Portland Winterhawks v Kelowna Rockets

Looking to make the leap: Nicolas Petan


When it comes down to it, the Winnipeg Jets roster seems fairly set. According to Cap Geek, the team already has 14 more-or-less NHL-caliber forwards and eight similarly suitable defensemen under contract.

So, to some extent, you could probably apply similar odds to young blueliner Josh Morrissey as you can to the focus of this piece: under-sized forward Nicolas Petan; both are 19-year-olds who will either face another year in junior or low odds for a huge leap to the NHL.

The difference might be that Morrissey’s long-term path seems clearer than Petan’s hopeful journey to eventual NHL roster status. While the former was the 13th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft,* the latter is a player whose size will likely always be questioned by a good number of decision-makers. Petan is listed at 5-foot-9 and and 165 lbs., and sadly enough, those numbers will matter more to some than his 113 and 120-point seasons with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks.

It doesn’t help his cause that the arguably conservative-to-a-fault franchise isn’t prone to rushing their prospects, either.

He’s in an awkward developmental spot: potentially unprepared to make the leap yet there’s the concern about another dominant WHL year being a waste. Arctic Ice Hockey has more on the dilemma:

There is also the matter of patience in development. The Jets are not a team that will rush their prospects and risk the future in hopes of short term success. They will be patient with Petan and if they think another year of WHL is the right choice for his long term development, they will send him back. This isn’t unprecedented either. Petan’s former teammate and Nashville Predators’ prospect Brendan Leipsic, was returned to the NHL for his 19 year old season after posting 120 points in 2012-13.  The Jets have done it too, returning Mark Scheifele to the OHL for his final year of junior hockey. Petan’s size will no doubt going to play a role in whether or not he takes the next step but, as was the case with Scheifele, it won’t be the only factor.

All signs point to Petan only getting an audition with the team, if that.

But here’s a tougher question: what if his skill shines so glaringly in training camp that it’s obvious he’d help the Jets more than the depth players they signed (for the most part) this summer? At some point, this franchise needs to steer away from inertia and make a bold move or two if it wants to take a step away from mediocrity.

In all likelihood, such bold moves might come from other areas. Still, the Jets would be foolish not to at least be open-minded about adding more talent to their roster.

* – On the bright side, Petan was selected in the second round (43rd overall) of that same draft, so at least there’s some solid incentive to give him a real chance.

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McDavid will center Hall and Slepyshev

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ST. LOUIS (AP) Edmonton Oilers rookie Connor McDavid said he didn’t have any trouble falling asleep on the eve of his professional debut.

But when he woke up on Thursday he said it finally hit him.

“In the days leading up I wasn’t really thinking about it too much,” McDavid said. “Kind of when I woke up this morning, I guess that’s kind of when it hit me that I’ll be playing in my first NHL game. I think that’s when I first realized.”

When the Oilers play at the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, all eyes will be on the 18-year-old McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and the most hyped player to enter the NHL since Sidney Crosby of the Penguins made his debut a decade ago.

Speaking in front of a crowd of reporters on Thursday following his team’s morning skate, the soft-spoken rookie admitted to having some butterflies but said he felt pretty good and was excited to get going.

“It’s just special,” McDavid said of his NHL debut. “I’m living out my dream, so there’s nothing better than that. I’m just really looking forward to tonight.”

McDavid will be centering the Oilers’ second line against the Blues with Taylor Hall on the left wing and Anton Slepyshev on the right. Hall was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, while Slepyshev will also be making his NHL debut on Thursday night.

“We all see what he can do in practice and the games,” Hall said of McDavid. “It’s important to remember he’s 18. I’m 23 and I still have bad games. Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world and still has bad games. There’s going to be some trials and some errors, but I think that he’s in a position to succeed and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow.”

Oilers coach Todd McLellan, hired in May after spending seven seasons with the San Jose Sharks, has already gotten accustomed to receiving questions about McDavid.

The first few questions McLellan was asked on Thursday were about the NHL’s most popular newcomer.

“What I’ve found with him is he’s working really hard to just be himself and fit in,” the coach said. “He doesn’t want to be special, he doesn’t want to be treated any differently but he obviously is. He’s trying to adapt to that and he’s doing a very good job of it personally and collectively I think our team has done a good job around him.”

McLellan said there are three levels of pressure surrounding him.

The first is McDavid’s individual expectations, which he is sure are extremely high. The second comes from the rookie’s teammates, coaching staff, organization and city of Edmonton.

“But where it really changes is the national, international and world-wide eyes being on him,” McLellan said. “How does that compare to some of the other players I’ve been around? I haven’t been around an 18-year-old who has had to deal with that. It’s new to all of us.

“I did spend some time talking to Sid (Sidney Crosby) about his experience and even since then the world’s really changed as far as media and social media and that type of stuff. This is a new adventure for everybody involved. I know Connor has the tools to handle the pressure and we’ll do everything we can to help him.”

Bruins’ second line officially goes under the microscope


While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.

Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac Rinaldo

The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.

So, where is Krejci’s game now?

Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.

So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?

On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.

So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?

“It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”