surrounding Pettersson’s slow start, there should be little doubt about the 22-year-olds place among the top centres in the NHL.

However, in this world of short-term biases and the “what have you done for me lately” mentality, it’s easy to forget just how good Pettersson is at playing hockey.

Since the beginning of the 2019-20 season, Pettersson’s sophomore year, he’s registered 38 goals and 92 points in 104 games played. That’s good for a 0.88 points-per-game rate, which is 40th in the NHL during that time.

Although it may seem arbitrary, let’s remove Pettersson’s slow starts from that equation, which equates to two goals and seven points in 18 games (he started with one goal and two points in eight games last season).

That brings Pettersson’s totals to 36 goals and 85 points in his last 86 games played. His new point-per-game-mark since 2019-20 minus the slow starts is at 0.98 which is tied with JT Miller for 25th overall in the NHL.

I’d argue that the 0.98 PPG mark is probably a more accurate read on his abilities. It’s a mystery as to why Pettersson was sluggish to start last season, but his slow start in 2021-22 shouldn’t be as much of a surprise considering he missed half of last season, plus all of training camp this year.

It’s too easy for us to forget that Pettersson lit the NHL on fire with 10 goals in his first 10 games. It’s also easy to forget the fugazi 2020 bubble playoffs, where Pettersson posted 18 points in 17 games as the Canucks came within one game of the Conference Finals.

Now is not the time to worry about Pettersson (yet). That’s a needed reminder for fans in this market as they wait for the Canucks’ superstar to rediscover his game after a lengthy absence.

What’s Next for Pettersson?

While it’s not time to worry, what’s immediately next for Pettersson is that he needs to re-find his scoring touch.

This is a player who, again, when he’s on his game, is a point-per-game calibre player in the NHL. That was reflected in our staff’s season point projections, with four of our five writers predicting that he’d surpass the point-per-game mark.

Pettersson is clearly fighting the puck right now. That’s reflected in not only his lower-than-expected point totals, but in the fact that he doesn’t have much chemistry with his linemates.

The Lotto Line in particular has been horrid in the early going. Among all lines who have played more than 50 minutes at even strength, Miller, Boeser and Pettersson have the worst expected goals for at 28.6%.

It looks like Conor Garland is the next player who’s tasked with sparking Pettersson. The 25-year-old earned a promotion to the top night on Tuesday night against the Rangers, and he helped Miller and Pettersson look as dangerous at even-strength as they have all season.

The fact is, when (not if) Pettersson rediscovers his brilliance, the Canucks shape up to be one of the most fun teams in the NHL to watch on a nightly basis.