Vancouver Canucks GM, Jim Benning raised some curious eyebrows at the 2017 trade deadline when he traded away long-time Canuck, Alex Burrows to the Ottawa Senators in return for 19-year-old Jonathan Dahlen.
The deal looked good on paper for both parties but Benning’s true motive didn’t come into the light until the 2017 NHL entry draft when the Canucks elected to pick Elias Pettersson fifth overall. Pettersson just so happens to be Dahlen’s linemate and roommate with the Timra IK of the Allsvenskan in Sweden.
Benning’s work was then compared to that of the brilliant work by former GM, Brian Burke at the 1999 NHL entry draft when he miraculously managed to acquire both, Daniel and Henrik Sedin in what has come to be known as one of the greatest instances of deal-making in NHL history.
Standing at only 5’11” and 176 lbs, Dahlen’s size is a bit of a concern but what he lacks in size, he makes up for with intelligence and hockey sense. As he fills out his frame, he will adapt to the speed of the NHL and likely become a solid top-six fixture.
Dahlen has been compared to a few players but most notably to Justin Williams of the Washington Capitals and even his father, Ulf who played 966 NHL games and found twine 301 times.
He has a knack for being in the right area and knows exactly what to do when the biscuit finds his stick. Last season, Dahlen finished first in team scoring for the Timra IK with 25 goals and 19 helpers in 45 games and dominated the league with his best friend, Pettersson displaying a level of chemistry that is rare in high-level hockey.
When Benning selected Pettersson over Cody Glass and Casey Mittelstadt at the 2017 Draft, there was skepticism and concern. Certainly, Glass was the reliable pick but Pettersson is one of those wildcard players that could turn out to be incredible.
Much like his counterpart, Dahlen, Pettersson’s size is also a slight concern as he stands at a lanky 6’0″ and 165 lbs. However, he understands his disadvantage and knows he will have to spend a considerable amount of time in the weight room over the next couple of years in order to earn a full-time roster spot.
Pettersson is incredibly skilled with the puck in tight and is also a great, agile skater that makes him difficult to tie up. He is primarily known as a playmaking center with a great hockey IQ and almost always manages to find the score sheet. In 43 games last season with the Timra IK, he tallied 19 goals and 22 assists, good for second in team scoring.
Dahlen and Pettersson’s chemistry is truly something to marvel at, just ask their peers in the Allsvenskan. Their ability to play off the rush and also establish zone time with a cycle makes them very dynamic and unpredictable.
As both are Swedish and have great chemistry, they have often been compared to the aforementioned Canucks legends, the Sedin twins. The Sedins are incredible but at this point in their careers, their cycle game is predictable. Ultimately, what I believe separates these two duos is speed. Dahlen and Pettersson play a much quicker style of hockey and play off the rush way more than the twins.
Dahlen and Pettersson have a healthy amount of development ahead before they can hold down spots on the Canucks’ first or second line but patience is a virtue Canucks management will need to have as these two reach their full potential.