The Vancouver Canucks traded their 14th captain in franchise history, Bo Horvat, to the New York Islanders on Monday. With their captaincy now vacant, Elias Pettersson emerges as one of the two best possible candidates on the team.
“There’s a lot of younger players, particularly Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes that have shown they’re capable of being leaders of this team,” Allvin said. “We’ll sit down as a staff and talk about it here over the next couple days.”
Although Hughes is a great candidate, Pettersson is the team’s best player and is labelled as the organization’s only untouchable piece. Additionally, he can follow in the footsteps of other great captains that have led the Canucks over the years.
Pettersson Proving to Be a Franchise Player
In the 2016-17 season, the Canucks finished 29th in the NHL standings. The Canucks held the second-best odds (12.1 percent) at winning the lottery but unfortunately dropped to fifth. Dropping to the fifth slot for the second season in a row, the organization seemed to have terrible luck in the draft lottery. However, they struck gold with the 2017 fifth overall pick.
Pettersson created hype after being drafted by dominating in his rookie season in Swedish Hockey League (SHL) with Vaxjo Lakers HC. He posted 24 goals and 56 points in 44 games, breaking Kent Nillson’s 42-year record for rookie scoring in the SHL. Pettersson lived up to the hype during his rookie season with the Canucks as he led the team in goals with 28 and points with 66 in 71 games. Additionally, his point total set the record for the most by a rookie in franchise history, surpassing Pavel Bure’s 60 points. He also led all rookies in all scoring categories, which resulted in him winning the 2018-19 Calder Trophy.
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Pettersson continued to impress in his sophomore season, scoring 27 goals and posting 66 points in 68 games. His 18 points in 17 games during the 2020 playoffs tied him for the team lead with J.T. Miller. Pettersson struggled in the 2020-21 season, as he started slow. He scored 10 goals and posted 21 points in 26 games, missing the second half of the season due to an upper-body injury. His slump continued into the start of the 2021-22 season until January 2022. In the final 43 games, he scored 21 and posted 51 points. As a result, he finished with a career-high in goals with 32 and points with 68. His hot finish led to a strong first half in 2022-23, as he has 21 goals and 58 points in 47 games. He is on pace for a career-high 36 goals and 99 points in 80 games.
The Swedish forward has faced adversity throughout his career and has proved his doubters wrong on multiple occasions. From being questioned as the right pick during the 2017 Draft to people wondering if he was too skinny to play in the NHL and to the last two seasons, some questioned if he was as great as he showed earlier in his career. He’s progressed into the impressive player the organization has expected him to become. By the end of his career, he could go down as the greatest player in franchise history.
Pettersson Labeled as an Untouchable
The Canucks are in the process of retooling their roster. Over the past few months, multiple names have become trade pieces for the organization. Horvat, Brock Boeser, Thatcher Demko and Conor Garland are a few names that received interest from other teams. Horvat was the first piece to fall, and more are likely on their way out. However, the Canucks have labelled one player as an untouchable.
“They have indicated that they have one untouchable and that is Pettersson,” Elliotte Friedman said. “Now you know what everybody’s going to start to say: What does that mean for Quinn Hughes? What I was told is that the Canucks have said it would take an absolutely mammoth offer (to acquire Hughes). This is not something they’re looking to do; it would take a mammoth offer for them to part ways with the tremendous young defenceman.”
Although it is highly unlikely the Canucks move Hughes, there is still a massive offer out there the club will accept in a trade for him. Meanwhile, the Canucks won’t be entertaining offers for Pettersson. However, both players are exactly what the franchise should build around moving forward, and they’ll both be leaders on the team for years to come.
Canucks History with Swedish Captains
Naming Pettersson as the 15th captain will make him the third Swedish captain in franchise history. The Canucks named Markus Naslund their 11th captain in the 2000-01 season. He served as captain until the end of his tenure with the team in 2008, leading them to the playoffs in five of those seven seasons. He scored 346 goals and posted 756 points in 884 games during his 12-year career with the organization, which resulted in him being the third Canuck to have his number retired.
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The second Swede to wear the C for the organization was Henrik Sedin, the 13th captain in franchise history. Henrik, along with his brother Daniel, played for the Canucks throughout his entire 17-year NHL Career. He was named the club’s captain before the 2010-11 season, leading the team to their third Stanley Cup Final. He remained captain until he retired in 2017-18. He scored 240 goals and is the franchise leader in all-time points with 1070 in 1330 games. Henrik and Daniel had their numbers retired during the 2019-20 season, becoming the fifth and sixth players to receive the honour. The Sedins were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a member of the 2022 Class. Both are a part of the Canucks’ player development department.
Pettersson could follow in the footsteps of Henrik and Naslund, becoming the team’s captain and having his number retired by the club. Naslund became the franchise leader in points before Henrik took over. Pettersson has the skillset to surpass both and set a new franchise record in points. If named captain, he could become the first player in the organization to lead the club to a Stanley Cup during his career.
Canucks Will Likely Wait to Name Next Captain
The Canucks have played 49 games this season and will likely wait until the off-season or next season to name their next captain. Pettersson has earned the honour of being the team’s next captain. He has proven doubters wrong throughout his career and can be one of the best players in team history. Additionally, the Canucks’ front office has labelled him as their only untouchable. He would be the third Swedish captain for the club, following Naslund and Henrik. Both players are arguably two of the club’s best captains, and Pettersson could become the third.
The Canucks have other players they could consider as candidates for the vacant captaincy. Hughes is a solid candidate behind Pettersson. The Canucks could consider Miller, but his on-ice antics with teammates show he doesn’t deserve to be named captain. Therefore, the Swede is the front-runner.