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Ignored by many, including this writer (mea culpa), for much of the early part of the year, Nicolas Petan exploded onto the scene, and forced people to take notice with a remarkable season in the WHL. Considered undersized, Petan didn’t let that stand in his way as he just kept scoring, and scoring, and scoring. It seemed that everytime I’d check in on the Winterhawks to see how Seth Jones was doing, Petan would do something that would catch my eye, and eventually he could no longer be brushed aside. He really came to the forefront at the CHL Top Prospects game where he again stood out as one of the best players on the ice.
Petan ended the season with 120 points, good enough to be tied with Portland Winterhawks’ teammate Brendan Leipsic for the WHL (and CHL) scoring title. He would lose the title on the tiebreaker of having less goals scored, but the performance was enough to open eyes around the hockey world. Now with 23 points in 17 playoff games for Portland, Petan is proving that his season was no fluke and that he can continue to score during the hard grind of the playoffs. He’s a big reason why the Winterhawks are in the WHL final (currently tied 1-1) with the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Born Mar 22 1995 — Delta, BC
Height 5.09 — Weight 166 — Shoots Left
February Rank 23
With more and more small players succeeding in the NHL, we can notice that a common theme that stands out, and allows these undersized players to continue to excel in the NHL is their skating ability. This is good news for Petan as his skating is well above average. While his top end speed is merely good, it is the rest of his skating ability that really stands out. He has a very good first step, and great acceleration. Petan’s ability to change pace quickly and good agility allows him to confuse defenders and beat them to the outside before driving the net. His great agility, and tight turns allow him to weave through traffic both with and without the puck. He is not afraid to go into those high traffic areas, and his skating ability helps him to fight through checks despite his size.
In the offensive zone, Petan has shown to be a multi-dimensional threat coupling great vision and playmaking skills with a good wrist shot and quick release. He creates scoring chances for linemates, but can also be a finisher when they set him up. He has a very high hockey IQ and always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and to make smart plays with the puck on his stick. Petan works hard in the corners and the front of the net and shows a lot of fight and grit despite his size. He is not intimidated to go up against bigger and stronger opponents.
Petan has also shown to be a reliable defensive player and often contributes on Portland’s penalty kill unit. He anticipates plays well and causes turnovers. His good hockey IQ allows him to steal pucks and transition quickly form defence to offence. He will of course need to bulk up to play in the NHL, and a transition to wing (like many smaller players) may eventually be in his future, but he does have the skills to succeed.
Stylistically Petan is somewhat reminiscent of Martin St. Louis. However this is a style comparison only and not a potential analysis, as I am not putting him on the level of the future Hall of Famer in Tampa Bay. Potential wise, Petan is a real boom or bust type prospect. If he can overcome the size question, he could be a top line forward in the NHL.
Check back tomorrow for our number 28 prospect.
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Photo Credit: whl.ca