NHL legend Wayne Gretzky offered praise for Vancouver Canucks forward Elias Pettersson and compared him to NBA icon Michael Jordan.
Pettersson has already caught the eye of NHL legend Wayne Gretzky — a four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Edmonton Oilers. The all-time scoring leader is also widely regarded as the greatest hockey player to ever live.
So obviously, you have to be a special player when you earn the attention of “The Great One.”
Well, Gretzky has had nothing but kind things to say about Pettersson so far. In a recent interview with Expressen (h/t Rob Williams of Daily Hive), the hockey GOAT explained what he sees in Pettersson, and he compared Vancouver’s young star to the NBA GOAT, Michael Jordan.
Here’s what Gretzky had to say (via Google Translation, hat tip to Williams).
"“We always compare athletes with each other and if anyone reminds me of myself, it is Elias Pettersson. For several reasons.Firstly, he may not be the best skater or have the hardest shot, he is not the biggest player, but he sees the ice as well. He has a great understanding of the game, but the most important part is his work ethic. If you look at him and he loses the puck, he stays and immediately makes an attempt to win it back.Many young players make an extra turn and take some time to do so, but not Elias. He’s right there and is fighting for the puck again…I compared him a little with Michael Jordan when he came to the Chicago Bulls. Jordan went third in the NBA Draft and Elias was not the number one pick when he was drafted either…"
Gretzky concluded his praise on Pettersson by adding he’s “so selfless,” and that he hopes No. 40 “will score that fourth, fifth or six point in the game.”
Pettersson kept the Canucks in the playoff race throughout most of the season. He looks to join Pavel Bure as the only players in franchise history to ever win the award. “The Russian Rocket” won it in 1991-92 after scoring 34 goals and 60 points.
Drafted with the No. 5 selection by the Canucks in 2017, Pettersson quickly turned heads after a dominant showing with the Växjö Lakers in the Swedish Hockey League. He led the Lakers to the league championship last season.
With that, the Canucks knew they didn’t have to wait any longer to turn Pettersson professional. The crafty 6-foot-2 centre led all rookies in scoring, and it’d be a huge surprise if someone were to win the award over him.
It’s safe to say that St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington is the only other rookie who could challenge Pettersson for the award. Even then, Binnington only appeared in 32 games. If that’s taken into account, Pettersson should run away with the Calder.
The Canucks (81 points) missed out on the playoffs by just nine points, as the Colorado Avalanche pulled away from the competition to earn the final seed in the Western Conference.
With Pettersson leading the way in 2019-20, however, you can bet the Canucks will be in prime contention for a playoff berth. It’s now up to the front office and coaching staff to start building around their new franchise player.