Elias Pettersson may not have played in Toronto last Saturday, but he still left a big impression in the centre of Canada's hockey universe.
Pettersson's name leads the headline for Elliotte Friedman's 31 Thoughts
column this week.
Pettersson was officially placed on injured reserve on Tuesday—a move that will be back-dated to the day he was injured, on January 3. He could be activated as early as this Friday, but the Canucks also re-called centre Adam Gaudette from Utica on Tuesday, suggesting that they're expecting to be shorthanded for a little while. If you remember, last week they were actually on the verge of needing to put a player on waivers to make room for Brandon Sutter before Josh Leivo was injured on Wednesday in Ottawa and Pettersson on Thursday in Montreal.
Leivo was placed on injured reserve last Thursday to open up that roster spot for Sutter. Pettersson's assisgnment makes room for Gaudette.
Travis Green called both injured players day-to-day at practice on Monday, and said Leivo would need to practice on Wednesday if he hopes to play against Arizona on Thursday.
Leivo isn't on the ice for practice on Wednesday, but Gaudette is.
Since being assigned to the Comets on December 29, Gaudette is 2-1-3 in three games. All his points came in Utica's 6-2 road win over Cleveland last Saturday—a game where he recorded eight shots on goal.
The Comets are currently riding a four-game winning streak. They finish off their current road trip on Wednesday against the Toronto Marlies—a game that's actually on broadcast television. Tune in at 4 p.m. on TSN2.
In "31 Thoughts," Friedman talks about how injury issues can sometimes stand in the way of a Calder Trophy win for rookies. Brock Boeser was certainly still right in the race with Mat Barzal until he was knocked out for the rest of the season in early March last year and as Friedman mentions, Connor McDavid lost out to Artemi Panarin in 2015-16 because he played just 45 games in his first year due to that broken collarbone.
McDavid missed 37 games. Boeser missed a total of 20 games last season. Pettersson has only missed seven games so far. He's so far ahead of all the other rookies in the scoring race, and earning so much more hype and attention. Friedman says "He has breathed new life into the Canucks, altered the direction of the franchise and made his games appointment television."
I think Pettersson still has a good-sized cushion of games that he can miss before the Rasmus Dahlins and Miro Heiskanens of the world start mounting any kind of serious challenge for Calder attention. Regardless, here's hoping that he's back in the lineup sooner rather than later.
Friedman dives further into Canucks' players impressions of Pettersson's skills later in his column. He also re-addresses the story that surfaced on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday, that the Canucks were interested in offering Quinn Hughes a chance to leave Michigan right away and start his NHL career.
"It never got close to that, but what is clear is the Canucks wished to ask him if he would consider the possibility," Friedman writes. "They decided not to, choosing to honour an agreement to wait until the end of the Wolverines’ season. But I suspect they really, really wanted to do it."
This surprises me. As I've written before, I thought the official timeline for the Seattle expansion draft to take place in June of 2021 would encourage the Canucks to hold off on signing Quinn until after the end of the season, so that he wouldn't need to be protected.
I suppose there are other concerns at play besides "asset management," but I'll be curious to see how this plays out.
One thing's for sure: Michigan's season isn't going quite as expected. Hughes was talking about wanting to challenge for a national title this year, but the Wolverines are a moderate 7-8-6 so far this season and have only made infrequent appearances near the bottom of the weekly NCAA Top 15 rankings. Of course, anything's possible once tournament play begins, but the way things are going, Quinn's season may have quite an early end, which would heat up this topic considerably.
Friedman also mentions frequent healthy scratch Michael Del Zotto, who also plays the left side, saying "it's clear he craves a chance to get back into the lineup. Players want to play."
As far as a possible trade-deadline deal for the impending unrestricted free agent, Friedman says "I’ve heard there’s interest, but those parties want to wait until closer to the deadline to save cap space."
I think it's safe to assume that MDZ will have a new zip code or postal code by February 25.
I'm not so sure what will happen with Alex Edler. All indications so far are that he has no intention of waiving his no-trade clause. We went down this road with Dan Hamhuis a few years back, so we'll have to wait to see if anything changes over the next several weeks.
I linked to the "31 Thoughts" podcast with Jay Beagle on Monday—and can now tell you that it's well worth a listen. It offers some great insight into a guy who stays off of social media and admits that he is still using an iPhone 1 (!), including being the only player in history to have won championships at the ECHL, AHL and NHL levels, why he chose Vancouver, face-off techniques and getting to know how the linesmen operate and why he'll never wear his Stanley Cup ring.
A couple of other notes before I sign off for today. First, voting closes Thursday for the "Last Man In" for the 2019 NHL All-Star Game.
Cast your ballot for Brock Boeser if you want to give him a chance to defend his title as MVP:
And finally—one last hit of World Junior news.
I placed a story in the New York Times on Monday, talking about how the playing field has levelled over the last 10 years and the years of Canada ringing up five gold medals in a row are probably in the past. As disappointed as the Hockey Canada brass was that Canada didn't get to play for a medal, CEO Tom Renney understands that in the big picture, stronger competition from nations like Finland and the U.S. is ultimately good for the game: