To mark the completion of the first quarter of the season, NHL.com is running its second installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week. Today, we look at the race for the Calder Trophy.
Elias Pettersson is playing like a veteran, not a rookie who turned 20 years old eight days ago.
Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green was almost speechless when asked what the center meant to them after Pettersson became the youngest player (19 years, 355 days) in Canucks history to score five points (two goals, three assists) in a regular-season game during a 7-6 overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 2.
"I don't know what word to use," Green said. "We knew he was supposed to be a pretty good player; he's been phenomenal."
Video: MTL@VAN: Pettersson roofs one-timer for PPG
A panel of 17 NHL.com writers voted for the winner of the Calder Trophy after the first quarter of the season, and the consensus was that Pettersson will be the first Sweden-born forward to be voted rookie of the year in the NHL since Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche in 2012. Pettersson received 85 points and all 17 first-place votes.
Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen was second with 45 points; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, was third with 27 points; New York Rangers center Brett Howden was fourth (22 points); and Ottawa Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk finished fifth (17 points).
Pettersson, who scored a goal and had an assist in his NHL debut Oct. 3, leads all rookies in goals (12), points (19) and shooting percentage (27.3 percent) among those having played at least 10 games. He is the fifth player after the NHL's inaugural season in 1917-18 and the first since 1992-93 to score at least 10 goals in his first 10 NHL games.
He is the third player in Canucks history with at least 11 goals through his first 16 games, joining Alexander Mogilny (15) and Greg Adams (14).
Pettersson was No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of international skaters and was given the highest grade possible for balance (skating) and playmaking (hockey sense) prior to being selected No. 5 in the 2017 NHL Draft by the Canucks.
"Elias was outstanding when playing junior hockey for Timra in Sweden (2015-17)," said Goran Stubb, NHL director of European scouting. "He was outstanding for Swedish Hockey League champion Vaxjo in his last season in Sweden (2017-18). He's always been a finesse-type player. He had all the skills and talent needed to become a star because he was a great skater, playmaker and passer.
"The only question we had entering the draft was his lack of physical strength, but that seems to be fixed too."
The physical aspect hasn't bothered Pettersson, who missed six games because of a concussion sustained on a hit from Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson on Oct. 13. Pettersson is averaging more than 18 minutes of ice time per game and leads the Canucks in minor penalties drawn (10).
"The NHL is a little more physical than the SHL, but I got used to it pretty quick," Pettersson said. "The physical play has been a little tough, but it hasn't been a big problem for me."
New York Rangers rookie forward Lias Andersson, who played with Pettersson on several Sweden national teams the past four seasons, knew of the talent but never envisioned such a fast start for Pettersson in his first season in North America.
"He's a very good player but I didn't expect him to have 11 goals already," Andersson said. "I think he's a little surprised too. I played center when we were on a line together and we competed hard against each other in practices. Elias is good on details, is so smart, and has great playmaking ability and a good shot.
"He's stronger than he looks, too; he can hold his own."
Green is thrilled with Pettersson's appetite for success.
"He's been great to coach and cares about the team, cares about little details that some young guys sometimes overlook," Green said. "He cares about winning and, for me, that's the number one thing. There are a lot of young guys who want to do well and well for themselves, but at the end of the day we want a team that really cares about winning and how we're going to do that. Elias has that in him."
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Elias Pettersson, Canucks, 85 points (17 first-place votes); Miro Heiskanen, Stars, 45 points; Rasmus Dahlin, Sabres, 27 points; Brett Howden, Rangers, 22 points; Brady Tkachuk, Senators, 17 points; Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Montreal Canadiens, 16 points; Henri Jokiharju, Chicago Blackhawks, 15 points; Colin White, Senators, 15 points; Dennis Cholowski, Detroit Red Wings, 7 points; Oskar Lindblom, Philadelphia Flyers, 6 points; Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes, 1 point; Maxime Lajoie, Senators, 1 point