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2017 NHL Draft Profile: Elias Pettersson could be the Hurricanes’ latest Swedish success

The Swedish center still has room to grow, but brings an exciting skill set and could be a key contributor in a few years.

In our 2017 NHL Draft Preview, we look closely at some of the prospects that could be available when the Hurricanes draft at 12th overall. These profiles will lean forward-heavy, due to not only the players who will be available when the Hurricanes select on June 23rd, but also the organizational depth that Carolina currently has.

We have profiles running multiple times over the next four weeks, so check back to meet the players who could be standing next to Ron Francis in a Hurricanes jersey after the Canes pick in Chicago.

Elias Pettersson

  • DOB: November 12, 1998 - Sundsvall, Sweden
  • Timra - Swedish Allsvenskan (2nd Division)
  • Center/Wing | Shoots: L | 6’2”, 160 pounds
  • 2016-17 Stats: 43 GP - 19G, 22A, 41 Points, 14 PIM

Prospect Breakdown

Pettersson is a lanky, supremely skilled center who has plied his trade in the Swedish Allsvenskan (second division) for Timra over the last two seasons. Playing in 43 games in 2016-17, the crafty playmaker scored 19 times and added 22 assists, finishing second on the team in scoring behind Canucks prospect Jonathan Dahlen. He was the straw that stirred the drink for his club, registering a primary point on nearly 60% of the team’s even-strength goals. The forward was a member of Sweden’s World Junior team that finished fourth this winter, but failed to make a huge impact on the tournament, finishing with just one point in six games.

Next season, Pettersson will make the jump to the top-tier Swedish Hockey League and play with Vaxjo. In the SHL, he will not be allotted the same kind of space that he is now when in possession, and likely will have bigger and more physical players to compete against in puck battles. The 2018 World Juniors will be a big tournament for Pettersson who will be a returning player and should be one of Sweden’s leaders.

The 18-year-old is currently ranked second overall among European Skaters by Central Scouting, but draft analysts have him ranked all over the first-round board. Personally, I could see him going as high as fifth, and would be shocked to see him selected lower than 20th.

Scouting Analysis

If the draft was based strictly around skill, Pettersson would be among the top picks in Chicago. He is incredibly creative and poised with the puck and is lethal both in open space and in one-on-one situations with the goaltender. His best assets are his playmaking and his ability to read game situations both with and without the puck.

At 160 pounds, Pettersson is quite underweight but does not typically shy away from puck possession or battles on the defensive side of the puck. His hands and ability to control the puck not only through traffic but also when engaged in a one-on-one battle is elite and is a must for a player with such a slight frame. His skating isn’t his top asset, but also does not hinder him. As he continues to jump levels, his quick twitch abilities will need to improve, but he has a good gear after a couple strides.

Pettersson is a rare prospect who can control the game just based off of how well he sees plays develop. He is an absolute power-play nightmare for opposition penalty kills as he sets up shop on the half-wall and loves to thread passes backdoor to his teammates. His shot is good enough to keep teams honest when in the offensive zone, and he has soft hands to finish when in close. He is a willing defender, and should be a two-way asset down the road as he develops.

Final Thoughts

The Hurricanes have selected just two European-league players in the first round in their 20-year draft history. One, Igor Knyazev in 2001 was one of the worst draft picks in team history, playing in zero NHL games in his career. The other, Elias Lindholm, taken fifth overall in 2013 has fared much better in his Hurricanes career, and will be a core player for years to come. Past indications don’t trend towards the Canes drafting a European player with their first selection, but the talented center certainly would infuse some elite talent into the Carolina system that is stocked full of bigger forwards.

As has been noted, Pettersson is supremely talented, and his ceiling is among the highest in the draft. Unfortunately, he has some risk and red flags, mainly centering around his ability to strengthen his slight frame and his thus-far pedestrian performance internationally. If a team is willing to take on that risk and have patience in his development, they could be rewarded with a game changing prospect down the road.