1: Drafting Elias Pettersson
The 2017 draft was a hotbed of young talent. With the No. 5 overall pick, the Vancouver Canucks had a difficult choice: with all the best players on the board being forwards, should they select Cody Glass, Casey Mittelstadt, Owen Tippett or Gabriel Vilardi?
Come the day, Jim Benning surprised many Canucks fans by selecting the Swedish dark horse, Elias Pettersson. It has already proven to be the single best move Jim Benning has made during his five years as General Manager.
Pettersson spent the 2017-18 camaign back home in Sweden, setting astonishing new records in the Swedish Hockey League and getting the hype machine in Vancouver into overdrive. On his debut for the Canucks, he scored a goal and added an assist.
Pettersson set all sorts of records with ten goals and six assists in his first ten NHL games; and with his season culminating in him breaking the Canucks’ all-time rookie scoring record once held by Pavel Bure, it’s been a year of incredible moments and hope for the future.
When Pettersson wins the Calder Trophy in recognition of his highlight reel plays and his 28 goals, 38 assists and seven game-winning-goals, it will be vindication for Benning and his scouting team. They hit a home run with the pick, and the Canucks will have a franchise center for years to come. Look for Pettersson to become land a deal of $10-plus million a season when a new deal can be agreed on July 1, 2020.
While not universally popular, Benning has now put together the building blocks for the Canucks to get back into contention in the coming years. The Canuks have a franchise center, a top second line center, a true sniper, a puck-moving defenceman and a very good goalie. Add to that the potential additions to come, and this team is now in a good position to kick on and start fighting for a playoff spot.
It may have taken five years, but these moves have helped make this team one of the best young teams in the league — we have a lot to look forward to under Jim Benning’s leadership.