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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