Rumours have swirled. Questions have been asked.
Was it really Jim Benning’s call to draft superstar forward Elias Pettersson with the fifth-overall pick in 2017, or did the former general manager prefer someone else?
Former Vancouver Canucks great Trevor Linden attempted to clear the air in an eye-opening interview on Sportsnet 650 on Wednesday afternoon — and his take on what happened behind the scenes leading up to that fateful draft for the Canucks is not favourable towards Benning.
On Canucks Central with Dan Riccio and Satiar Shah, Linden, who as team president hired Benning in 2014, said if the former Boston Bruins assistant GM “had his choice, he probably would’ve taken a different player.”
“I wasn’t happy with the way our process was in 2016 and that was the first year Judd (Brackett) had taken over the reins and I did not like how our meetings went,” Linden said. “So in 2017, I really pushed hard to have Judd really step up and really run a robust-type meeting in that we can really put our thoughts and feelings on the table.
“I really pushed hard in that management group to have Judd and his guys make the pick. And Judd — and give Ronnie Delorme a lot of credit as well — they loved this guy and so, Jim wasn’t sold.”
The year before Pettersson was selected, Benning took Olli Juolevi with the sixth-overall pick. Juolevi turned out to be a bust in Vancouver and is currently playing in Sweden.
A few hours after the Linden interview, Sportsnet producer Raja Shergill posted on X that he had spoken to Benning, who refuted the comments.
“We were always going to draft Pettersson. The whole group liked Petey.”
Benning also told Shergill that he felt the scouting group hadn’t watched other players enough and wanted them to do their due diligence.
Benning’s comments are thought to be the first to be made publicly since he was fired by the Canucks in December of 2021 — on the same day the organization relieved head coach Travis Green of his duties in a house cleaning move.
Brackett, meanwhile, signed with the Minnesota Wild to be their head scout in July of 2020.