Canucks fans have been waiting for this day since almost a year ago, when Vancouver drafted Elias Pettersson with the fifth overall draft pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Today, after tearing up the Swedish Elite League, Pettersson signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Vancouver Canucks, indicating that he will play in North America this coming season.
It’s not yet known exactly where Petersson will play, however.
It could be down in Utica of the American Hockey League, where he’d likely get to play with former linemate and countryman Jonathan Dahlen. A season down in the AHL might do some good for Pettersson, as it would ready him for the North American game and allow him to become comfortable in the culture without the immense pressure he’s sure to face in the NHL.
Then again, the Canucks are burning a year of his entry-level eligibility, and you have to think the big club is going to want him playing in front of paying fans at Rogers Arena.
The natural centre is likely to start at the wing in Vancouver, and we’re betting that’s where he ends up this year.
Look for the Canucks to acquire a veteran centre on the cheap for whom Pettersson can play with and learn from. It’s hard to see the Canucks putting all their eggs in one basket by lining Pettersson up with Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat on the first unit, and there’s a massive hole down the middle with the retirement of Henrik Sedin.
It’s too bad really, because the youngster would have been a perfect fit with the Sedins. And it’s not like Travis Green is going to throw him out there with Brandon Sutter.
So it’ll likely be someone like Riley Nash or Tyler Bozak (or maybe Jason Spezza), depending on whether the Canucks can get one of those players to agree to a favourable contract on a rebuilding team.
Bank on the Canucks giving Pettersson every chance to make the team out of training camp. There are open spots on the roster, especially in the top six, and Pettersson’s speed and skill would be a welcome addition.
There are some concerns about a player of Pettersson's slender frame being able to play in the NHL (plus an injured left hand that means he won't be able to practice or train right away), but the league has changed these days. Players like Johnny Gaudreau are dominating the league at 157 pounds. Pettersson is only slightly heavier at 161, and much taller at 6'2, but he had no problem running all over grown men in the SEL.
The Swede may have to add a few pounds, but it shouldn't take too long for him to feel at home in the best league in the world.
Follow @ncaddell on Twitter