If you want to understand how much stronger Elias Pettersson is coming into the 2023-24 NHL season, just look at his stick flex.
The Vancouver Canucks’ star centre has bumped the flex on his Bauer stick to 95, up from the 87 flex he used a season ago.
The stiffer the flex, the heavier the shot, but it also means precision is a little more challenging.
But in Pettersson’s case, precision has never been an issue. There is every reason to think that he will quickly master a new stick design.
He has the innate drive that the best of the best have, the desire to master everything and anything.
And it’s his sixth NHL season. He is very aware of how to prepare himself now, of what gaps remain in his game that he can still improve on.
“I know what to expect. I know what I wanted to work on. I worked hard this summer,” he said at the beginning of training camp.
Pettersson scored 102 points in 80 games last season, the sixth player in Canucks history to hit triple digits.
You know the 24 year old would like to do that again, both because that would be good for his team, but also because that would be great for his wallet.
To get back to the century club is a big task, but one that starts with simple details.
“I’m getting stronger in the summer,” he said Wednesday after a hard skate with nine veteran teammates who weren’t going to be playing in Wednesday night’s penultimate pre-season game in Abbotsford between the Canucks and Seattle Kraken.
Getting back in the groove with his teammates over the past month has gone well.
The season begins in a week’s time and Pettersson admits he is getting a little antsy.
“Guys are ready. I think we’ve had a good camp,” he said.
The stiffer stick will mean more velocity on his shot, and Pettersson obviously hopes that will lead to even more goals. He scored a career-high 39 goals last season.
You know he would like to hit 50.
Remarkably, he only scored six goals on the power play last season, the second-lowest total of his career, beating out only the miserable 2020-21 season — he scored just four times on the man advantage before a wrist injury ended his season at the halfway mark.
In other words, if last season’s 100 points is the bar he wants to clear, is it possible that with these new stick tweaks, his added strength and perhaps some adjustments on the power play, 100 points might be a low target for this season?
Pettersson says he never sets targets for himself, but head coach Rick Tocchet certainly has some in mind.
He knows his power play must become a more consistent weapon. He has looked at the talent available to his team’s power play, one that traditionally has seen Pettersson shooting from the right flank, and the head coach has said he has looked across the Rockies for inspiration.
Look at Edmonton’s power play, he has said more than once. It’s not just that they have two of the best players in the world in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, it’s also that they have lots of movement in their power play setup.
There’s a lesson there, he believes.
“They got the unreal power play. I know McDavid is all-world, but he’s everywhere, and so is Draisaitl. We have some really good hockey players that can play other (power play) positions, I think,” he said after Saturday’s 5-2 exhibition win versus the Edmonton Oilers.
In Pettersson’s case, he says he is not beholden to shooting from any particular place.
“I like think I can score from all positions out there,” he said in training camp. “But it comes down to us at the end of the day. We want to score whenever we get a power play. And if that’s me, being net-front or half wall, etc., we’ll have to look into it.”
Hitting 100 points, by the way, would get Pettersson into the Canucks’ all-time top-10 in scoring, passing Bo Horvat, who ended his Canucks tenure with 420 points in 621 career games.
Pettersson has 323 points in 325 career games and will quickly pass a trio of big names from Canucks history: he starts the season two points back of Mattias Öhlund, five points back of Cliff Ronning, and 19 points behind Patrik Sundström.
Once the season starts, he really tries not to get too far ahead of himself.
“I don’t think too much ahead. I really just go day by day and try to be the best player I can be every game. That’s my mindset,” he said.
“Have confidence in myself. Have confidence in my teammates.”
And look to beat the guy across from him, every time he’s on the ice.
“Yeah, that’s it,” he said with a grin.
OUT OF SICK BAY — Pettersson said whatever had been ailing him for the last couple days, keeping him out of practice, was behind him. “No details for the media,” he quipped.