There was only one that Elias Pettersson’s perfect Swedish season could end: with him decked out in gold body paint.
Several Swedish hockey traditions revolve around gold. The SHL MVP is the Guldhjälmen or Golden Helmet. The Swedish hockey player of the year, won by both Sedins when they won the Art Ross, is the Guldpucken or Golden Puck. The winners of the Swedish Hockey League championship all get golden helmets to commemorate the win, which puts to shame the lame t-shirts and baseball hats that the winners of the Stanley Cup receive.
Pettersson got to don one of those golden helmets when he led the Växjö Lakers to their second SHL championship, but he took things a step further. Not satisfied with a gilded helmet, he gilded himself.
He deserves the golden moment: Elias Pettersson was dominant in the SHL playoffs, setting a new record for points from a junior in the process.
The Lakers swept Skelleftea in the finals and it wasn’t even close, winning the four games by scores of 7-0, 4-0, 4-1, and 5-0. Pettersson was unstoppable, scoring six goals and 10 points in those four games, bringing him up to 10 goals and 19 points in 13 playoff games, leading all scorers by five points in the postseason.
His 19 points passed both Daniel and Henrik Sedin, as well as Axel Holmstrom, for the most points in a single playoffs by an under-20 player. Accordingly, Pettersson was named the winner of the Stefan Liv Memorial Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.
It’s an incredible accomplishment for any player, let alone a 19-year-old. Why not celebrate with some gold body paint?
He’s not the first player to do so. Martin Thörnberg of HV71 got gilded, beard and all, when his team won the SHL championship last year.
Pettersson was particularly unbelievable in games three and four of the series, scoring two goals in each game.
For his first goal in game three, Pettersson roofed a pass from Robert Rosen, who finished second in playoff scoring. Not content to just tap in the pass, Pettersson puts it just under the bar, a good sign for his ability to continue to score when he reaches the NHL.
He finished off with an empty net goal that somehow still managed to look pretty. Pettersson out-raced his check, then toe-dragged the puck from below the red line to the front of the net to score.
Lakers head coach Sam Hallam reportedly said, when asked about Pettersson beating his check to the puck on the empty net goal, “If you are young and weigh...not much at all, then you should out skate anyone!” He then laughed, making it clear the jab was all in good fun.
Pettersson opened the scoring in game four with a real beauty. After Peter Andersson broke up a Skelleftea rush in the neutral zone, Pettersson swooped in behind defenceman Fredrik Lindgren, lifted his stick, and moved in alone on former Calgary Flames goaltender Joni Ortio. His move on Ortio should look familiar to Canucks fans who have watched a lot of Pettersson highlights, and it completely undresses Ortio.
Just a minute-and-a-half later, Pettersson made it 2-0, again slipping in behind the Skelleftea defence to go in 1-on-1 with Ortio. This time, Pettersson slid the puck five-hole, catching Ortio off-guard.
What’s most encouraging about Pettersson’s scoring is that he puts the puck in the net in so many different ways: just under the bar from in front, undressing a goaltender on a breakaway, snapping a shot five-hole, drilling a one-timer top corner, or wiring a wrist shot past a blocker. To go with that goal-scoring, Pettersson is a superb playmaker to boot and is also regarded as a great two-way player.
At 19, Pettersson just ran roughshod over the third-best hockey league in the world. It’s impossible to avoid getting overhyped about this teenager when he keeps dominating like this. And it’s not just his play on the ice, but his overall attitude. Everyone that talks about Pettersson has nothing but positive things to say about him.
After game three, Patrik Bexall of Canadiens blog Eyes on the Prize spoke to Sam Hallam about Pettersson.
“Everyone thinks that we are tired about speaking about Elias Pettersson, but we aren’t,” said Hallam. “He is a fantastic kid, and displays his best hockey when there is the most to play for. He inspires our whole team [with his attitude]. It is also great to see him shoulder that responsibility.”
“It is a big challenge for him to recharge for the next game with games every other day, and it is tough playoff games, too,” he continued. “But, as in today’s game, even if he doesn’t start out in a good way, he will identify and find solutions to participate in the game on his own terms. It is Elias that screens the goalie on the first goal. He scores the second, and adds an empty-net goal too.”
Pettersson is unlikely to make his way over to North America to play for the Utica Comets this year — after making the mistake of leaving him off the Olympic roster, he’s likely to play for Team Sweden in the World Championships — but there is a clear path to the Canucks lineup for Pettersson next season.