Nic Petan: An Oft-Forgotten Gem

WHT Profile: Nic Petan

With all the excitement over the Winnipeg Jets new highly coveted gems like Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, has Nic Petan become lost in the shuffle?

Nic Petan is perhaps playing the best hockey of his life.  Since his call-up from the Moose, he has looked real good.  While it’s unlikely that he’ll ever put up the numbers he put up in the WHL, there is every opportunity he will turn into a more than serviceable NHL player.

Nicolas Petan was born March 22, 1995, in Delta, British Columbia.  Petan scored a whopping 76 goals and added 63 assists in just 57 games for the North Shore Winter Club in his final year of bantam hockey in 2009-10.  He capped off the season leading his team to a fourth-place finish in the Western Canada bantam championships.  This successful year resulted in him being selected in the first round, sixteenth overall by the Portland Winterhawks in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft.

The following season, 15-year-old Nic Petan skated in 3 games in the regular season for Portland, recording his first WHL point, an assist.  The young forward also suited up in seven playoff games for the Winterhawks.  He played the majority of the season with the Greater Vancouver Canadians of the British Columbia Midget Major League.  Petan scored 19 goals along with 30 assists to go with 36 penalty minutes in 35 games for the Canadians.  In the BCMML playoffs, he scored 3 goals and 3 assists and had 18 penalty minutes in six games.  He also won gold at the 2011 Canada Winter Games with Team British Columbia.  He finished second on the team in scoring, putting up 4 goals and 8 assists in 12 contests.

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Nic Petan played 61 games as a 16-year-old rookie in Portland during the 2011-12 season.  He scored 14 times and assisted on 21 other goals to go with 22 penalty minutes.  He was held scoreless in 22 WHL playoff games.  Petan also had the opportunity to represent Canada Pacific at the 2012 U17 World Hockey Challenge.

Nic Petan kicked off his draft eligible year in 2012-13 by winning a gold medal with Team Canada’s U18 team at the 2012  Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. He scored once and assisted on another in five games at the tournament.  He led the WHL with 74 assists and finished tied for the overall points title with his teammate Brendan Leipsic, scoring 120 points in 68 games.  His 46 goals were good for fourth league-wide.  Nic Petan helped Portland to a WHL Championship, scoring 9 goals and 19 assists in 21 playoff games.  Portland advanced to the Memorial Cup final, losing 6-4 to the Halifax Mooseheads, who were led by Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, who went first and third overall respectively in 2013 NHL Entry Draft.  He scored a goal and added 9 assists in just five Memorial Cup games.

Nic Petan entered the 2013 NHL Entry Draft ranked 33rd amongst North American skaters in the Central Scouting rankings.  Many pundits had him going in the first round.  Perhaps because of his size (5’9″), Petan fell until the Winnipeg Jets selected him with their second pick, 43rd overall.

Prior to returning to Portland, Petan experienced his first NHL Camp with the Jets early in the 2013-14 season.  Petan added to his list of accomplishments by representing the WHL in the Subway Series and played for the Canada U20 team at the 2014 World Junior Championship.  At the WJC, he scored 4 goals and one assist in seven games as Canada placed fourth.  He finished the year second in league scoring with 113 points, behind only overage forward Mitch Holmberg (who played nine more games than Petan and scored five more points).  Petan scored 35 times in 63 games and led the WHL in assists again with 78.  He also scored 7 goals and added 21 assists in 21 playoff games as Portland reached the WHL Final, but lost to the eventual Memorial Cup Champions the Edmonton Oil Kings. Petan signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Jets in December 2013.

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Nic Petan returned to the Winterhawks for the 2014-15 WHL season.  He scored 15 goals and 74 assists in just 54 games that season.  Nic Petan represented his country again at the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championship as Canada defended home soil to claim gold as the host nation.  Petan finished tied for the tournament lead in points with fellow Canadians Sam Reinhart and Connor McDavid.  He scored 4 goals (including a hat-trick in the semi-final game against Slovakia) and had 7 assists in 7 games.  Portland again made the playoffs, reaching the Western Conference finals, before being ousted by the Kelowna Rockets.  Petan finished first in overall points in the playoffs with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists).

Nic Petan began the 2015-16 season, his first as a pro, with the Winnipeg Jets of the NHL.  He scored his first career NHL goal in his debut game against Boston on October 8, 2015.  After the first game, Petan and the Jets as a team began to struggle.  This resulted in him being sent to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose on November 19, 2015.  Petan found success on an abysmal Moose team, scoring 9 goals and 23 assists in 47 games.  His 32 points put him seventh in team scoring, despite playing in significantly fewer games for the Moose.  He was recalled to the Jets to end the 2015-16 season.  He finished his rookie year in the NHL with 2 goals and 4 assists in 26 games.

Petan started the 2016-17 season back with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.  He had a good start with the Moose, scoring 4 goals and 5 points in 9 games.  As Petan joyed the start to his second pro season, injuries began to mount for the Winnipeg Jets.  This led to him being recalled to the Jets on November 4, 2016. In 11 games with the Jets so far this season, Petan has scored 1 goal and 6 assists.

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Petan’s game has grown quite a bit since the start of last year.  He struggled his first stint with the Jets last year.  He was getting knocked around by the other team and really couldn’t get anything going offensively, which was his calling card in junior.  Now in his defense, his NHL linemates last year were pretty lackluster. It seems that stint with the Moose last year did wonders for Petan.  Not only did he regain his scoring touch, but he was able to gain experience and confidence at the pro level, and without dealing with the pressures that the NHL brings.

Fast forward to 2016 and Petan’s game oozes confidence.  He drives the play, is a wizard in the offensive zone, is sound defensively and looks like a man on a mission with the puck.  He does not look out-of-place at all at the NHL level, something that couldn’t be said during his rookie year.  Statistically-wise, the points are coming.  He’s a great set-up man.  Imagine him playing with Patrik Laine. That is a match made in heaven for Winnipeg Jets fans.

With every passing game, Nicolas Petan is playing more and more like the kid who dominated junior, leading the league in assists 2 years in a row, and less and less like the kid who was bullied and struggled during his rookie year.

Jets fan should be excited about the future.  Laine, Ehlers, Scheifele, Morrissey, Hellebuyck, Connor are all reasons for this.  Nic Petan is another reason to be excited, even if he’s been flying under the radar due to the Jets’ immense amount of young talent.  But fans should not forget about a highly skilled playmaker who has found success at every level he’s played and can handle high-pressure games (World Juniors, WHL Playoffs to name a few).  Every championship team has a player of Petan’s pedigree.  The Winnipeg Jets soon hope to be one of those championship teams, and the emergence of Nicolas Petan as an offensive dynamo will surely assist in the fruition of that hope.

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