It took less than 12 minutes for Lane Pederson to record a hat trick for the Abbotsford Canucks on Wednesday night. It's taken him a lot longer to get his first opportunity with the Vancouver Canucks — 18 games.
In those 18 games, Pederson has a whopping 17 goals. His nearly goal-per-game pace in the AHL has been impossible to ignore but it took a unique situation to get him his first call up of the year to Vancouver.
Both Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser missed the Canucks' practice on Friday due to illness. Boeser was a late scratch on Wednesday because of what is assumed to be the same illness, so it's entirely possible that it could be serious enough to keep both forwards out of the lineup on Saturday when the Canucks face the Winnipeg Jets.
With two goal-scoring forwards out of the lineup, it made sense for the Canucks to call up a player from Abbotsford who seemingly can't stop scoring. If both Pettersson and Boeser are out of the lineup, the 25-year-old centre could get a top-six opportunity on Saturday, as well as some time on the power play, where he's done a lot of his scoring this season.
Pederson was seemingly a throw-in player in the trade from the Carolina Hurricanes that brought Ethan Bear to the Canucks. He's scored at or near a point-per-game pace in the AHL over the past few seasons but has never been able to translate his scoring acumen to the NHL, with just 5 points in 44 games with the Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks.
At the time of the trade, Pederson had no points in four games with the Chicago Wolves but his arrival in Abbotsford sparked something in the centre, as he quickly notched his first two points of the season in his first game with his new club. And he just kept scoring.
Pederson has been particularly hot over the past two weeks, with 10 goals and 15 points in his last seven games.
"It’s just a combination of playing with good players and getting [a] good opportunity," said Pederson to AHL writer Patrick Williams. "I’m just trying to prove them right with the decision of bringing me in, so it’s been a lot of fun."
Pederson has thrived alongside Phil Di Giuseppe and prospect Vasily Podkolzin, giving Abbotsford a top line with some size and grit that can play a strong possession game in the offensive zone.
"Once we get the puck in the offensive zone, we’ve kind of developed a little bit of chemistry now, where we’re reading off one another and finding those soft areas,” said Pederson.
The challenge for Pederson will be finding those same soft areas in the NHL, where defencemen keep tighter gaps and close out time and space much more quickly. If he gets a chance on the Canucks' power play, that would help.
Well, finding time and space will be one of the challenges. The other is improving his two-way game to the point that an NHL coach can rely on him to play regular minutes, something he's been working on with new Abbotsford head coach Jeremy Colliton.
That has meant taking on a role on the penalty kill in addition to being a go-to player in almost every situation.
"Since joining the Canucks, Pederson has been a mainstay on PP1 in the J.T. Miller spot down the left flank, a 2nd/3rd-shift penalty killer, and a featured player for Jeremy Colliton at 5v5," said CanucksArmy's Cody Severtson in a recent Abbotsford game recap, though he cautioned, "There is some concern that Pederson has mostly benefited from a sky-high shooting percentage while playing on a top-tier power play in the AHL."
That's one of the concerns for Pederson: his goal-scoring heater has come from an absurdly-high 35.4% shooting percentage. Basically, one of every three shots on goal is going in the net for Pederson in the AHL.
On the plus side, that should have Pederson's confidence at an all-time high, which could be a major boon if he is asked to step into a significant role in Vancouver with Pettersson and Boeser out.