Elias Pettersson wants nothing to do with Jonathan Dahlen as a teammate off the ice but he's happy to have his close friend as a roommate and lined up next to him as the Vancouver Canucks prospects kicked off their season at the Young Stars Classic.
Pettersson and Dahlen quickly rekindled the chemistry that saw them dominate Sweden's second-division Allsvenskan league two years ago when the Canucks opened with an 8-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets prospects on Friday night. The Swedish forwards combined for six points, with Pettersson scoring twice on first assists from Dahlen, and making a saucer stretch pass to send Dahlen in alone for a breakaway goal. But Dahlen said Pettersson is a little less excited about lining up with him when they play Fortnite.
"He doesn't want to play dual with me because he thinks I am too bad," Dahlen said, laughing.
There are no such reservations on the ice, where Pettersson and Dahlen combined for 85 points as linemates two seasons ago with Timra IK, building on chemistry that started with their first shift after Pettersson was called up from under-18 to join Dahlen's under-20 team as a spare forward in 2014-15. An injury opened a spot on the top line with Dahlen.
"We told the coach to put Elias in there and his first shift he had an assist to me," said Dahlen, who was picked in the second round (No. 42) of the 2016 NHL Draft by the Ottawa Senators and acquired by the Canucks for Alexandre Burrows just ahead of the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline. "It was really nice and then he had something like 13 points in six games."
Pettersson has continued to put up impressive numbers ever since. Picked fifth in the 2017 Draft after 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists) alongside Dahlen in 2016-17, Pettersson was even better after moving up to the Swedish Hockey League with Vaxjo HC last season.
The 19-year-old led the SHL in scoring with 56 points (24 goals, 32 assists) in 44 games, passing Kent Nilsson (53 points) for the most points by a junior-aged player in SHL after climbing a list that included Daniel Sedin (45 points), Henrik Sedin (47 points), and Peter Forsberg (48 points). Pettersson was most valuable player in the regular season and the playoffs, where he helped Vaxjo win the SHL championship with 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) in 19 playoff games.
Video: Pettersson Scores two goals in his Young Stars Debut
He arrived in Penticton as the best Canucks prospect since Daniel and Henrik Sedin, but Pettersson sounded more impressed with the season Dahlen just had.
"I may have broken some records but I didn't take a team up," Pettersson said.
Dahlen, 20, passed on opportunities to move up to the SHL, including the possibility of playing with Pettersson again, to lead Timra back to the SHL. He had 44 points (23 goals, 21 assists) in 44 games in the regular season, and added 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 10 playoff games to help Timra IK earn a promotion back to the SHL, finishing as the top forward and MVP in the Allsvenskan before recording three points in six games with the Utica Comets in the American Hockey League at the end of the season.
"It meant a lot more to me to go up with Timra then it would have to play in the top league, and I grew as a leader and a human and also as a player a lot, took a lot of responsibility," Dahlen said. "I think I gained a lot more than if I would have gone to the top league."
Video: Dahlen Scores Five Hole on Berdin at Young Stars
Dahlen was excited at the chance to play with Pettersson again in Penticton, but both players also saw value in succeeding separately last season.
"It can be good for us to see we can play really good apart from each other but it's really great we have each other here," Dahlen said. "It feels very nice to have a close buddy here."
"Absolutely, we both dream to play in the NHL and we're not there yet so it's still a dream, but to be in the same organization is special," Pettersson said. "It's a comfort."
Staying together to start the season won't be easy. While Pettersson is penciled into a top-6 role with power play time in Vancouver, Dahlen is up against a deep list of NHL-experienced wingers who require waivers to be sent to the AHL. But if they continue to show off chemistry some compared to the recently retried Sedins, anything is possible.
"Some of you guys say we are the new Sedins but we are not there yet," Pettersson said. "We don't have that chemistry yet but if we get there one day we will be more than happy."