Last year, Elias Pettersson raked in awards like a cheating poker player rakes in chips.
After leading both the SHL regular season and playoffs in scoring, Pettersson was named the SHL’s Rookie of the Year, Forward of the Year, Most Valuable Player, and Playoff MVP. He was also named the Swedish Forward of the Year and added some international hardware, with a silver medal at the World Junior Championships and a gold medal at the World Championships.
This year, the awards have been a little harder to come by. Even in the Canucks’ team awards, he only took home the Pavel Bure Award as the most exciting player, losing the Cyclone Taylor Award for most valuable player to Jacob Markstrom. He was named to the NHL All-Star Game, but didn’t get as much of a chance to strut his stuff like Brock Boeser the year before, so didn’t come home with any additional prizes.
There was one award, however, that he wasn’t going to be denied: the Calder Trophy. On Wednesday night at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, Elias Pettersson won the first award of the evening as the NHL’s rookie of the year.
The headline to this article may seem like a tautology — the Calder, after all, goes to the league’s best rookie — but it needed to be said. From the start to the end of the season, Elias Pettersson was the NHL’s best rookie.
That time frame is key: Jordan Binnington had an amazing 32 games during the regular season, then went on to win the Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues. He’s a great story (well, mostly), but he didn’t start a game until January 7th. By that time, Pettersson already had 22 goals and 42 points.
As for Rasmus Dahlin, he somehow became an afterthought in the Calder race, despite recording one of the greatest seasons ever by an 18-year-old defenceman. Only Phil Housley had more points as an 18 year old and Dahlin outscored Bobby Orr.
There was no denying Pettersson, however, who single-handedly made the Canucks worth watching this past season. He was brilliant, breaking Pavel Bure and Ivan Hlinka’s franchise record for points by a rookie and leading the Canucks in scoring, despite missing 11 games due to injury. It was so easy to forget that he had just turned 20 in November.
Accepting the Calder on the Vegas stage, Pettersson was just as calm and poised as he was on the ice all season. He had grateful words for everyone involved in his success, but the words that stood out most were his thoughtful thanks to Jason Botchford.
"Thanks to everyone who voted for me. I’m pretty sure that includes Jason Botchford, who recently passed away. Jason was a great supporter in the Vancouver media and a great man." - @_EPettersson #NHLAwards— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) June 20, 2019
Pettersson stayed composed and kept it together on stage. Afterwards, however, he got emotional when asked about thanking Botchford.
Petey, talking to the media, gets emotional when asked about thanking Botchford. pic.twitter.com/cHlL0HAHXg— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) June 20, 2019
The word “class” gets overused in hockey, but Elias Pettersson has so much class.
Congratulations, Petey. You deserve it.