The Paper Feature is a weekly column and sidebars that appears in the print edition of the Vancouver Courier newspaper. Track it down!
For the second season in a row, the Canucks have a superstar rookie leading the way and giving the fans hope for the future. Last season, it was Brock Boeser; this season, it’s Elias Pettersson. And, just like Boeser last season, Pettersson is on-pace for the best rookie season in Canucks history.
Boeser’s rookie campaign was unfortunately derailed by a season-ending back injury that prevented him from fulfilling his record-breaking potential, but he still tied the Canucks’ rookie record for power play goals with 10 and set a new record for power play points with 23.
The two players have actually had a very similar start to the season. Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Pettersson had 15 goals and 30 points in 26 games. At the same point last season, Boeser had 16 goals and 28 points in 28 games and was likewise leading the NHL in the rookie scoring race.
Pettersson is on pace to break at least six Canucks rookie records. He already has the record for most points in a game by a Canucks rookie with five, which he’s already done twice this season, but he’s also on pace for the most goals, assists, points, power play goals, power play points, and game-winning goals.
The record for most goals is, unsurprisingly, held by Pavel Bure, who scored 34 goals in just 65 games back in 1991-92. Bure did the bulk of his scoring in the back half of the season, scoring a remarkable 28 goals in his final 38 games.
Since Pettersson missed six games with a concussion, he’ll play a maximum of 76 games this season, giving him a goal-scoring pace of 45 goals. Even if he was limited to 65 games like Bure, however, he would still be on pace to break Bure’s record: at his current pace he’ll score 39 goals in 65 games.
There’s an important caveat to that statistic: Pettersson’s 28.1% shooting percentage is extremely high — only Edmonton’s Alex Chiasson has a higher shooting percentage among players with at least 30 shots — and it seems unlikely he’ll be able to sustain it. Even if his shooting percentage regresses, however, he still has an excellent chance of breaking Bure’s record.
The record for most assists by a Canucks rookie has stood for the entire history of the franchise. In the Canucks’ inaugural season, rookie defenceman Dale Tallon (current general manager for the Florida Panthers) tallied 42 assists and the record has stood ever since.
Pettersson, however, is on-pace for 45 assists this season, and his playmaking has just caught up to his goal-scoring. His 45-goal, 45-assist pace means he’s also set to shatter the Canucks’ rookie record of 60 points in a season, held by Bure and Ivan Hlinka.
Then there’s the power play records. Boeser tied Daniel Sedin, Trevor Linden, and Rick Blight with 10 power play goals and set a new power play points record with 23 points. Pettersson is on-pace for 11 power play goals and 25 power play points, and that’s on a power play that has largely struggled this season. If the Canucks can sort out their issues with the man advantage, Pettersson should easily break those records.
Finally, there’s one more record that he’s almost tied already: game-winning goals. The rookie record for the Canucks is six game-winning goals, held by Bure. Pettersson already has four. He needs just three more to break Bure’s record; he’s on pace for 11 total.
There are more rookie records that Pettersson is likely to set, like even-strength goals and points. There are a few that he might break, like Dixon Ward’s +34 plus/minus. And there are other that he won’t touch, like Henrik Sedin’s 450 faceoff wins as a rookie. What is clear is that we are seeing one of the greatest performances by a Canucks rookie in franchise history; it’s a most extraordinary privilege to be able to say that two seasons in a row.
Stick-taps and Glove-drops
I’m dropping the gloves with the St. Louis Blues, who were apparently completely broken by their 6-1 loss to the Canucks. Vladimir Tarasenko flat-out apologized to their fans after the game, then frustrations boiled over in the following practice when Robert Bortuzzo and Zach Sanford dropped the gloves with each other and threw a few haymakers.
A tap of the stick to Sven Baertschi, who has returned to practice with the Canucks, albeit in a non-contact jersey, for the first time since suffering a concussion on October 24th.
8 - Canucks prospect defenceman Jett Woo is having a stellar post-draft season in the WHL. He’s currently on an eight-game point streak, with 13 points in those eight games.
10 - Woo’s fellow prospect defenceman Quinn Hughes just came off a streak of his own. Hughes had 14 points in a recent 10-game streak and currently leads the University of Michigan in scoring.