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Pettersson, Henry play same game, Fischler says

Compares Canucks rookie's first NHL season to 1953-54 Calder Trophy winner with Rangers

by Stan Fischler / Special to

Legendary hockey reporter and analyst Stan Fischler will write a weekly scrapbook for this season. Fischler, known as "The Hockey Maven," will share his knowledge, humor and insight with readers each Wednesday.

Today, he compares Vancouver Canucks rookie center Elias Pettersson to Camille Henry, a forward who won the Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year with the New York Rangers during the 1950s:

Camille Henry of the 1953-54 New York Rangers and rookie Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks were headline grabbers in their first NHL season.

Henry, nicknamed "The Eel" because of his slippery style, won the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie 65 years ago. Pettersson's impressive talent and offensive production have made him a favorite to win the Calder this season.

Pettersson's assets include his exceptional vision and superior playmaking ability and a penchant for driving to the net, as well as the ability to score goals and create plays.

"The terrific thing about Elias is that he's just scratching the surface," Vancouver coach Travis Green said. "He's creating some kind of excitement not only with the Canucks but throughout the League."

Video: VAN@STL: Pettersson nets PPG to tie it late

That's what Henry did after signing with the Rangers in the fall of 1953. He scored against Chicago Blackhawks goalie Al Rollins in his NHL debut on Oct. 11, 1953, for his first of his 279 goals.

"Henry was a skinny kid," Rangers general manager Frank Boucher said of the 5-foot-9, 152-pound Quebec City native, "and, really, we never expected him to get close to scoring 20 goals [in his rookie season]."

But by the middle of March, "the Eel" had 20 goals. He finished his first NHL season with 24, second on the Rangers to Wally Hergesheimer's 27 and sixth in the NHL.

Pettersson's Calder Trophy credentials include leading the Canucks and topping all NHL rookies in goals (28), assists (38) and points (66). Just as Henry did with the Rangers, the 6-foot-2, 176-pound center far exceeded expectations.

"We didn't know what to expect from Elias at camp, but he's surprised us big-time," Green said. "His hockey sense is off the charts."

That was evident on Nov. 2 at Rogers Arena. The Canucks defeated the Colorado Avalanche 7-6 in overtime, with Pettersson scoring the tying goal with 36 seconds remaining in the third period before setting up Derrick Pouliot for the OT winner. He finished the night with two goals and three assists, becoming the youngest player in Canucks history to have five points in a game.

Henry's specialty was the power play. His most memorable game took place at Olympia Stadium in Detroit on March 13, 1954, when the Rangers defeated the eventual Cup-champion Red Wings 5-2. Henry might have cemented the Calder by scoring four of New York's five goals against future Hall of Fame goalie Terry Sawchuk. All four came on the power play.

"I could have had a fifth," Henry said, "but by that time I couldn't even skate; I was shaking so much. Still, my four goals cost Sawchuk a couple of thousand dollars (in awards money) because [Toronto Maple Leafs goalie] Harry Lumley beat him out for the Vezina and the First All-Star Team."

Pettersson may not cost any NHL goalie the Vezina or a vote for the First All-Star Team. But like Henry, he's a threat every time he's on the ice.

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