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World Championship

Canucks prospect impressing at World Championship

Pettersson could be in Vancouver next season after dominating in Sweden

by Aaron Vickers / NHL.com Correspondent

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- There wasn't much Vancouver Canucks prospect Elias Pettersson didn't accomplish with the Vaxjo Lakers of the Swedish Hockey League this season.

His accomplishments could land the 19-year-old forward in the NHL as soon as next season.

Pettersson is not worried about that just yet.

 

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"I haven't thought about that in that way," said Pettersson, who is representing Sweden at the 2018 IIHF World Championship.

"I've always wanted to play in the NHL. Back when I got drafted, I knew I was one step closer to the NHL. To be drafted by Vancouver was fantastic. It's a dream come true. I've been looking forward and hoping to play in the NHL in Vancouver."

Petterson, the No. 5 selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, was named most valuable player as voted by the league, forward of the year, and rookie of the year after he led the SHL with 56 points (24 goals, 32 assists) in 44 games, and led the league with a plus-27. He also set a scoring record for a junior-aged player in the league.

Pettersson added 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) in 13 games to help Vaxjo win the Le Mat Trophy as Swedish champions. Pettersson was awarded the Stefan Liv Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs. Again, he set a playoff scoring record for junior-aged players.

"It's a season I couldn't have imagined by myself," said Pettersson, who also had seven points (five goals, two assists) to help Sweden to silver at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. "Going into the season I knew I could do well in the SHL, but doing this well, I never could've dreamed of. Of course, I'm very happy with the season. It couldn't have been more perfect."

His buzz reached North America.

"You read it in Swedish media and newspapers and all that, and you can also tell who's coming up in the draft rankings. You can see the next big shot," said Calgary Flames forward Mikael Backlund, Pettersson's linemate at the World Championship. "I had just seen highlights and there was lots of talk about him in Swedish media.

"I met him last week in Stockholm. Right off the hop you can tell he's very smart with the puck, very skilled, very offensively talented. But he's responsible defensively, too. He works really hard … all over the ice he works really hard. But his offensive talent is outstanding."

It has come together fast for Pettersson.

"My main focus is to always get better every day," he said. "That I have developed quickly this season, I'm very happy about it, but I'm not taking anything for granted. I still have to work hard to become a better player."

That further development could come in Vancouver, where Pettersson would be joining an emerging young cast with the Canucks. Rookie forward Brock Boeser, 21, was nominated for the Calder Trophy after leading Vancouver with 29 goals. He also tied Daniel Sedin for the team lead in points at 55. Bo Horvat, 23, scored a career-high 22 goals.

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Adam Gaudette, who led the NCAA in scoring with 60 points (30 goals, 30 assists) in 38 games for Northeastern and won the Hobey Baker Award as the top men's player in college hockey, signed his entry-level contract with the Canucks on March 26.

The fresh faces come as the organization is losing two of its most familiar; Henrik and Daniel Sedin retired together in April after 17 seasons in Vancouver.

Canucks goaltender Anders Nilsson said it'd be a fitting time for Pettersson to step in.

"We lost two Swedes now, so we have to fill in the gap a little bit, bring in some new Swedes for sure," Nilsson said. "I think Vancouver is in a bit of a transition right now with new faces. Now would be a good time for him to come in and grow with the organization and grow within the league, and take it step by step."

Nilsson expects it could happen this fall.  

"Obviously he had a tremendous season back home in Sweden," Nilsson said. "His stats kind of speak for themselves. He put up a new record for most points by a junior player, both in the regular season and in the playoffs. He's an unbelievable player. Huge talent, obviously, with a really good shot. He has some good hockey sense, too, hockey vision. He can make plays. He's going to be a really good player in the NHL one day, I'm sure of that.

"In my eyes he's ready to play in the NHL next season. We'll see what his plans are, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's not in training camp in September."

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