Vancouver Canucks

A New Dynamic

...How Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko have excelled together on and off the ice

March 15, 2023

Jagraj Lalli - @jlalli23

Great personal relationships often lead to on-ice success. Take Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko.

They've combined to be one of the unlikeliest of duos and have shown themselves to be more than capable of establishing a connection to excite hockey fans and viewers league-wide.

Having joined the Canucks following a successful career in the KHL, Kuzmenko had interest from many teams around the league, and he chose Vancouver. Drafted fifth overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Pettersson won the hearts of Canucks fans the moment he arrived.

Did anyone think at the start of the season that this duo would establish this sort of potent connection?

The months that followed would provide an answer.

In a dominant victory during preseason action on October 7th against Arizona, Pettersson and Kuzmenko both scored, with the Russian winger also providing an assist. A newcomer to North America, and still adapting to the English language, a cheerful Kuzmenko provided his best interpretation of the communication between him and his new teammate.

"Petey, not shoot, pass to me, pass to me. Petey shoot, goal, okay, it is a good goal!"

From that point on, it appeared there might be something special brewing between these two.

Elias Pettersson is no stranger to having chemistry with teammates. In his debut season, the Canucks rookie instantly clicked with the other young superstar on the team in Brock Boeser. Boeser, when asked earlier this season, acknowledged the unbelievable talent he saw in Pettersson.

"Anyone that plays with [Pettersson], I think you get a little more space because he's such a good player and he controls the game out there when the puck is on his stick," said Boeser.

Along with the newly acquired Ilya Mikheyev, Pettersson and Kuzmenko were grouped together from day one. While all other training camp combinations were shaken up, the Pettersson, Mikheyev, and Kuzmenko line stayed consistent. At one point, they were one of the best lines in the league, although Mikheyev would unfortunately later be sidelined with a season-ending surgery on February 2nd to repair a torn ACL.

When asked about his life off ice with his teammates (especially Kuzmenko) and how much that helps on ice, Elias was steadfast in his answer.

"It helps a lot when you get to know the guy. You build a friendship, grow closer, and it is fun playing with friends who you know well. I think chemistry and being good friends helps a lot."

Later in the season, prior to Vancouver hosting the defending Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche at home on January 5th, Pettersson received some exciting, yet unsurprising news. The Swedish centreman had been selected for the third time in his young career to represent the Canucks at the 2023 NHL All-Star Weekend.

Thanks to his leadership and 44 points at the time of All-Star voting Pettersson would make the trip down to South Florida in early February.

Being selected to NHL All-Star Weekend is an honour only the game's brightest stars receive, but Pettersson insisted that it is because of his teammates he can do so well.

"All I am thinking about while I am on the ice, is bringing my best game every game, playing for my teammates, and giving it my all out there to get the win. Of course, I am proud of my personal performance, but I always am focused on playing a good game, and when my teammates help, it usually goes well."

Despite early communication challenges due to the language barrier, Kuzmenko and Pettersson have blossomed into a duo capable of powering Vancouver's attack.

Through the first half of the season until NHL All-Star Weekend, Pettersson and Kuzmenko combined for 101 points, and they have remained just as productive post-break, combining for 20 of Vancouver's 55 goals from the beginning of February through March 11th.

Thanks to Kuzmenko's two-year extension signed with the Canucks in January and a run of recent success that has seen each player eclipse the 30-goal mark this season, the duo of Pettersson and Kuzmenko appears to be just getting started.