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European prospects update

...four players ripping it up early on.

by Ryan Biech @ryanbiech / Canucks freelance writer

The Canucks have quite a few of their top prospects playing in Europe this season. It's allowed them to have large roles for some of the best teams in their respective leagues. With the some of the seasons passing the quarter point of their year, it gives us a chance to check in on four of the Canucks top prospects in Sweden and Finland.

Elias Pettersson (Vaxjo Lakers - SHL) 

12 GP - 5G - 9A - 14PT 

The team's top pick from the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Elias Pettersson has been quietly going about his business in the SHL. Known for his hockey IQ and playmaking abilities, Pettersson has points in seven of the eleven games. He uses his teammates effectively and has recently shown that he can put the puck in the net himself with four goals in the last four games. 

Tweet from @Canucks: #Canucks prospect @_EPettersson with a hattrick ������ & two assists���� today! Make that 14 points in 12 SHL games. �� pic.twitter.com/G6d5BGN7an

Pettersson also has two goals and three assists in five Champions Hockey League games this year. The CHL is a tournament that pits the best teams from all over Europe in a tournament that is playing in conjunction with the SHL season. Vaxjo did qualify for the CHL playoff rounds and will play Red Bull Salzburg on October 31st. 

There have been some suggestions that Pettersson's production is lackluster, but that isn't true at all. He is currently first in the SHL in points by players who are under 20, with double the amount of the second place player, Tim Soderlund.

Pettersson had a remarkable game yesterday putting up three goals and two assists in Vaxjo's 7-3 win over Frolunda.

His play is encouraging and his points are reflective of that. There is a lot of excitement to had about the recent 5th overall pick. It's clear that he is getting more confident with each passing game. 

Pettersson has been named to Sweden's World Junior training camp roster and is expected to be a large part of the Swedish offence this year in Buffalo.  

Jonathan Dahlen (Timra IK - Allsvenskan) 

5 GP - 3G - 4A - 7PT 

Jonathan Dahlen had a later start to his season due to being diagnosed with mononucleosis prior to the Young Stars Tournament. He was unable to participate in the event in Penticton and then missed the entirety of the main training camp. He did appear in two pre-season games for the Utica Comets, but appeared to just be a step behind. Which is common when recovering from mono. 

Given that, the best course of action for the 2016 2nd round pick was determined to go back to Sweden for the foreseeable future and get up to speed. He has done that and quickly. In five games with Timra IK of the Allsvenskan, Dahlen has two goals and two assists. He has been the most noticeable player for Timra in the last couple of games. Dahlen has three goals and two assists in his last two contests.  

It's clear that he is getting his feet back under him and his skills are quickly shining through. He regularly controls the puck with ease, drawing his opponent with him to create space for his teammates. Dahlen dominated the Allsvenskan last season and appears to be getting back to that dominance. 

It's not known what the exact plan is for Dahlen for the rest of the season, but if his first five games of the season are any indication, he is going to put up some points wherever he is. 

Petrus Palmu (TPS Turku - SM Liiga) 

18 GP - 6G - 6A - 12PT 

The 2017 6th round pick has been making a name for himself in Finland's top league. The diminutive winger has been playing regularly on the second line and powerplay for TPS Turku and has been making the most of it. Palmu has a knack for being in the right spot and being patient with the puck. On a couple of goals this season, he wouldn't rush his shot but rather pull the goalie out and then tuck it into an empty net. 

Although he displays that patience regularly, Palmu has been averaging 4.0 shots per game - it's clear that Palmu isn't afraid to get the puck to the net as much as possible. The old adage of 'get pucks to the net and good things happen' rings true for the 20-year-old winger.  

TPS failed to qualify for the Champions Hockey League playoffs but Palmu made the most of his time with two goals in two games. He missed a couple of their games due to suffering a knee injury in SM Liiga pre-season action. 

With the later picks in the entry draft, you can take risks on players with high skill and hope they overcome what holds them back as they develop. Palmu is a great example of this. Passed over in the two previous drafts due to only being 5'7", the Canucks are banking that his skill level and drive will push him to the next level. So far, the Canucks look like they made a decent bet on Palmu. 

Olli Juolevi TPS Turku - SM Liiga) 

6 GP - 2G - 2A - 4PT 

The Canucks 5th overall selection from the 2016 NHL Entry Draft has also made his way to TPS Turku and has started to find get his legs under him. Olli Juolevi was expected to go back to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League but the organization felt that having Juolevi play against men in Europe was best for his long term development. 

They were able to work out having Juolevi play for TPS - which meant that he joined fellow prospect Petrus Palmu and former Canucks defenceman Sami Salo, who is an assistant coach there. It's an almost perfect setup to allow the Finnish defenceman to develop his game. 

Juolevi had a bit of a slow start, as it was clear that he had a little rust after not playing in any game action for a month. But he has gotten his legs under him quickly. Juolevi has been doing what he does best, making those smart and high percentage plays that help to limit his opponent's chances and transition the puck out of his own zone. 

Recently, Juolevi has received some powerplay time and has made the most of it, scoring his first professional goal with the man advantage on Tuesday. He ended that game with one goal and two assists in 20:54 of ice time. He followed that up with the overtime game winner in yesterday's game. 

Tweet from @Canucks: #Canucks prospect @OlliJuolevi also had a big game today, scoring an OT winner! ���� pic.twitter.com/FcGLLDgpMC

The young defenceman is expected to be a large part of Finland's World Junior roster.

*****   

It's obviously still early in the season but the early returns on these four players have been exciting. All four have been noticeable for their teams and are playing big minutes in some of the top teams in Europe. 

Combine these players with the Utica Comets good start and some of the other prospects in the NCAA and CHL making waves and the organization has quite a few players to keep an eye on over the next couple of years.

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