Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pint-sized Petan has big dreams

Jets' second-rounder has succeeded at every level; now he's aiming for NHL

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One day, Nic Petan hopes all the questions will stop and the doubters and cynics will be forced to zip it for good.

If the future unfolds the way the diminutive centre hopes -- and the Winnipeg Jets have their collective fingers crossed right along with him -- he will soon be in the National Hockey League terrorizing defencemen and goaltenders.

In the meantime, media types -- ahem -- will continue to politely refer to the Portland Winterhawks forward, listed at 5-9 on the Jets Development Camp roster, as "smallish' and, yes, "diminutive."

Fact is, "prolific" and "gifted" might be a much more fitting way to describe the 18-year-old Delta, B.C., product, drafted in the second round (43rd overall) in last month's draft -- a steal according to some who watched him eat up the Western Hockey League last season.

"I block all that out," said Petan Wednesday, after the third day of on-ice work at Jets D-Camp had been completed. "If anything is going to stop me it's definitely not going to be my size.

"It's a lot of motivation for myself. It's something for me to try and prove people wrong."

Make no mistake, Petan deals with questions about his size as deftly as he dishes passes to his wingers. There's no anger or bitterness, no rolling of the eyes when the subject is broached. It's there now, just as it was when he first suited up for the Winterhawks three winters ago and just as it will be going forward.

"I've been doing it my whole life," said Petan, who tied for the WHL scoring title with 120 points on 46 goals and 74 assists, with a shrug. "Obviously, this -- going from junior to the pros -- is a bigger challenge, but I feel I'm up for it.

'I've been doing it my whole life. Obviously, this -- going from junior to the pros -- is a bigger challenge, but I feel I'm up for it... I use my speed to my advantage, whether it's going against somebody 5-10 or 6-4. I'm going to battle and I think it's exciting for a smaller guy to win a battle. That motivates me'

-- Nic Petan

"I grew up watching Joe Sakic and Martin St. Louis and now I'm watching Brendan Gallagher a lot. He's a guy with my size who made his way into the league and is a big part of the (Montreal) Canadiens.

"I use my speed to my advantage, whether it's going against somebody 5-10 or 6-4. I'm going to battle and I think it's exciting for a smaller guy to win a battle. That motivates me."

Winnipeg's Brendan Leipsic had a front-row seat to that motivation through the 2012-13 WHL season. Actually, the view was better than front row...

"He set me up for tap-ins more times than I can count last year," said Leipsic, a Nashville Predators' draft pick, who was one of Petan's wingers in Portland last season and also finished with 120 points. "He's a quick, shifty guy. He's not the biggest guy, but he's got so much skill it makes up for it.

"He protects the puck well, he can make plays off the rush and find late guys coming in, he can drive guys wide and he's got great vision. He's not the most physical guy, but he's competitive and he'll get his nose dirty in the corners and will go against the biggest guys.

"He was one of my best friends on the team so I'm biased," Leipsic added, "but I think he's a great player. I really think he got passed over in the first round just because of his size and a few years down the road some teams are going to be kicking themselves for not drafting him."

All that -- the proving people wrong stuff -- is the least of Petan's concerns this week. He's wearing Jets colours for the first time, soaking as much up as possible and hoping to hammer home to the team's brass their belief in him.

As for the rest of it...

"People are going to say what they're going to say, think what they're going to think," said Petan. "That's stuff can get into your head, but nothing is going to stop me. That's the way I have to look at it."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

 

LITTLE BIG MEN

 

Winnipeg Jets prospect Nic Petan would find himself alongside some of these NHL regulars, should he develop and advance to The Show:

 

Player  Team  GP  GA  Pts  Height

Martin St. Louis  Tampa Bay  48  17  43  60  5-8

Brendan Gallagher  Montreal  44  15  13  28  5-9

Nathan Gerbe  Buffalo  42  55  10  5-5

David Desharnais  Montreal  48  10  18  28  5-7

Brian Gionta  Montreal  48  14  12  26  5-7

Cam Atkinson  Columbus  35  9  9  18  5-7

Mats Zuccarello  N.Y. Rangers  15  3  5  8  5-7

Chris Bourque  Boston  18  1  3  4  5-8

Cory Conacher  Ottawa  47  11  18  29  5-8

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2013 D1

History

Updated on Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 7:13 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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