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Jason Botchford: Canucks’ Swedish teens show early signs of Sedin-like chemistry

The Vancouver Canucks are adamant they weren’t thinking about the Sedin twins when they seized an opportunity to bring in two highly drafted teenagers, undersized Swedish forwards who have near limitless ceiling.

It’s understandable if you don’t believe the National Hockey League club.

It is ridiculously unfair to compare Jonathan Dahlen and Elias Pettersson to the Sedins. But we’re all going to do it anyway. Forgive us, because we’re about to sin.

From sharing a dry, sarcastic sense of humour to some unusual, telepathic-like on-ice playmaking to a tight off-ice bond, it’s virtually impossible to discuss the dawn of the Dahlen and Pettersson era in Vancouver without at least giving the Sedins a nod.

To hear Pettersson tell it, the pair had instant chemistry the first time they played together three years ago.

“We think like the same on the ice, we know where the other player are, so we are very similar on the ice,” Pettersson said. “I am more of a passer, he is more of a goal scorer.”

Funny, it feels like we’ve heard this before.

They’ve played together for three years, and lived together for two.

Pettersson was asked if it was nice to have his linemate from Sweden at the Canucks development camp.

“No.”

It was a Sedin-worthy deadpan, followed by a long pause. Then, big laughs.

“Yes, of course,” Pettersson continued. “He’s my best friend from home in Sweden and to be on the same team in Sweden and get drafted by Vancouver and to be in the same NHL organization is very cool.”

And somehow very familiar. At least no one will have a difficult time telling these two apart.

Dahlen is the shorter, stockier goal scorer with the low centre of gravity who lives around the goal-line, going from the boards to the net, and from the net to the boards.

Pettersson is the taller, and much thinner, perimeter playmaker with the dazzling puck skills.

“If I go into an opening he’ll find me,” Dahlen explained. “It’s a good feeling to go into that opening when I know he can find me.”

Is Dahlen ever surprised by one of Pettersson’s implausible setups?

“Not anymore,” Dahlen said, dryly.

Again, laughs.

As teens the pair tore up Sweden’s second division, a men’s league some believe is comparable to the AHL, with each nearly putting up a point a game.

But if their chemistry played a role in the Canucks drafting of Pettersson, Vancouver’s telling everyone it was a small one.

“We didn’t go and pick Elias because he played with Dahlen,” Linden said. “It’s a nice story and there’s a chance they could be linemates.

“We were talking about Elias in our mid-term meetings in January as a guy we liked and we wanted to continue to watch him.

“There’s no question they have the chance to be first-line players for this organization for a long time.”

Dahlen, of course, was the prospect the Canucks received from the Ottawa Senators in the Alex Burrows trade at the deadline.

Elias Pettersson was selected fifth overall by the Vancouver Canucks during the NHL entry draft in Chicago on June 23, 2017.

At that point, the Canucks were far enough down the standings they would have had a strong indication they’d be in position to draft his best friend.

“It is unique the way it happened,” Linden said. “I’m not going to say this was the grand plan. We liked Jonathan in his draft year and didn’t have the opportunity to get him.

“The fact we did, is very important. Having these two guys who have that chemistry is going to be fun to see how that plays out.”

The pair, by the way, are set to be playing on the same line in the Canucks top prospect’s game on Thursday night.

Up to now, most have assumed that Dahlen would likely spend this season playing in the AHL, but he said Tuesday he has some options to play again in Sweden. One that may be too difficult to pass up.

Pettersson said he will be playing for Växjö in the Swedish Hockey League, universally known as the country’s elite league. Dahlen said there could be chance he’s moved to that same team.

It leads to a great question about what is worth more.

Is it better for Dahlen to learn the so-called North American game in Utica or should he be doing everything he can to play with Pettersson, continuing years of chemistry we haven’t seen the likes of which since, well, Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

“It’s hard to stand here and compare yourself to the two of the best players in Swedish history so not really sure (about being comparable),” Dahlen said.

“But me and Elias know each other well and we’re going to do our best to make it over here.”

jbotchford@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/botchford

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