Elias Pettersson and the Vancouver Canucks made their preseason debut for 2018. The young Canucks captivated the crowd in an eventual 4-2 defeat.
Not a bad way to begin the preseason. After hearing Sportsnet drone on end about Jonathan Tavares scoring, it was good to see some action focused on the Vancouver Canucks. Tonight’s lineup was special, as it would feature a heavy emphasis on scoring and ditch the boring defensive players behind (well, not all of them).
This first game arrived as promised. Travis Green declared a speedy group and he was correct. The game was played at a good pace with few lulls in between. There is an electricity in the air. For the first time in several years, preseasons felt exciting. Nothing was broken up by international trips, and a whole host of young players are competing for spots. Best of all, we didn’t have to watch a lineup bogged down with veterans. Enjoy that while you can.
Edmonton did not storm into Vancouver with their best. We didn’t get to see Jake Virtanen challenge Connor McDavid in a test of speed. But the game was still great without McDavid. It really goes to show what a younger lineup can do for entertainment value. Here are three takeaways I got from the game.
Elias Pettersson broke ankles and did his dekes
We are starting things off right. Elias Pettersson showed up as advertised. The young man put on a show. Fans were treated to his wicked shot on the power play, salivating at the thought of having him and Brock Boeser raining hell down on opposing goaltenders.
Pettersson did not beat Cam Talbot with his booming shot, but I don’t think it will take long for the league to know about Elias Pettersson. The Golden Boy oozes so much skill, controlling the puck with ease. To that special fan from the Young Stars live stream, Pettersson did his dekes. He did them so well, it looked like he broke a few Oilers ankles. Rest in peace, Ryan Strome‘s ankles.
Whether it was springing his linemates for breakaways or going in on his own chances, he made it look so easy out there. Pettersson set up Nikolay Goldobin with a beautiful, backwards, between-the-legs pass. Goldy had an open cage, but Talbot stole a surefire goal.
The Oilers tried slashing Pettersson, but he was still able to show off those silky dekes. The Canucks were on the power play seven times and on the fifth one, Pettersson sent a nice pass to Bo Horvat, hitting the post and allowing Goldobin to capitalize on that one. Rogers Arena was not sold out that night, but when Pettersson’s name was announced over the PA, he got the loudest cheer. I can’t wait to see what Dave Pratt’s poll question will be.
One thing I wanted to note was Pettersson’s best friend, Jonathan Dahlèn. He had an okay game, but it does appear that he can’t always keep up with the pace. He was on the ice for one goal against and was trailing in the defensive zone, completely out of position. I’m sure Travis Green will be reviewing that goal with the young forward. We’ll see how he responds when/if he gets to slot into another game.
Goldobin and Horvat were incredible
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There are few players under as much pressure at this year’s camp than Nikolay Goldobin. He is in a dangerous bubble spot and failing to perform could cost him a roster spot this year. With that said, Goldy was a man on a mission. He was dangerous. Quick. Somewhat defensively responsible. Well, a little more than usual. Goldy could have had a hat trick tonight if not for Cam Talbot.
But most of all, he and Pettersson clicked right away. I guess it makes sense that Goldy pairs up very nicely with the SHL’s Golden Boy from last year. You know I preferred to have Goldy on the Horvat-Boeser line, but if these two can earn the coach’s trust, the Canucks might have a scary secondary scoring line. At the very least, they should be united on the power play during the regular season.
On to Bo Horvat. He was trying to do it all tonight. Although his offence really stood out the most, his defensive play with Loui Eriksson on the penalty kill was solid. The mistakes are still there, so hopefully Horvat can continue to refine his defensive game. Speaking of Loui Eriksson, he played over 19 minutes without taking a shot. We got four years to go and we’re just running out the clock.
The future captain had opportunity after opportunity, hitting several posts. Horvat could have had two or three goals that night and it’s only game one of the preseason. He was a puck hound, not allowing the Oilers to take the puck away. His insane pass that fed Sven Baertschi for his backwards, between-the-legs goal was the stuff from video games.
A tale of two Huttons and bad goaltending
I do like Ben Hutton. At times I can be tough on him, but I want to believe that he can grow into the type of defenceman we saw in his rookie season and not the young man who has had his confidence broken.
Coming into training camp, Ben Hutton did all the right things. He got in shape, he overhauled his poor eating habits and his fitness was at an all time high. Yeah, we hear that crap every year, but we could see it on the ice in the first period and in his face. Hutton is all business and started off well. He was paired with Chris Tanev, which would be good for his chances.
Turns out it wasn’t. The pairing was on the ice for three goals against. Now, I’m willing to give them some slack since the goaltending was so bad (more on that later). But that goal from Caleb Jones was brutal. Ben Hutton could have safely thrown the bobbled puck in a safe spot, but the time he took to set it down caused the turnover and subsequent goal against. If Hutton is not moved after training camp, I sense another roller coaster season with Travis Green.
I hate to end on a bad note, but we have to address the goaltending. First, it was ridiculous that Green had Michael DiPietro on the bench the whole game. One period would have been nice and considering how the starter played, it could not have been worse.
Anders Nilsson was not good to say the least. Those first two goals were awful and completely on him. Nilsson gave up four goals on 28 shots. That’s not good enough. I do hope he is looking over his shoulder because I would much rather see Thatcher Demko up here over him. His underlying stats last season were comparable to Jacob Markstrom during those first 15 games. But as soon as he got the larger sample size, we saw the same inconsistent netminder.
The goaltender battle intrigues me very much. I’m excited to see how these players chase those roster spots. Brock Boeser wasn’t even in this game, yet it was still amazing. Hold on to that feeling. Having Boeser and Pettersson in the lineup at the same time will be something to see and I can’t wait for that.