It's not a story that the GM and coach of the Växjö Lakers want Elias Pettersson to return to the SHL for one more season. The report didn’t really change anything: it’s always been a possibility that Pettersson could play another season in the SHL and delay coming over to the NHL.
It’s far more likely that Pettersson is in the Canucks lineup on opening night of the 2018-19 season. “I want to play in the NHL as quick as possible,” said Elias Pettersson at the World Hockey Championships, then added, “but I want to be ready to be a good player there.”
“I don't want to just make it to the NHL and play in a couple games,” he said. “I want to be a player that makes an impact and helps my team win every night. Is that this year? I don't know. We'll see.”
With his skill level, Pettersson should absolutely be able to make an impact right away, whether it’s on the right wing on the second line and first power play unit, or apprenticing at centre on the third line (and also on the first power play unit). There’s a void of talent with the Sedins retired, leaving plenty of opportunity for Pettersson to step in.
Ultimately it comes down to Pettersson and the Canucks and what they decide is best. What the GM and coach of the Lakers think doesn’t enter into the equation. But while it’s not really a story that the Växjö Lakers want Pettersson to stay, it can be an interesting conversation starter. What would be the pros and cons of Pettersson returning to the SHL?
I’ll answer that in a feature I like to call “Pros and Cons.”
Pro: Pettersson could use one more SHL season to transition from right wing, where he played almost all of last season, to centre, where the Canucks want him to play in the NHL.
Con: Pettersson doesn’t just need to transition to playing centre; he needs to transition to playing centre on the smaller ice surface in the NHL. Getting him on North American ice sooner rather than later seems like a priority.
Pro: Pettersson is still just 19 years old and could use another season at home in Sweden. It would be easier to transition to the NHL at 20.
Con: Jumping to the NHL at 19 would be challenging, but Pettersson has never been one to shy away from a challenge. Besides, plenty of other players have made the jump from Sweden to the NHL at a young age.
Pro: Ah, but several great Swedish players spent an extra year or two in Sweden as well. Peter Forsberg, for example, played three full seasons in the SHL after he was drafted.
Con: Judging from his performance in the SHL, Forsberg could have gone to the NHL a lot sooner than he did and been immediately successful. In addition, players in this era tend to be ready for the NHL at a much younger age.
Pro: According to Henrik Evertsson, the GM of the Lakers, a season of being the “main guy” in the SHL would give Pettersson some practice with the pressures of being a franchise player for the Canucks.
Con: Pettersson has already spent a season as the “main guy” in the SHL. He just led the league in scoring in both the regular season and the playoffs, winning multiple awards, and winning the SHL championship in a sweep. The next best scorer on his team had 15 fewer points in 8 more games. How was he not the “main guy”?
Pro: The Canucks need to keep Pettersson away from the toxic losing situation in Vancouver as long as possible. Let him play in the SHL, where he’s likely to experience a lot more winning.
Con: Growth tends to come via failure rather than success. The challenge of playing for a rebuilding team like the Canucks will ultimately refine him into a better player. Besides, the Canucks can’t get better without players like Pettersson joining the roster.
Pro: At only 19, Pettersson has plenty more to learn.
Con: His head coach in Sweden, Sam Hallam, said when Pettersson broke Kent Nilsson’s junior record, “We have not taught Elias anything about the game of hockey. He is teaching us.”
Con: Canucks fans want to see Pettersson in Vancouver as quickly as possible.
Pro: Learning to experience and tolerate the pain of delayed gratification has several important psychological benefits. It can make you a healthier and more successful person.
Con: How much longer can gratification be delayed? A full season of seeing Pettersson excel in the SHL has been fun for Canucks fans, but another one might be torture.
Con: Brock Boeser’s rookie campaign was one of the lone bright spots of the 2017-18 season; another rookie battling for the Calder Trophy would likely be one of the few positive stories next season as well.
Pro: The expectations and pressure to be a dominant rookie-of-the-year-caliber player in Vancouver are going to be too high. Another year of maturity to deal with that pressure isn’t a terrible idea.
Con: If Pettersson doesn’t play for the Canucks next season, they’re going to be terrible.
Pro: One more terrible season means one more high draft pick. Without Pettersson, the Canucks could find themselves in a position to draft prospective first-overall pick in 2019, Jack Hughes, who projects as a franchise centre.
Con: If Pettersson leaves the SHL, he'll finally rid himself of a hockey jersey plastered with approximately twenty ads.
Pro: ...huh. I have no counter to that. I think that settles it: Pettersson needs to play in the NHL next season.