A poor showing at the World Junior Championships where he only registered 1 point in 6 games is probably the reason Elias Pettersson isn’t in contention for one of the top three spots in this draft. The second-ranked European skater by the NHL Central Scouting Service, Pettersson oozes potential but will need 2-3 years before he’s able to fully realize it.
Like every other pick in this Draft, there are inherent flaws with Pettersson’s game. And if you’re more a fan of getting a sure thing out of your top 10 draft pick, I can’t say that Pettersson would be your guy. But if you’re looking for a “swing for the fences” type player, I can’t think of anyone better.
Name: Elias Pettersson
Position: Center/Left Wing
Date of birth: November 12, 1998
Birthplace: Sundsvall, Sweden
Weight: 161 pounds
NHL comparable: Alexander Wennberg, Henrik Zetterberg
ISS Hockey: #16
McKeen’s Hockey: #7
Future Considerations: #9
NHL CSS: #2 (European skaters)
So, it’s clear that scouts are a little divided as to where Pettersson will be taken at the Draft. I’ve seen him going as high as #5 on some draft boards and yet on others falling out of the top-10 entirely. But regardless of where you have him going in the first round, there’s no denying that Pettersson is an incredibly talented player.
Pettersson is a creative playmaker who possesses superb on-ice vision. He’s got that rare, high end skill which can produce highlight reel plays but also has poise and patience with the puck, especially in one-on-one situations. What separates Pettersson from the pack, at least in my eyes, is his complete 200 foot game. At one end of the ice he’s able to make defenders look foolish with the puck on his stick, and in his own zone he’s fantastic at breaking up opposing offenses and getting into shooting lanes. When you see him play it’s very clear that he “thinks the game at a high level”.
Pettersson’s biggest limiting factors are both related to his weight. While he has decent top speed, he isn’t an explosive skater and will need to improve on this as he continues his development. And second, his balance on his skates, particularly when going up against heavier opponents along the boards, could use some improvement as well. Both are areas that should improve as he adds muscle (he’s already added at least 10 pounds since last year). Watching some of his play at the WJC, it wasn’t uncommon for him to be on the ice or get muscled away from the puck if he wasn’t out in open spaces.
Right now, he’s relying almost entirely on his stickwork, agility and puck skills to get the job done. I’d say he’s done pretty well for himself, but he could things to another level if he’s able to add more power to his game.
Credit: NHL Prospects YouTube
Credit: SEER Video
There’s a reason why Pettersson has drawn comparisons to fellow Swede (and Timrå product) Henrik Zetterberg. Pettersson’s a highly skilled, creative, intelligent player who has real potential to develop into a top-six forward. If we’re prioritizing the team’s positional needs in this draft, I think the Wings would be hard-pressed to find a better center around the 9th pick than Pettersson. He’s got all of the tools to become a special player for an NHL club and checks all of the boxes for the Wings in particular. If he’s available at 9, I’d be pretty disappointed if the Wings were to pass on him.