Nic Petan Signs, Club on Good Will Campaign

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.

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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. 

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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. 

Selling Hope

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. 

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  • Pre-2013 NHL Entry Draft, I was hoping the Jets would either walk away with Max Domi or Nic Petan. The Jets barely missed out on Domi so when Petan was still available come the Jets second pick, I was relieved when his name was called. The diminutive forward has displayed an IceQ that, similar to their first round pick Josh Morrissey, is off the charts. Which means is we can’t baffle teams on the scoreboard, we’ll still dazzle them with our brilliance.

    • If Petan’s game-winning goal against Slovakia provided any previews into his play making and goal scoring ability, then yes I agree Kevin, he is very much worth getting excited over!

      Do you think his size will make his path that much slower? How slow do you expect or predict?

      • Travis Hrubeniuk

        I think it will make it slower simply based on the fact that they will want him to prove himself in the AHL before letting him walk into the big leagues. Similar to what we all wanted from Scheifele, they are going to want to make sure that he can produce against men.

        His talent is something you cannot deny. I’m very hopeful that he will play a lot bigger than he looks in a couple years.

      • Kevin McCartney

        As to his size, the Jets will have a bit of a corner painted for them next season. Petan is obviously too good to play in Junior, and there is always the worry about building bad habits and not reaching for a higher ceiling during those key development years. At the same time, he won’t be AHL eligible as long as he has CHL eligibility, and he’s not going to grow 3 inches over the summer to make him a clear NHL candidate.

        So at the next year’s training camp, the team will be deciding on an NHL assignment vs. burning another year in Junior where he scores 2 points a game against 17 year olds. I suspect the answer is to give him his 9 game tryout in the big leagues. All we can hope is that he doesn’t get the Eric O’Dell treatment from Claude Noel (I’m hoping he doesn’t get any treatment from Claude Noel!), and actually gets a chance to show some skill and score some points – especially on the team’s awful powerplay.

  • Robert Cleave

    Beyond the cynical reasons you’ve stated, I also suspect Petan’s agent and/or accountant might have wanted the signing bonus paid out before year end. If the Jets are signing him anyway, splitting income between years is never a bad idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kerby Rychel’s agent got the same consideration from Jarmo Kekalainen earlier today. Sometimes business is just business.

    That noted, kid looks like a player. Like any smurf, we’ll see if he can handle playing against men, but he certainly seems to able to think his way around the ice at a pro level. He’s probably a couple of years away, but getting him in the 2nd round looks like a gift.

    • Robert Cleave

      Very good point. Never thought of the money angle and splitting income. That is a problem I typically don’t have to worry about (I have to give my bank two grand just so I can claim to be broke).

      And so what if Petan is the worlds largest midget. He’s a survivor and like Trouba, may surprise people when the next season rolls around.

    • Kevin McCartney

      That’s a really interesting point, Robert. Can you explain to me how it benefits these organizations to split the income (in Petan’s case)/payroll expense (in the Jets case?).

      I have the financial awareness of a socialist student in his 20’s! (I don’t know how that happened…)

      • Robert Cleave

        There’s no meaningful financial or cap impact on the team to do this now or later. You have to sign guys sometime, they don’t count against your 50 contracts until they turn pro, and if you can help out a player you plan on having in the org. long term, there’s not much downside in showing some good will. Beyond the tax planning element and presuming a max signing bonus, the kid gets 277.5 K in his jeans. That’s not an insignificant sum for a teenager who’d be getting a few hundred bucks a month in the Dub otherwise.

        Getting things done early could tie into something else that might be at play here. Winnipeg will never be an easy sell to players until they’re a persistent winner, so the fact that the Jets are willing to do the little things for players is a message I suspect they’d want to send. As well, no team wants a Tim Erixon situation happening to them, so this is sensible for a team like the Jets from that perspective as well.

        • Robert Cleave

          I am assuming under-agers that play their 9 in the NHL get paid their contract rate, do you know if that is the case?

          If so then the income splitting over 2013 and 2014 would have a substantial impact on taxes, since Mr. Petan could expect to take home a healthy cheque in 2014 besides his signing bonus.

          Every penny moved from 2014 back to 2013 saves 46.40% in taxes on all other 2014 income. That is a big deal.

  • Robert Cleave

    It’s hard for me to be cynical about this signing. I fell in love with the guy watching him at the prospects camp in July. I remember multiple times where the crowd (including myself) gasped loudly at his skills on display. Especially in this turkey of a season, I’ve begun looking forward to the future of the team and Nic Petan is, indeed, a reason to be excited.