Canucks: Elias Pettersson and the evolution of shooting

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A master of the shooting arts, Elias Pettersson has been using a one-piece composite stick since he was around 14 years old.

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Before the rise of the one-piece composite stick, finding the right stick was a bit of a guessing game.

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NHL players would get a set of sticks, but due to nature, each wooden stick was a little different. A player would choose the model based on ideas still familiar today, such as blade flex and pattern, but compared to the modern version of the hockey stick, which is made in a mold, these terms were more guidelines that are entirely carved in stone.

With a batch of wooden sticks, a player would have to try each one out, sort them by feel, and then make their own modifications to the blade, using all sorts of hands-on effort.

But the days of the blowtorch and sandpaper are long gone. What was a never-ending ritual for many players is mostly just a memory. The modern player tells his club maker his exact specifications and every club delivered is consistent. There is no more mystery there.

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Goals are up this season in the NHL, especially at even strength. This is partly due to the way COVID-19 has affected squad rosters, both putting pressure on less experienced defenders and placing goalkeepers in games that are unlikely to see action. of the NHL otherwise.

But the ever-increasing skill of shooters is another part of the story. Along with this increase in skill has also come the rise of the one-piece stick. Players now have a much more innate understanding of what their sticks are capable of. Modern sticks are both stronger and more flexible than wooden sticks.

The players coming into the league now, who are only 18 and 19, have never seen anything but a composite stick. Players like Elias Pettersson haven’t always had one-piece sticks at their disposal, but they’ve used them since their teenage years. Some players may not think about the evolution of sticks, but it’s clear that when you ask Pettersson how using a one-piece stick from an early age helped him become the lethal shooter that he is today, he is very aware of it.

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“I grew up with this new technology,” he said.

Canucks forward Brad Richardson’s rookie season in the NHL was 2005-06, which was also the first season that players really started switching to full wood sticks or two-piece sticks, where the shaft was made of aluminum or composite material and the blades were always made of wood, to one-piece composite sticks.

When Richardson was very young he used a wooden stick, then as he entered his teens he entered the world of the two-piece stick, which certainly gave a shooter more power.

“I remember getting my first (Easton) Synergy, like the first one-piece,” he recalls.

He had previously used Wayne Gretzky’s famous aluminum two-piece stick, made by Easton: “I had all those sticks. Change the blades and put curves and all that. Yeah, I remember it doesn’t seem that far away,” he laughed when it was pointed out to him that it was also a sign of a long career.

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“It definitely helped filming. You don’t have to lean into it that much,” added Richardson, who played with a wooden stick until coming to major junior hockey 20 years ago.

Wooden sticks were, as a rule, stiffer than one-piece sticks are now. The more flexible a wooden stick is, the less durable it tends to be. To get any kind of force on a shot with the stiffer wooden sticks, you had to use at least one snapshot, where the stick is removed from the puck, the blade held on the ice, and the shooter leans into the stick to create more flex before hitting the puck.

“Now it’s just a flick of the wrist and with all the flex like it is now with (stick) technology…you look at a guy like Auston (Matthews) that I skate with in the summer, he can pull it and releasing and changing angles, so obviously it’s skill, but the poles really help,” Richardson said.

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Pettersson didn’t always play with a one-piece stick, but like Matthews he became a master of both the skill of the shot and the tool itself. His one-timer on the right side on the power play is as deadly a shot as there is in the NHL. He has never played with a wooden stick but knows the consistency of the modern stick is a blessing.

“It’s a completely different ball game,” he said.

When he was younger, he wasn’t as strong.

“I didn’t even know how to do a one-timer,” he said. “But the more I practiced the point shots, the better my wrist shot got better, in timing and everything. It’s just something that I developed, as I got stronger, I improved my technique. I realized that I didn’t need to put in so much force if I just had the right timing, with the flex. Honestly, I don’t even know how I shoot. It just happened.”

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OVER TIME: The Canucks announced Friday afternoon that Bo Horvat’s right leg injury would be re-evaluated in two weeks, essentially ending his season. Horvat took a heavy blow to the inside of his right leg, inches above his ankle, in Thursday’s 7-1 win over Arizona. A source told Postmedia News that Horvat is wearing a walking boot and using a knee scooter at the moment. … Matt Highmore returned to practice on Friday after suffering an upper body injury two weeks ago. Brock Boeser, who injured his elbow last week, was due to return to training on Saturday.

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