Big Hits on Pettersson Should Be Expected
The Canucks fifth-overall selection in the 2017 draft has been off to a fantastic rookie season. In five games played, Elias Pettersson has eight points, including five goals. This has put him twentieth in the league for points and seventh in the league for scoring, ahead of Kane, Bergeron, and Ovechkin. A start like that does not go unnoticed.
Saturday night, Pettersson got slammed to the ice by Florida Panthers defenceman Mike Matheson, causing the young rookie to miss the rest of the game with a head injury. Some have claimed the hit to be dirty, and it was a hit from behind, but it is something us Canucks fans will have to get used to if Pettersson is going to keep playing stellar hockey. In the early stages of the Florida game, Pettersson sniped from the top of the circle, going short-side top cheese, on goalie James Reimer. Prior to being laid-out in the third, Pettersson dangled Matheson so bad that the defenceman dropped to his knees and flailed his stick.
With moves like that, one must assume Pettersson will be getting run all season. This is especially concerning when you look at his size. At nineteen years old, Petterson stands at six-feet two-inches and only weighs 176 pounds, making him the lightest player on the Canucks roster. Matheson, on the other hand weighs 193 pounds, and it should not be surprised that he’d want to exert physical dominance after being finessed by Pettersson.
Pettersson is a delight to watch, and I love having him on the Canucks. However, playing this rookie at full minutes means he’s going to need to adapt quickly. His size is extremely concerning because it may leave him vulnerable to injury. Indeed, the last thing any Canuck fan wants to see is Pettersson get injured so bad that he misses much of this season.
It's unclear whether Pettersson will play on Tuesday against the Penguins. Surely, that will be cleared up today or tomorrow. The Canucks will need some of their enforcers to step-up and protect the young guys up front. Pettersson needs to feel confident to play the high-finesse way that he does knowing he’ll have support from guys like Gudbranson and Hutton.
Pettersson is one of the better draft picks by the Canucks in a while. He put up fifty-six points in fourty-four games in the Swedish Hockey League. He scored five goals in the World Junior Championship and led Sweden to a silver medal. In 2018’s Ice Hockey World Championships, Sweden won gold and in five games Petterson had three points.
Again, Elias Pettersson is a joy to watch and I love having him on the Canucks. However, if he doesn’t get the protection he needs, he will be at a high risk for injury this season. As fans, we should expect to see enforcers from opposing teams go after Pettersson. He’s thin and he’s unbelievably talented, making him an easy mark for the Matheson’s of the world (when they can catch him). Our defenceman will need to be Pettersson’s bodyguard’s this year. If someone is going to take a run at the Swedish rookie then we need to respond quickly, something we did not do after the body-slam he received on Saturday.
Tuesday is a big game against the star-studded Penguins. It is sure to be an offensive affair, and if Pettersson plays he’ll have to go toe-to-toe with Brian Dumoulin, Jack Johnson, and the six-foot seven-inch Jamie Oleksiak. He’ll need better support from his teammates then he got against the Panthers. The best thing for Pettersson to play his game is for him to feel safe and secure in the offensive zone. A player as young as him may have a tendency to get spooked of big bodies if he is uncertain whether he will be protected by his teammates.