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Pettersson doesn't believe he's reached potential yet with Canucks

Forward scored 66 points in each of first two seasons, won Calder Trophy as top rookie in 2019

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

Elias Pettersson tied his NHL career high in points this season, but the Vancouver Canucks forward said he has yet to reach his potential.

"My second season I am very happy with, but I still think, or I know, I can play better," Pettersson said Thursday. "First season (2018-19) was very good. I think the end of the last 20-30 games my first season wasn't that good, but it was a good learning point for me."

Pettersson led first-year players in goals (28), assists (38) and points (66) in 2018-19 and won the Calder Trophy voted as the NHL rookie of the year. He was second on the Canucks with 66 points (27 goals, 39 assists) in 68 games when this season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus (forward J.T. Miller led Vancouver with 72 points (27 goals, 45 assists)).

"Maturing in the game, like never losing puck battles, never lose (the puck) if I'm going to try and dangle someone," Pettersson said. "Small areas, small details that I can work on to become better."

Pettersson said he found chemistry with forward Tyler Toffoli, who was traded to the Canucks by the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 17. The two combined for 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in 10 games.

"From the first game we played together, things clicked," Pettersson said. "First of all, he's a good player, he's a goal-scorer, he makes plays. So it wasn't hard at all to understand how he plays. It's been great. He's been so good for us."

The Canucks skated Tuesday for the first time in the NHL Return to Play Plan. Phase 2, which began June 8, allowed for voluntary workouts on and off the ice in small groups at team facilities. In addition to Pettersson, notable Canucks who participated in one of two sessions were forward Brock Boeser and defensemen Quinn Hughes, Christopher Tanev and Troy Stecher.

Video: CBJ@VAN: Pettersson goes five-hole for fantastic goal

The Canucks were 36-27-6 (.565 points percentage) will enter the Stanley Cup Qualifiers as the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. They will play the No. 10 seed, the Minnesota Wild (35-27-7, .558), in one of eight best-of-5 series, with the winner advancing to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the loser having a chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery.

"It's fun. I missed it, especially the way we ended the season," said Pettersson, who said he did not skate when he was in Sweden during the pause. "We were making a playoff push but now we are back, seeing our teammates and joking around. I enjoy hanging with them again. I feel good. Just like when you're not on the ice every day, you lose timing, you lose your conditioning in your legs, but it will come back very soon."

Provided health and safety conditions allow, and the NHL and NHL Players' Association reach an agreement on Phases 3 and 4 of the Return to Play Plan, training camps will begin July 10. A start date for the qualifiers and hub cities -- one for the 12 participating Western Conference teams, one for the 12 teams from the East -- have not been determined.

"It's a risk, but we're following our instructions to hopefully go back and play," Pettersson said. "That's why we are all here. We want to play. We want to continue the season and hopefully we're able to follow all the instructions and phases to go back to playing.

"Of course, it's strange. I'm in Vancouver staying at a hotel. You just walk to the rink and back to the hotel, so it's strange, but I knew this would happen when I left Sweden. It's all good."

Pettersson also said he is hoping he and Hughes can do something that hasn't happened in more than 50 years; Pettersson won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie in 2018-19 and Hughes, who led rookies with 53 points (eight goals, 45 assists), could potentially win the award this season. No team has had consecutive players win the Calder since Bobby Orr and Derek Sanderson with the Boston Bruins in 1966-67 and 1967-68.

"Quinn wants to win it," Pettersson said. "(Colorado Avalanche defenseman) Cale Makar is a really good player too, but I don't think Quinn has put too much pressure on winning the Calder Trophy. He for sure has a really good chance of winning it and hopefully he wins it. I would be very proud of him."

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