International Ice Hockey Federation

Pettersson makes a splash

Pettersson makes a splash

Slick Swedish forward shining in Buffalo

Published 15.08.2018 01:05 GMT-4 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Pettersson makes a splash
BUFFALO, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 26: Sweden's Elias Pettersson #14 controls the puck against Belarus during the preliminary round of the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Vincent Lecavalier wasn’t the “Michael Jordan of hockey,” as Tampa owner Art Williams once opined. And Elias Pettersson isn’t the “Kobe Bryant of hockey.”

Yes, Pettersson is a Lakers star, but the Timra-trained forward plays in Vaxjo, a southern Swedish city with a metropolitan population of 90,000 – a little different from Los Angeles. That said, if there is a basketball metaphor here, you could say Pettersson has been a slam-dunk success in his SHL rookie year. Although he’s still growing into his 188-cm frame, he’s heightened expectations quickly.

With 35 points in 26 games, he’s vying for the league scoring lead, producing at a rate comparable to legends like Kent Nilsson and Peter Forsberg. Vancouver fans are delighted with the Canucks’ decision to pick Pettersson fifth overall in the 2017 NHL Draft. Here in Buffalo, he’s already showed good chemistry with Alexander Nylander, who tied for the tournament points lead (12) with Russia’s Kirill Kaprizov in 2017.

We caught up with Pettersson for a charmingly candid interview after Sweden debuted with a 6-1 win over Belarus on Tuesday. The 19-year-old had a goal and an assist on the power play. That doubled his output in six games in his World Junior debut last year en route to fourth place.

How did you like the way your team performed in the opener?

We were a little nervous. It’s the first game in a big tournament. But we got the win and the job done, so that’s good.

What about your own play?

I was OK. I can do better. But it is the way it is. We’re going to practice tomorrow and then we have a game against the Czechs.

What kind of a role does coach Tomas Monten want you to play here compared to last year?

More of an offensive role, like the role I have in my team in Sweden, Vaxjo. Score goals and make plays in the offensive zone, and of course, play defence too.

You’ve got lots of scorers, but who is the funniest guy in your dressing room?

We’ve got some jokers in our team, but I think every time when Jacob Moverare talks, everybody laughs. He’s a very funny guy.

Who were your favorite players when you were a kid?

My first one was Peter Forsberg. Growing up, I also liked how Nicklas Backstrom and Pavel Datsyuk played.

Have you ever met any of them?

I remember I saw Peter Forsberg at Arlanda Airport, but I was too nervous to get a picture with him. Kind of regret that! It was two or three years ago. Hopefully I get to meet him sometime.

What were you doing when Sweden beat Canada in the gold medal game of the 2017 IIHF World Championship in Cologne?

I remember I was at a hockey school, like a summer hockey camp. So I couldn’t see the game because we had an early practice the day after. But when I saw the highlights, I got goosebumps and jumped around. It was amazing.

What’s the first hockey game you remember attending?

I think maybe the first one I remember was my first SHL game when I was six years old. It was Timra against somebody. I can’t recall exactly who, though.

When you talk to Canucks GM Jim Benning and associate chief amateur scout Thomas Gradin, what are they telling you?

Continue to play your game. We like what we see. Go on, keep on training. Be yourself on the ice.

What would it mean to you if the Sedins are still playing for Vancouver when you come to North America?

That would be awesome. Obviously, I’ve seen them lots growing up, playing at the Olympics and in Vancouver. So to maybe play with them someday would be awesome.

Do you cook for yourself?

I usually cook at home. But I’ve gotten a bit lazy about that in the last year! It’s easy to order from the restaurant and do a take-away at home. But I do cook.

What’s your pre-game meal?

I don’t have a pre-game meal I do every game. I usually take two food boxes from a Vaxjo restaurant.

Are you into music?

I listen to a lot – hip-hop, slow jam music, Ed Sheeran, stuff like that.

When you train, what are your favorite exercises and which ones do you hate?

I’m not sure. I like working on my stickhandling and my shooting. And I hate – well, I don’t hate – but of course, it’s more fun to train my stickhandling and shooting than it is to go in the gym and do squats. But when I do squats, I play better on the ice. So I like the gym work as well.

What do you think about the possibility of representing Sweden at the Olympics in Korea?

When I played well in the SHL, people have said I should be on the team. But I can’t control if I’m with the team. If I make the team, it would be a big honor for me.


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