What can Elias Pettersson do for an encore?
The one big positive for the 2018-19 Vancouver Canucks was the rapid development of Elias Pettersson.
From the moment he arrived he was the team’s best, most impactful player and began his career with a five-game point streak and 10 goals in his first 10 games. Even when he was not scoring goals he made the Canucks worth watching every night he was in the lineup because he was always one shift away from doing something spectacular.
He ended the season with 28 goals in only 71 games and became just the second Canucks player to ever win the Calder Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year (Pavel Bure won in 1991-92). He is now the face of the franchise and the player the whole thing is going to be built around.
The question for the Canucks now becomes what he can do for an encore in year two after such a strong rookie season.
For all of the brilliance he displayed in his debut, the only red flag that might exist is that a lot of his goal-scoring success was driven by a 19.4 percent shooting percentage, which is an almost absurdly high number and one that is unlikely to be duplicated in year two. It is such a high mark that only eight players (minimum 140 shots) hit that number in a single season between 2010 and 2017 (Steven Stamkos, Anders Lee, Sidney Crosby, Adam Henrique, T.J. Oshie, Jiri Hudler, Mark Scheifele, and William Karlsson) and none of them did it more than once during that stretch, meaning their shooting percentages all regressed the next season.
It is an almost impossible number to reach over a full season, and it is especially unheard of for rookies. Pettersson was the first rookie (age 20 or younger) to shoot that high since Eric Lindros in 1993, and only the third since 1990 (Lindros and Jaromir Jagr).
This is not to suggest that Pettersson is going to suddenly forgot how to score goals, or that his shooting percentage is going to drop so dramatically that it put a huge dent in his production.
He has a great shot and elite skill and is probably always going to be capable of shooting at a percentage well above the league average. It just won’t always be that high, meaning his game is going to have to evolve. For him to match (or exceed) the 30-goal pace he set out on last season he is probably going to have to increase his shot volume and put more pucks on net. He is capable of that, and is talented enough and good enough that the production we saw from him in year one is probably a good baseline to expect in future seasons.
He just might take a different path in getting there in future seasons.