Between Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander the Toronto Maple Leafs have one of the young cores in the entire NHL. But, if things had played out differently at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft the team could have had another young superstar on their roster in Elias Pettersson.
Pettersson, of course, has absolutely torn up the league during his first two seasons with the Vancouver Canucks but a story that he told on the most recent episode of Spittin' Chiclets reveals that the Leafs were hot on Pettersson's tail on draft day. But before we get to that, let's set the stage properly.
Heading into the draft all eyes were on forwards Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick. Which would go 1st overall? After that a pair of defensemen in Miro Heiskanen and Cale Makar were expected to go number 3 and 4 in the draft. Earlier in the season defenseman Timothy Liljegren had gotten some top 3 love from scouts, but as his season wore on he slipped down the depth charts. As it stood though, no one expected Pettersson to go in the top 3. The Canucks, who picked fifth overall, had Pettersson at the top of their draft chart ahead of Hischier, Patrick, Heiskanen, Makar and anyone else. In the end the Canucks got the top player on their list and it obviously looks like a steal of a pick now three years later.
But things nearly played out very differently. Pettersson claims that the Canucks and the Leafs were the two teams who showed the most interest in him with both teams flying him into their city for meetings and physical testing.
From Pettersson himself:
“Both Toronto and Vancouver flew me out to meet me and do testing. Vancouver was the team that showed the most interest in me, but when they were doing the draft Vancouver didn’t talk to me so I still wasn’t sure if they were going to pick me.”
I have to say that even after watching Pettersson for only a couple seasons, the idea of him wearing anything other than a Canucks jersey just seems weird. Seeing him a Leafs jersey? I mean... anything is possible...
For the full podcast interview, click below: