Fans fired up over Petan


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There could hardly have been a bigger spotlight for Nicolas Petan, centring Michael Frolik and Jets captain Andrew Ladd in Thursday’s penultimate game of the pre-season.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/10/2014 (2981 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There could hardly have been a bigger spotlight for Nicolas Petan, centring Michael Frolik and Jets captain Andrew Ladd in Thursday’s penultimate game of the pre-season.

He was, along with 2014 first-rounder Nik Ehlers, playing his sixth exhibition game in a row. Not bad, for a 19-year-old hungry to make the case he belongs in the show.

Through the game’s first period, he played confident, showed skill in flashes: some patience in the Flames’ zone as he waited just long enough to slide a nifty pass to Ehlers. Unfortunately, he played just 2:56 in that first frame, though the fact the Jets were thrice short-handed probably cut into that time.

Trevor Hagan / The Canadian Press Winnipeg Jets' Nic Petan (38), Nikolaj Ehlers (42) and Matt Halischuk (15) celebrate after Ehlers scores against the Ottawa Senators during second period pre-season NHL hockey action in Winnipeg Tuesday.

Either way, the vigorous debate among Jets fans flourished again online: Is he ready? Or is it still too early? The fact this is such a common topic of discussion is, itself, a sign of what Petan can do. His play demands fans take notice, which just means his plan is working.

“Just coming into the camp, the main thing was just to work hard,” he said before the game. “And it’s gotten me this far, so I just have to keep doing what I’m doing.”

Thursday morning, after the Jets made brisk work of their pre-game skate at the MTS Iceplex, Petan padded out in socks to face a short volley of questions. If the teen was battling any jitters about playing with the “big boys,” as he called them, they didn’t show.

“It’s very fitting, I think,” he said. “I’m using the word ‘comfortable’ a lot, but it makes me feel more comfortable playing with guys like that, and just starting to get chemistry going.”

Because that’s more his game, right? Bearing the weight of offensive responsibilities, contributing the lion’s share of point production. Petan scored a whopping 35 goals and 78 assists in just 63 games with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks last season, driven by his creativity and sharp hockey acumen.

To be honest, though, injuries elsewhere in the Jets lineup conspired to keep the door open for Petan a little longer.

Among the forwards: Dustin Byfuglien is out, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little and Eric O’Dell were banged up Thursday and T.J. Galiardi was still healing after taking a flying puck to the face last week in practice, which forced laser surgery on his eye.

Paul Maurice expects to get them all back for the start of the season Oct. 9, maybe even for Saturday’s final pre-season game at home against the Flames again.

Unfortunately, the battered bodies spoiled his plan to roll through a couple of exhibition games with a fully realized NHL roster. But the coach tends to share glass-half-full mantras, when it comes to stuff like that.

“Yes, we’d like to have everybody healthy,” Maurice said, before hopping the plane to Calgary.

“But there’s two opportunities in training camp. There’s the one where you’re fighting for your life to make the team, because you’re right there. And the other, especially for young players — all three of them, or all four of them are in this boat — their games have gotten better.

“They’re getting some experience and a comfort level. Whether they played here or not, they’ll come back to camp the next year, or partway through the year if they get a call-up, with a whole different experience level.

“And the coaches get to see them. Now, what it does is, as camp gets smaller, we can get out to them as individuals more, do video one-on-one with them. So there’s a lot of good things about these young guys playing.”

Which, if you’re the type who’s tempted to read between the lines, sounds like the Winterhawks would be well served to keep his seat warm.

(Under the NHL’s agreement with major junior hockey, Petan is not yet eligible to be assigned to St. John’s — he will be next season.) So, on that long view: Though Petan spoke before Maurice after the morning skate on Thursday, his comments sure echoed what the coach would say.

“Each game, I feel more comfortable, more confident in trying new things, and trying things I’m used to be doing,” he said. “Starting to feel more comfortable, getting used to making more of those skill plays.”


New digs for Scheifele

Mark Scheifele will have plenty of time to get comfortable with Blake Wheeler at his side this season, and not just on the ice.

This season, at least in the training camp edition of the Winnipeg Jets’ locker-room, the sophomore centre is now sitting right next to the veteran winger. Last year, he sat on the other side of the room. This wasn’t Scheifele’s doing — “I came into the room and saw my stall there, and that’s about all I know,” he said — but it was definitely by design.

“I don’t like going around the room to three different places to talk to the same people,” Maurice said. “I like the D all on one side of the (room), because if you’ve got three guys over there and you’re mad at your D, you’re yelling at three guys instead of eight. So we put all of our D on one side.

“For me, after that, part of it is superstition. You’ll get a guy that, he loves sitting in that seat. We leave them there, and then we just try to herd them together so that I don’t have to bounce around the room when I’m talking to people.”

Guess that means Chris Thorburn will be getting an earful of high-flying offensive suggestions this season — he sits between Wheeler and Evander Kane.


Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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