It’s unfair when any hockey player is compared to Wayne Gretzky. When Gretzky does the comparing, it’s even worse.
So no pressure Elias Pettersson, because even though you’re 20 years old and 15 games into your NHL career, “The Great One” sees greatness in you.
“From my point of view, he’s got a lot of my similarities,” Gretzky said of the Vancouver Canucks rookie Monday on Canadian radio station Sportsnet 650. “Obviously, his hockey sense and his playmaking ability is as good as anybody right now and that’s probably where the comparisons come from. It’s much more the playmaking than anything else.”
It’s lofty praise but Pettersson is playing exceptionally well in his first season. The 6-foot-2-inch Swedish center has given his franchise a lift following the offseason retirements of stalwarts Henrik and Daniel Sedin and helped the Canucks get off to a surprising 10-9-2 start.
Pettersson can score, as evidenced by his 10 goals in his first 10 games, he can skate and he can create scoring opportunities for others. He had 17 points entering Saturday to put him on pace for 86, which would be the third-most by a NHL rookie this millennium.
The two players he’s behind right now? Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. That’s good company to keep, especially when you throw Gretzky into the mix.
“I couldn’t (imagine this),” Pettersson said on NHL Network earlier this month. “It’s been an unreal start for me.”
Caps dress emergency backup
Gavin McHale, the goaltending coach for the University of Manitoba’s women’s team, got to live out his NHL dream on Wednesday.
The Washington Capitals scratched starting goalie Braden Holtby right before the puck drop against the Winnipeg Jets and McHale, a former college player, suited up in case new starter Pheonix Copley couldn’t finish the game. Every team keeps a list of local goalies like McHale who could be available if calling someone up from the minors in time for a game is impossible, but it’s rare for it to be used.
It’s even rarer for a player from that list to dress and then have to face Ovechkin’s shots in warmups.
“It’s definitely not something I thought would happen in the last 10 years since the career took a downturn,” McHale told NHL.com. “But it was a pretty exciting experience.”
Tip of the hat
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point scored, well, lightning-quick against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, recording a hat trick in just 91 seconds.
It was the second-fastest hat trick in the NHL’s expansion era (since 1967-68), behind Derek King’s 78-second flurry for the New York Islanders in 1991 and the sixth-fastest all-time.
“They told me after the game. That’s pretty cool,” Point told reporters after the game. “Guys made good plays and I was just able to finish them today.”
It was nowhere near first place, though, which is a record that may never be broken. Good luck ever beating Bill Mosienko, the speedy Chicago Blackhawks captain who scored three goals in 21 seconds against the New York Rangers in 1952.
NHL’s Top Rookies
1. Elias Pettersson, C, Vancouver Canucks
The Swede leads all rookies in goals and points, making him the early favorite to take home the Calder Trophy for top rookie.
2. Colin White, C, Ottawa Senators
The 21st overall pick in the 2015 draft is second in points (11) and goals (6) among the rookie class as of Friday and has won 54 percent of his faceoffs.
3. Rasmus Dahlin, D, Buffalo Sabres
The 18-year-old was the No. 1 overall pick in June’s draft but has already acclimated well to the NHL. He was tied for second among rookies in plus-minus at plus-four entering Friday.