Sports Hockey

Will Elias Pettersson be the next Henrik Sedin?

By Torben Rolfsen

Elias Pettersson poses for photos after being selected fifth overall by the Vancouver Canucks during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Elias Pettersson poses for photos after being selected fifth overall by the Vancouver Canucks during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Vancouver Canucks had a successful weekend at the NHL draft and, while grades for each of the league’s 31 teams are all over the map, the consensus is the Canucks did very well, especially with their second through fourth picks (two forwards and a goalie).

One analyst said this year’s draft reminded him of 1999, which featured the forgettable (except for one YouTube miscue) Patrik Stefan at No. 1 to the Thrashers, followed by the Sedins and then little else.

But let’s give them an A-grade in a down year.

The big question is: Will their top choice No. 5 overall Elias Pettersson turn out to be Henrik Sedin or Libor Polasek?

People who criticized the Pettersson pick as too high need to remember almost all the scouting services had the players ranked from Nos. 3 through 10 as basically interchangeable.

Also, it seemed as if many in Vancouver had Cody Glass high on their wish list, and may have been disappointed when they were caught off guard as a less familiar European name was announced.

Pettersson is considered a potentially elite, play-making centre, who has been compared to the Capitals’ Niklas Backstrom.

The Hockey News said his upside is Henrik Zetterberg.

He had a good year paired with linemate Jonathan Dahlen (who came to the Canucks from Ottawa in the Alex Burrows trade), and they are expected to play together in the Swedish Elite League this coming season.

Pettersson is also very thin and is assumed to be two or three years away from the NHL.

So GM Jim Benning’s Swedish gamble is to have Pettersson and Dahlen lighting it up together at the top of the Canucks forward charts.

The problem is: Would the fan base be excited about the prospect of a decade of Sedins lite?

Benning, whose reputation is built on scouting and drafting, is laying a more secure foundation for the franchise but it could turn out to be too little, too late.

This was his fourth draft, and he’s finished three full seasons on the job.

While the competition seems to land stars and/or prospects that reach the league quicker, the Canucks are taking a slow, long-term view, even by rebuilding standards.

Sure, some of that is luck and circumstance but one can’t help but feel that something’s slightly off about this pace vis a vis the current management and fans restlessness.

Right now, the black hole of the 2007-2011 drafts is killing the Canucks.

The time is coming when the spotlight will be on the fruits of Benning’s labours.

How long a leash will owners (and fans, with their wallets) give him?

If you asked a Magic 8-Ball, it would say “reply hazy try again.”