International Ice Hockey Federation

When hard work pays off

When hard work pays off

Pettersson climbing his way to the top

Published 25.04.2017 09:17 GMT-4 | Author Jeremy Darke
When hard work pays off
Sweden’s Elias Pettersson skates with the puck while Latvia’s Vlads Vulkanovs defends during the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. Photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Dedication, effort and determination are words that you will hear getting thrown around changing rooms in ice hockey rinks at a very young age.

They are powerful words that still get drilled into professionals playing in their country’s highest divisions.

There are a special few that take these words, when they hear them for the first time, back when they can barely tie their own laces, and embed them into their minds and their souls and live by them each and every day.

Back when 18-year-old Swede Elias Pettersson was just a small boy being taken to Kastberg’s Ice Hall in Ange, Sweden by his grandmother, had he already begun to develop those three qualities that set him on his way to become a professional ice hockey player. Even if he didn’t even know it yet.

Pettersson spent hours upon hours, more than the other kids his age, working on his skating and on his hockey skills, which helped him develop much quicker and put him a step above the rest. With his dad driving the Zamboni at the rink in Ange, it gave Elias the chance to put in some extra time on the ice that many other children never had the opportunity to do. A chance the enthusiastic young boy never knocked back.

As he grew older he never stopped thinking about hockey. When most children were trying to enjoy the few sunny months during summer that Sweden has to offer the Pettersson family were driving around the country to various hockey schools spending their days inside, in winter-like weather.

Pettersson’s dedication was tested at the ripe age between 14 and 16 when he had to travel approximately 110 kilometres each-way from Ange to Timra for training and games, four to five times a week, as his hometown did not have a junior team.

These are times when dedication, effort and determination were engraved into Elias Pettersson.

“I feel that much of what I am today was because of the time I spent on the ice,” says Elias Pettersson. “I have always wanted to skate on the ice at very young age, and I still want to do that so I can develop in all aspects. I have finished school and focus fully on hockey.”

Throughout all of those early years he was never alone. His brother Emil Pettersson, who is four years older, was by his side, which enabled the two boys to push each other and motivate one another to be better. All of their time spent together skating and training has taken them all the way in Sweden, with 24-year-old Emil playing for SHL team Skelleftea AIK and younger brother Elias playing his first full season in HockeyAllsvenskan, one tier below the SHL, for Timra IK’s men’s team.

“(Growing up with Emil) helped me a lot,” explains Elias Pettersson. “Especially at a young age as Emil taught me a lot. Then now we'll try to check on each other’s games as much as we can and learn from each other. We'll call and talk to each other sometimes and keep in touch now when Emil playing in Skelleftea.”

On 12th November, the day of his 17th birthday, Elias Pettersson made his debut for Timra IK in Sweden’s second highest division, Hockey Allsvenskan. Since then he has been a regular face in the top team and has had a blistering start to the 2016/17 season by leading the club and the league with 10 goals and 23 points in 22 games.

Assistant coach of Timra IK, Henrik Stridh, has watched Elias develop over the years and accredits his development and transition into senior hockey mostly to Elias, himself, and his determination to improve and never stop working. As a coaching group at the club, they have just tried to let the speedy and skilful forward do what he does best, by giving him as much ice time as they can so he can continue to improve in all of the games forms.

“I think Elias have done most of it himself. He has been training harder than ever this summer,” states Henrik Stridh. “The thing we have done is let him play his game and be productive, be part of all offensive plays 5-4, 5-3. And try to make him learn from mistakes, but allow them to happen without cutting his ice time, as long as he learn from them”

When going up against men, Pettersson doesn’t let his growing-frame become a hindrance, utilizing all those hours of skating around as a young boy to his advantage. His vision and ability to read the play and create chances for his teammates goes far beyond his years, but making him most dangerous for his opponents is the ice-cold finish that he has in his own holster.

“The way he sees the ice, and his exceptional stickhandling and his balance on ice, the way he can set up the teammates and also the way he can finish the play himself,” affirms Coach Stridh on what makes Pettersson such a great talent.

“The one player I can compare him to is Erik Karlsson, (Ottawa Senators). They are not in the same position but their skills with the puck and the size of them both, in a young age can be so spectacular sometimes during the games. With that said I don’t want to put any pressure on Elias becoming a new Karlsson,” says Stridh.

Heading into the World Junior Championships in Montreal and Toronto, which begin on the 26 December 2016, Pettersson is quickly becoming an important piece in Sweden’s line-up for the tournament. It is clear that new head coach Tomas Monten will be looking to utilise the familiar connection between Pettersson and Lias Andersson, who have played plenty of junior international hockey together. It also looks like Monten has found the third ring in the chain, with Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick Carl Grundstrom, after the trio tore up the recent four-nations tournament against Russia, Finland and Czech Republic, leading Sweden to victory and sharing the top of the point standings after three games with a tally of seven each.

“It work really well between us,” explained Pettersson. “Me and Lias (Andersson) have played with each other before, but I have not played with Carl before. But it felt like we had been playing with each other many times before, we find each other well and created many chances to each other.”

It will be his first junior championships for Elias, playing in an atmosphere that he has never experienced before. There is also added pressure heading into the tournament on top of helping his team fight it out for a medal, Pettersson will also need to perform at his best individually before the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Currently sitting outside the top ten in many pre-draft ranking lists, Pettersson could be a dark-horse on draft day, especially if he can turn a few more heads at the World Junior Championships in Canada.

All of the hype that surrounds the tournament and the draft is not something that goes through the head of the cool, calm and collected teenager, who sees it more as a bit of fun and will be focused only on the job at hand.

“I think most of it is fun that so many people are watching. When I play a match I'm just focused on the game and do not think of what’s happening all around me with scouts and everybody who is watching.”

“I want to get drafted to a club where I get confidence from the coach and which team it is doesn't matter,” finalizes Elias Pettersson.


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