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Linden: Benning 'wasn't sold' on Pettersson, would have drafted a different player

"If Jim [Benning] had his choice, he probably would have taken a different player."
Vancouver Canucks fans can thank Trevor Linden for getting Elias Pettersson in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Elias Pettersson is currently second in the NHL in scoring and on pace for 144 points, which would utterly smash the Vancouver Canucks' franchise record. 

But if Jim Benning had his way, the Canucks wouldn't have Pettersson at all.

That's according to Trevor Linden, who dropped some major truth-bombs during an interview with Dan Riccio and Satiar Shah on Sportsnet 650. 

Linden set the record straight on the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, where the Canucks selected Pettersson fifth overall. Reports have come out in the past that then-general manager Jim Benning preferred Portland Winterhawks centre Cody Glass over Pettersson, but there was rarely anyone from the front office on the record about such things, let alone someone of Linden's stature.

Linden confirmed that he didn't like the leadup to the 2016 draft that resulted in the Canucks selecting Olli Juolevi fifth overall.

"I wasn't happy with the way our process was in 2016 and that was the first year Judd [Brackett] had taken over the reins and I did not like how our meetings went," said Linden. "So, in 2017, I really pushed hard to have Judd really step up and really run a robust-type meeting in that we can really put our thoughts and feelings on the table."

The thoughts and feelings of the scouting staff in 2017 were firmly on the side of Elias Pettersson being the best centre in the draft, ahead of consensus picks Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier. Benning, however, wasn't convinced.

"I really pushed hard in the management group to have Judd and his guys make the pick — and give Ronnie Delorme a lot of credit as well, they loved this guy," said Linden. "Jim wasn't sold. If Jim had his choice, he probably would have taken a different player."

Glass, long reported to be the player Benning preferred, only just made the NHL full time last season after a trade from the Vegas Golden Knights to the Nashville Predators. He had 35 points in 72 games — Pettersson had 102.

That's some significant vindication for the scouting staff that argued for Pettersson.

"They were banging their fists on the table," said Linden of their enthusiasm for Pettersson. "That's what I wanted them to do. Let's have these conversations because I didn't feel we did a good job in 2016 and I think it cost us — I know it cost us, as we all know."

For what it's worth, by the time of the draft, Benning seemed fully on board with Pettersson as the pick, even attempting to trade down at the draft with the Golden Knights, who he knew preferred Glass, in order to add some additional draft capital.

But if the draft had been run the same way in 2017 as it was in 2016, Pettersson probably wouldn't be a Canuck.