Throwback Thursday: Canucks draft Elias Pettersson fifth overall in 2017

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 23: Elias Pettersson poses for photos after being selected fifth overall by the Vancouver Canucks during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 23: Elias Pettersson poses for photos after being selected fifth overall by the Vancouver Canucks during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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In this edition of Throwback Thursday, we look back on the Vancouver Canucks drafting Elias Pettersson fifth overall in 2017.

The Vancouver Canucks were on the wrong side of draft lottery luck once again in 2017, falling to the No. 5 spot despite carrying the second-highest odds of winning the top pick.

This came a year after the Canucks slipped to No. 6 overall in the draft despite finishing with the third worst record in the league. That year, they missed out on the chance to draft future superstars Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Patrik Laine (Winnipeg Jets).

But the 2017 NHL draft was regarded as one of the weakest in recent memory. Back in Sept. 2016, TSN’s Bob McKenzie had the following to say about Nolan Patrick, considered the top prospect at the time:

"While some of the scouts surveyed by TSN do not discount Patrick evolving into that role, the consensus view is Patrick is projected more as a second-line NHL centre and doesn’t have the same “wow” factor as (Connor) McDavid, (Jack) Eichel and Matthews."

As such, it was hard for many Canucks fans to believe that they had a future All-Star and No. 1 centre in the fold when general manager Jim Benning took Elias Pettersson fifth overall. If Patrick was projected to be a No. 2 centre, why would anybody expect Pettersson to be a No. 1 himself?

How times have changed. Fast forward three years later, and Nico Hischier –who went first overall to the New Jersey Devils — has yet to top 20 goals and 52 points in a season, which he achieved in his rookie year.

Patrick, who went second overall to the Philadelphia Flyers, has just 26 goals and 61 points in 145 NHL games thus far.

The Canucks had a plethora of choices at centre with the No. 5 pick. Many believed Benning would settle on Cody Glass or Casey Mittelstadt, but he took a chance on the flashy Swede. And it paid off immensely.

Pettersson burst onto the scene in 2018-19, winning the Calder Trophy after tallying 28 goals and 66 points. He followed it up with 27 goals and 66 points in 68 games, prior to the season going on pause.

Thanks to his efforts, Pettersson has given Vancouver a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. If the 2019-29 NHL season resumes, the Canucks will play the Minnesota Wild in a best-of-five qualifying round to determine who will go to the round of 16.

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Vancouver may have lost the lottery, but they managed to come away with the best player in the draft — and perhaps the only player that will enjoy a career as a true No. 1 centre. Everything sure worked out for the Canucks on the night of June 23, 2017.