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Canucks’ Top 25 Under 25 (2022 Edition): #15 Elias Pettersson 2.0 is no joke

The toolsy defender projects as a modern day NHL d-man.

2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Portraits
Elias Pettersson, #80 pick by the Vancouver Canucks, poses for a portrait during the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Centre on July 08, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec.
Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

Welcome to the 2022 Edition of the Vancouver Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Rankings. The list includes all players in the Canucks system who were born after April 15th, 1998.

When the Canucks drafted Elias Pettersson 2.0 in the third round of the 2022 draft, you can be forgiven for thinking it was some kind of joke.

However, Pettersson’s projectable toolkit is no joke. The rangy defender projects to be a modern-day shutdown defenceman if he makes it to the NHL.

While he produced in Sweden’s J20 circuit last season (including 10 points in six playoff games), offence is not the calling card of Pettersson’s game.

What the young defender does well is combine size and mobility in order to close off gaps and defend well in transition.

There was a wide variation in where Pettersson placed in our rankings, with the 18-year-old being ranked as low as 25th and as high as 7th.

Daniel Gee, who ranked him seventh, recently wrote an in-depth article for Daily Hive about the strengths and weaknesses of Pettersson’s game.

As you might have guessed from his lofty ranking of young Petey, he’s pretty high on the defender based on his projectable strengths, which includes his ability to defend the rush, defend against pressure, and transition the puck up the ice.

In his article, Daniel drops a couple of animalistic metaphors to get you hyped about Pettersson’s future.

“He protects the middle of the ice like a guard dog protects its property — he will not let anybody occupy it. Strong footwork, along with early processing of the puck carrier’s rush pattern, makes him extremely adaptable in these situations.”

The second metaphor also reinforces what scouts have unanimously labeled as one of Pettersson’s best traits: defensive awareness.

“Pettersson is a very active scanner — he’s almost owl-like with the amount he turns his head to mental map opponent’s positioning.”

This was certainly an area of weakness among the Canucks prospect pool entering the 2022 draft. They lacked players who excelled in terms of defensive awareness and zone exits.

That’s why Pettersson was a shrewd pick for the Canucks 80th overall. His most notable traits immediately stand out among a prospect pool that lacks quality defenders.

Think we’re exaggerating? Consider this...

Based on our rankings, Petey 2.0 is already the fourth-best U25 defenceman in the Canucks organization. I could even buy the argument that he belongs in the top three.

What’s Next for Pettersson 2.0?

Although Pettersson spent the majority of his 2021-22 season in Sweden’s J20 circuit, he did manage to play 17 games up in the SHL, recording one assist while playing as a bottom-pairing defenceman.

For this upcoming season, he’s slated to play in the SHL full-time. A successful season for the youngster would merely be sticking around and holding his own in one of the world’s best hockey leagues.

Pettersson will have plenty of time to hone his craft overseas. In March, he signed a three-year contract with Orebro, taking him through the 2024-25 season. That doesn’t mean he can’t come to North America sooner, but expect the promising defender to remain overseas for at least two more seasons.