Roughly one year ago today young Vancouver Canucks forward Elias Pettersson was still just breaking onto the scene in the National Hockey League, but it was right around that time that he was drawing the eyeballs of some very big names in the sport.
Notably in April of 2019 Wayne Gretzky, aka "The Great One," made some eyebrow raising comments about the young forward that apparently had a profound impact on the young Swede. At the time Gretzky compared Pettersson to National Basketball Association megastar Michael Jordan but the comparison was not one based purely on talent. Instead what made Gretzky compare the young Pettersson to Jordan was his incredible work ethic and his desire to win.
“That young man in Vancouver has really impressed me,” said Gretzky as per Expressen. “We always compare athletes with each other and if there's anyone who reminds me of myself, it is Elias Pettersson. For several reasons. Firstly, he may not be the best skater or has the hardest shot, and he is not the physically biggest player on the ice but he sees the ice so well. And he has a great understanding of the game.
“But the most important thing is his work ethic. If he loses the puck he immediately tries to win it back. Many young players make an extra turn and take some time to do so, but not Elias. He's right there and is fighting to get the puck back again.”
Well unsurprisingly Pettersson heard about those comments and when he was asked about them recently by The Athletic's Thomas Drance and he revealed they had a profound impact on him. this in spite of the fact that he initially was left in disbelief.
“It’s unreal, especially because it’s him noticing my game,” he says. “It’s so unthinkable.
“I never thought I’d become the player I am today, I didn’t know I’d have success like this so early in my career. For the greatest of all-time to say that about me, I didn’t think it was real at first. Just awesome.”
To have the greatest player in the history of the sport heap praise on you in that manner is no doubt a surreal experience, but it is praise that Pettersson has also no doubt earned.