Jets Draft: Nic Petan 43rd Overall

Nic Petan, C, Portland Winterhawks

  • 5’8", 165lbs
  • LH
  • 71GP 46-74-120 (+68) 43PIMS
  • Good-Better-Best comps: Brett Sterling – Nathan Gerbe – Martin St Louis

The Jets broke with their annual tradition of trying to outsmart the scouting community by scooping the highly rated, under-sized scorer Nic Petan. Petan tied with teammate and similarly under-sized Nashville prospect Brendan Leipsic for the scoring lead of the entire WHL with an incredible 120 points this year. The highest scoring non-Winterhawk was a full 14 points back of Petan’s point total. For the Jets who are in such need of high end talent, the risk that Petan fails to translate his game in the bigger, faster professional leagues is secondary to the potential reward of having a top-6 forward come from the middle of the second round.

Flames Nation’s Kent Wilson provided an in-depth look at Petan in the lead up the draft, putting together numbers and verbal to reveal an elite level scorer with only one major question mark. Craig Button (for what that’s worth) loves the kid, comparing him to Zetterberg and putting him at 17 on his personal list. MacKenzie had him at 33, praising his elite hockey sense, skill, and speed. Pronman had him at 32, and had this to say:

Petan was a co-leader in WHL scoring, contributing to Portland’s league championship and berth in the Memorial Cup. He is a highly skilled individual, bleeding puck possession tools. He can make high level plays with the puck, be it in terms of controlling it, outmaneuvering opponents, or making top-end passes. He is a very creative, instinctive offensive player, showing a knack for turning normal plays into scoring chances. He has the pace to play in tight spaces. Petan is certainly a small player, but that helps him with shiftiness, as he is difficult to check in open ice. He possesses a nice first step, and he can move at an above-average level. He has a quality shot, and despite his size, he shows decent defensive ability. His diminutive stature (between 5’8" and 5’9") is his only glaring weakness, and overcoming it will be a challenge. Scouts have described him as feisty in terms of the effort and battle he displays.

Once again, Hockey Futures gives us some context to his scoring:

2012-13: Petan won a gold medal with Canada’s U18 team in the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament before returning to Portland for his second season. He was part of the WHL’s top line, skating along side NHL prospects Ty Rattie (STL) and Brendan Leipsic (NSH). Petan led the WHL with 74 assists and shared the overall points title with Leipsic, finishing with 120 points in 68 games. His 46 goals were fourth-most in the WHL behind Leipsic (49), Rattie (48) and Saskatoon’s Josh Nicholls (47). Portland had the league’s best record, finishing first in the U.S. Division, and captured the playoff title after reaching the WHL Finals for the third straight season. In 21 playoff games Petan scored 9 goals with 19 assists and was plus-13 with 16 penalty minutes. In five games at the Ivan Hlinka tournament he scored 1 goal with 1 assist and had 2 penalty minutes. Petan was ranked 33rd amongst North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings prior to the 2013 NHL Draft.

So what?

Petan shouldn’t have fallen all the way to 43, and Winnipeg gets a steal. McKenzie labeled him as a possible steal at 33, in fact. The Jets definitely took the best player available, and in adding pure skill, have addressed a desperate need at the same time. He is unlikely to play centre in the NHL because of his size. At the Junior level, your best distributors and thinkers of the game move to centre. At the NHL level, he will likely move to the wing as Nathan Gerbe before him. 

His skill puts him in the Jets top 6 sooner rather than later. I suspect he will surprise at camp in September and earn a spot if teams were made by meritocracy alone. Nevertheless, he will, of course, be sent back to play his full Junior eligibility because of his size and the fear of injury as much as ineffectiveness.