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Calder Trophy

Pettersson only scratched surface for Canucks in Calder Trophy season

Peers compare 20-year-old forward to Sedins, Forsberg

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Senior Director of Editorial

LAS VEGAS -- Elias Pettersson won the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year at the 2019 NHL Awards presented by Bridgestone on Wednesday, putting a final exclamation point on a magical season for the Vancouver Canucks forward.

"Sometimes I can't believe it happened," Pettersson said. "Me playing in NHL has always been a dream. Then I had a really good year. It's unreal to me. I'm really happy that all the hard work paid off."

The result was an NHL rookie-high 66 points (28 goals, 36 assists) in 77 games for Pettersson, 21 more than Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk, who finished second, and the most by a Vancouver rookie since Pavel Pure had 60 in 1992-93. The 20-year-old was the first rookie to lead the NHL in goals, assists and points since Artemi Panarin for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015-16.

 

[RELATED: NHL Awards results | Complete NHL Awards coverage]

 

The accolades and the accomplishments, capped by being voted as the top rookie in the NHL by members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, leave Pettersson dazed at times.

"When I got home (to Sweden), I watched the NHL on TV and it felt like I hadn't played (in the NHL)," he said. "It just felt like, 'Oh, have I really played in Madison Square Garden? Oh, have I played against those players and played real (well) against them? Sometimes, I still can't believe it."

In the Calder Trophy voting, Pettersson received 151 first-place votes from the 171 PHWA voters, earning 1,650 points. St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (18 first-place votes, 1,072 points) and Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin (one first-place vote, 661 points) finished second and third.

Video: Elias Pettersson presented with Calder Trophy

The scary part for the rest of the NHL is many of Pettersson's peers believe that he has only scratched the surface of his talent.

Countryman Victor Hedman was stunned by the first impression Pettersson made, mentioning Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin, who are Nos. 1 and 2 in points in Canucks history, as comparable players.

"His ability to change angles, his hockey IQ, like the other Swedes before him in Vancouver, he knows where everyone is," the Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman said. "His passes, his skating ability. He's just getting started as well.

"It's tough to come over at 18 or 19 years old and make the impact that he did this year; he was arguably one of the top players. He's a difference-maker on the ice."

Sweden-born New York Islanders goalie Robin Lehner went in a different direction, citing Pettersson's competitiveness.

"Tremendous skill, but he has that little edge to him that you don't see a lot in Swedish players," said Lehner, who won the Masterton Trophy for perseverance and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie. "He's got a grumpy style on the ice. His skill is top-notch, you can't talk enough about it. He obviously has a bright future in this league."

Sweden-born defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said Pettersson's edge harkens to another famous Swede: Hockey Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg, who had 885 points (249 goals, 636 assists) in 708 NHL games.

"When he is mad, he is a better player," the Arizona Coyotes captain said. "He will do whatever it takes to win. That's why he is so good."

And, as a defenseman, what do you do when Pettersson is on his game?

"Don't fall or don't do anything stupid so you look bad," Ekman-Larsson said, laughing. "You obviously know that he is a skill guy, and you're trying to be close to him, but not too close because then he is going to find somebody else out on the ice. He's got everything covered. He reads the ice so good."

Those compliments, and others, are humbling to Pettersson, who does not consider himself a star.

"I see myself as a kid playing hockey and living my dream here in North America," he said. "I'm just excited for the future, and I just want to continue to grow as a player."

Opponents shudder to think what that growth could bring.

"This is his first year and he is going to get better," said Ekman-Larsson, who played with Pettersson for Sweden at the 2019 IIHF World Championship. "His shot is going to get better, his skating will get better. He's still got that baby face a little bit, and he's going to get older and he's going to get stronger and better at everything.

"It'll be interesting to see where he will be at. There is no ceiling."

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