Vancouver Canucks: What on earth is going on with Elias Pettersson?

Elias Pettersson #40 of the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Elias Pettersson #40 of the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

Just what is going on with Vancouver Canucks forward Elias Pettersson?

We’re a couple of weeks into the 2020-21 NHL season now and it hasn’t been a great start to the year for Vancouver Canucks stud Elias Pettersson, who has been sluggish out of the gate and looks a shadow of his former self.

After recording 66 points in each of his first two seasons in the National Hockey League, earning two trips to the NHL All-Star Game as a result in addition to being crowned the winner of the 2018-19 Calder Memorial Trophy, Pettersson has struggled at the start of his third season in North America.

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Through eight games the stud center has just two points (1 G, 1 A) with a -2 rating, and he has more penalty minutes (4) than he does points, which is slightly worrying even this early in the season. The 22-year-old is averaging 18:16 of total ice time but his shooting percentage is currently way down at 5.6%, while he also has a below average CF% of 42.2%.

Again, it is a small sample size but the Vancouver Canucks will no doubt be concerned that the headline act of their young core has struggled to perform his usual magic eight games into 2020-21, and he was the spearhead of an offense that ranked No. 8 in the NHL in Goals For Per Game (3.25) in 2019-20, but their dynamic superstar has appeared to have lost his fastball in the early goings of this season.

Just what is going on with Elias Pettersson and the Vancouver Canucks?

It is hugely concerning for all within that organization, and the Canucks will be keeping everything crossed that Pettersson can figure things out and soon because, stuck in what is an ultra-competitive North Division, they are currently 3-5-0 and you can’t afford too slow a start in a shortened 56-game season, so the return to form of one of their most potent offensive weapons is key.

And the positive thing to remember is that Elias Pettersson hasn’t turned into a bad player overnight because, quite frankly, it doesn’t happen like that. After all, only 13 players have averaged 0.9 points per game or better in their first two NHL seasons, and the Swedish native is firmly in that number so we know this current bump in the road is only temporary.

Pettersson is one of the finest young players in the game right now and there’s a few hints to suggest as to why he only has two points in eight games. For starters, his shooting percentage is way down at 5.6% and he’s just not creating the opportunities for himself or for others that he has over the course of the past two years. Luck is also a huge part of life in the NHL and sometimes puck luck just isn’t on your side for an extended period of time, so maybe Pettersson just isn’t getting the bounces his way right now.

Elias Pettersson (40)
Vancouver Canucks forward Elias Pettersson (40). Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports /

Secondly, Pettersson’s zone time is way down this year and his overall production has also been significantly been diminished across the board. He’s taking more penalties, he’s getting hit more, the Canucks are bleeding chances with their prized asset on the ice and Pettersson just doesn’t seem to have the puck as much as he has done previously and, when he does, he’s not doing anything with it.

That creative spark that made Pettersson such an absolute joy to watch in his first two years in the NHL is gone, and the left shot just can’t seem to weave his usual magic on opponents with everything looking like a struggle. To put it simply, Pettersson’s mojo appears to be well and truly gone and the fact that he looks lost when he has the puck on his stick is perhaps more worrying than the actual lack of production itself.

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However, as we stated above, there is no doubt that Elias Pettersson is one of the best young two-way centers in the game and his ceiling remains incredibly high, so I would put a large amount of money (if I had it) on the fact that the electric talent will work this out and revert back to type, which is he’ll get back to tormenting NHL defenses and pulling off sublime and ridiculous moves that will leave our jaws firmly on the ground. However, how quickly he can pull himself out of this slump and return to normality will play a huge factor in whether or not the Vancouver Canucks are a legit postseason team this season, so they for sure need their face of the franchise to figure things out and quick.