December 31 2013 01:29AM
Left to right: Lowry, Scheifele, and Petan at practice
Star WHL centre Nic Petan signed his entry level contract yesterday with the Jets, just hours after scoring the winning goal against Slovakia in a come from behind win at the World Junior Championship. Long time readers will know that Petan is a personal favourite of mine, and I consider him a creative puck handler and precision passer with exceptional hockey IQ.
Inside we'll look again at the player and at what the timing of his signing means for the club.
How Good Is Nic Petan?
I started to ask that question back in September, but his draft +1 season has been so exceptional that the answer is a moving target.
His 120 point season a year ago was tied for tops in the WHL, but it was tied with his older linemate Brendan Leipsic, and over age scorer Ty Rattie wasn't far behind at 110. The concern was that his offence was driven by those older, larger players.
Petan answered that concern and then some with his 66 points in 32 games so far this season. Rattie has gone pro with the Chicago Wolves, putting up 18 points in 31 games. Winnipeg native Leipsic is still with the Winterhawks, but is scoring at a 1.5 point per game pace - lower than last year and well off Petan's 2.1.
It's not just his scoring that impresses me, however. His hockey IQ is present in every zone, and despite his small stature, he's able to manage the middle of the ice like very few players his age.
I wrote this about him during the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton:
Petan showed singular puck support and awareness without the puck. Moreover, with the puck he controlled the Sharks' 5-man unit and distributed expertly from the middle. His anticipation appeared elite in this game. He was often two events ahead of the play and one event ahead of the other players. His pucks skills were edge-of-your-seat good, and his awareness for his linemates exceptional. His shot has a quick release with a variety of release points, and his skating is plus or elite in this tournament.
Jets fans should be very excited about this player, even if his size means his route the NHL will be slower than it should be given his skills.
Still, the timing of this signing shows that the Jets are entering the business of selling hope. Just as Eric Comrie was signed hours after Pavelec was shelled for six goals against Edmonton, and Scott Kosmachuk was signed two days after a miserable night in Buffalo, we can see the cynical side of this deal - that the team is capitalizing on the publicity of his success on the world stage.
In fact, the timing is bizarre considering Petan is in Malmo at the moment, the NHL was just on holidays earlier in the week, and the team is under no pressure to sign their young prospect just 6 months after draft day. It's a full market deal (reported at 925K x 3), as Kevin Cheveldayoff is known to sign, and it's hard to see another reason for the timing that isn't cynical. More worrisome for this fan is the fact that this roster is not far off a playoff team, and selling hope is something rebuilding teams do.
That said, it's hardly a crime to want your fans to be excited about the future, and Nic Petan is worth getting excited over.