Pettersson leads Canucks against Avalanche

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Elias Pettersson did something Thursday that no other Vancouver Canucks first-year player has done since 1999.

Pettersson, a 19-year-old Swede, was named the National Hockey League’s rookie of the month for October. He became the first Canuck to earn the honor since Peter Schaefer pulled off the feat 19 years ago.

Not bad considering that Pettersson missed six games with a concussion in his first month as an NHLer.

“There’s a lot of good rookies and I’m honored to win it,” Pettersson told reporters after practice at the University of B.C.

“I think I started very well, and when I got back (from the concussion) the guys helped me continue to play my game. … I felt like I didn’t miss anything.”

Pettersson leads the injury-riddled Canucks (8-6-0) in goals and points heading into Friday’s home game against the Colorado Avalanche (7-4-2). The youngster has seven goals and three assists in just eight games. He already has a pair of two-goal nights.

The latest twin-pack came Monday in Vancouver’s 5-2 home-ice win over Minnesota, a team that had won five straight games beforehand. Pettersson scored the winning goal on a one-timer and netted an insurance marker on breakaway, which resulted after he blocked a shot.

He has adjusted well to the NHL after concerns were raised about his ability to play center and handle the more physical game prevalent on North America’s smaller rinks than on Europe’s larger ones. For the most part, he has handled the rough going with relative ease. The concussion occurred when he was hit from behind and slammed to the ice by Washington defenseman Mike Matheson, who received a two-game suspension for his misdeeds.

Pettersson has also been a mainstay at center, his natural position, after Green contemplated starting the season with him on the wing to help him acclimatize to the NHL.

“We were hopeful that he would be able to play at a decent level and obviously hopeful that he could play center,” said Green.

“The fact that he’s picked up the position over here — as quick as he has — has really shown to me that he has good understanding of the game. … That’s the part of the game that’s hard to grasp and to teach, and with him we haven’t had to worry about that.”

On Friday, the Canucks coach and his charges will likely have to worry about Colorado’s top line of Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. All three rank among the NHL’s top scorers. Accordingly, the Avs are contending for first place in the Central Division.

The Calgary Flames managed to keep the trio largely in check Thursday night, coming back to beat the Avs 6-5. Although Avs coach Jared Bednar does not have to worry about his top unit most nights, he has concerns about his other lines due to injuries to Tyson Jost, J.T. Compher and Sven Andrighetto, who are relied upon for secondary scoring. As a result, Bednar wants some younger players to shine.

“It’s a great opportunity for a lot of those guys,” Bednar told reporters Thursday morning in Calgary.

Bednar singled out center Vladislav Kamenev, who moved up to the second line for Thursday’s contest, as one player who needs to provide more offensive production.

“I agree with that,” said Kamenev, 22, who has logged eight games. “I have to play better offensively — be with the puck more maybe and make plays. (With guys injured) I have to use that chance.”

He did Thursday night, scoring his first NHL career goal.