Looking to make the leap: Nicolas Petan

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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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Devils sign d-man Michael Kapla

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The New Jersey Devils have signed UMass-Lowell defenseman Michael Kapla to a two-year, entry-level contract.

Kapla, 22, had three goals and 27 assists in 41 games this season. He’ll report to the Devils and likely burn the first year of his ELC by making his NHL debut sometime very soon.

The Devils host the Winning Jets tonight. They’re in Brooklyn Friday to play the Islanders.

Kapla spent four years in college. Per the Devils’ press release, he “most recently captained the River Hawks to the 2017 Hockey East Championship. He also received Hockey East All-Tournament Team honors and was named to the Hockey East Second All-Star Team.”

 

Report: Penn State sophomore Pedrie leaves school, signs with Rangers

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For the second straight day, the Rangers have landed an undrafted college free agent.

Vince Pedrie, a sophomore blueliner that just wrapped his sophomore campaign at Penn State, has reportedly agreed to terms with the Rangers on an entry-level deal, per the Collegian.

Citing a post from Pedrie’s Facebook account confirming the move, the Collegian reports the 23-year-old is the youngest Nittany Lion in program history to leave the team for the professional ranks.

It comes after Pedrie emerged as a “dominant offensive force” for the club last season, racking up 30 points in 39 games while helping Penn State qualify for its first NCAA championship appearance.

As mentioned above, this is the second intriguing prospect to join the Blueshirts in as many days. On Monday, University of Minnesota senior Vinni Lettieri agreed to join the team after an impressive four-year career with the Gophers.

Hjalmarsson says ‘Hawks are ‘too comfortable’ after rough trip through Florida

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When most people take trips to Florida, it’s to get away from the stress and struggle of everyday life. But it’s safe to say that this edition of the Chicago Blackhawks won’t want to remember their visit to the Sunshine State.

The ‘Hawks dropped an embarrassing 7-0 decision to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night before blowing a 4-1 lead in last night’s game against the Bolts (they eventually lost 5-4 in OT).

They still have a comfortable lead atop the Central Division (eight points up on the struggling Wild), but they aren’t satisfied with their play.

“It’s getting close to the end here and we’re getting a little bit too comfortable maybe,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said, per the Chicago Tribune. “As soon as you do that, you’re going to lose games … At the same time I’m glad that we were playing like this before the playoffs so we can make some adjustments.

“Eighty-two games is a long season. It’s a mental grind more than anything. As soon as you’re not there 100 percent, it’s going to show in the scoring.”

As Hjalmarsson said, six games is still enough time to figure things out for Chicago. They just won’t have the luxury of facing easy opponents when they do try to sort out their struggles.

They’ll play the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Wednesday before returning home to play Columbus and Boston. They’ll then head back on the road to close out the season in Denver, Anaheim and Los Angeles.

PHT Morning Skate: This season’s top five breakout performers

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Jake Allen wore a special U.S. Navy tribute mask during last night’s game against the Coyotes. It’s really a gorgeous mask. “The blue and yellow complements our colors well, and it’s a great tribute to the Blue Angel pilots who have the honor of flying and performing across the country.” (NHL.com/Blues)

–With every NHL season, there are surprises and disappointments. Rather than focus on the negatives, The Hockey News breaks down the top five breakout seasons in 2016-17. At the top of the list is Panthers forward Jonathan Marchesault, who is shockingly closing in on a 30-goal season. Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson and Boston’s David Pastrnak have also made names for themselves. (The Hockey News)

–It’s no secret that NHLers are forced to travel a lot, but each team makes the most of their road trips in different ways. For example, Kevin Shattenkirk and the Capitals enjoy fine dining when they’re away from home.  “It’s so easy to go to the top names or the ones that you hear of all the time, but when you go to a lot of these cities, the food scenes everywhere now are really starting to improve. A lot of my friends naturally are foodies. They bring me to some of their places. Even just a simple Google, most of the times, the first two things that come up are Yelp or TripAdvisor, and I usually go a couple down and look at a local newspaper, if they have the best spots to eat in 2017. I like to focus on those.” (Washington Post)

–The Tampa Bay Lightning found themselves down 4-1 in lasts night’s game against Chicago, but they were able to battle back and win in a thrilling overtime period. You can check out the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Tonight will mark the first time that Jordie and Jamie Benn play against each other since the trade that saw the older Benn head to Montreal. The Canadiens took the opportunity to ask their Benn some questions about what it was like growing up with his brother. Here’s a sample question: “Of the two of you, which one is Peyton and who is Eli?” (NHL.com/Canadiens)

–This year’s rookie class with Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Zach Werenski, Mitch Marner and Matt Murray is one of the best in recent memory, but which other freshmen classes stand out? BarDown takes a look at the top five rookie classes since 2000. (BarDown)

–Capitals forward Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky had some fun during picture day. The two players showed up to the rink with some pretty poofy hair. There’s no point in me trying to explain it when you can see the pictures for yourself. (NHL.com)