THOSE hoping to see Winnipeg Jets forward Nic Petan inserted into the lineup sooner rather than later may want to cover their eyes.

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This article was published 13/1/2019 (1051 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THOSE hoping to see Winnipeg Jets forward Nic Petan inserted into the lineup sooner rather than later may want to cover their eyes.

Everything is fine with the 23-year-old centreman, who remains with the Jets and is collecting an NHL paycheque despite not seeing much action. Such is life for a young player on the fringe of a roster loaded with skill and youth and who, according to its head coach, has a number of players bringing just as much as he does on a daily basis.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Nic Petan</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Nic Petan

"There’s enough skill to play up and down in that lineup, and then now he’s competing. He’s got some guys that are maybe a little bit younger than he is that can do a lot of what he does," head coach Paul Maurice said after the Jets morning skate Sunday.

"But, to his credit, when we got banged up and went in at the end of the road trip before the Christmas break, he played well. He’s got a body of work of almost enough points to say there is enough offence there you could play him up, (but) he’s behind a bunch of guys that he’s not taking their jobs."

Petan has been a healthy scratch in every game since he last played on Dec. 22 — a 1-0 Jets win in Vancouver, about a 40-minute drive from where Petan was born in Delta, B.C. He’s played in 13 games this season, logging limited ice time on the fourth line, and has just two assists during that span.

Maurice said he doesn’t have a timeline for when Petan will return to the lineup, but seemed confident the circumstances of a gruelling 82-game season would inevitably lead to more action.

"He’s going to get an opportunity on injuries or when a guy absolutely needs to come out of the lineup and then he kind of gets that chance," the Jets coach said.

It’s hard to imagine the ideal situation for Petan, who was not available for an interview, to get an increase in his workload. It’s not as if the Jets haven’t had injuries this year, and a number of players that were ahead of him on the depth chart have since departed the team.

Marko Dano was put on waivers and claimed by the Colorado Avalanche — a move seen as a vote of confidence for Petan — and when Dano returned a short time later, he was assigned to the Manitoba Moose.

Then there’s Kristian Vesalainen, the Jets’ first-round pick (24th overall) in 2017, who, after not getting a full-time job with the NHL club, jetted for the KHL.

Others, including Brendan Lemieux and Mason Appleton, have passed Petan on the depth chart, while Andrew Copp and Brandon Tanev have solidified their roles. Of the 108 NHL games Petan has played, exactly half of those came during the 2016-17 season. That was the year Winnipeg opted to give ample opportunity to its younger players. Petan had one goal and 12 assists in 54 games that season, averaging 10:54 of ice time — nearly four minutes more than the 7:13 he’s got per game in 2018-19.

"There’s a general theme that’s true of all of them; there is a speech that they do all get. It’s new to them," Maurice said. "I would put Kyle Connor in that group. When he got sent down to the minors at the start of last year, (the talk was) ‘this is the basic piece that has to come that’s not in your game’ and very few young players understand that yet."

Maurice continued: "Look at Blake (Wheeler), he didn’t work like that in his first year in the league. He didn’t look any way he looks like (now). Mark Scheifele didn’t look like that in his first couple of years, and there might have been times where they don’t fully understand why the coach says, ‘I have to work as hard as I want them to, I never really had to work that hard. I didn’t have to sprint before. I didn’t have to battle the pucks out.’"

The loss of forward Nikolaj Ehlers to injury earlier this month seemed to create the perfect situation for Petan to not only get into the lineup, but also log some notable minutes in the top-six, where his skill set is best suited. The promotion was given instead to Jack Roslovic.

For Petan, or any young player looking to crack an NHL roster, Maurice said those opportunities need to be earned, not simply given.

"One of the best lines I ever got was from (former veteran NHLer) Kevin Dineen, that was 15 years ago. He said young players don’t understand the value of an opportunity, and that idea has popped its head up every year. I think about him saying that because they have an expectation of the opportunity. I just got to give them a chance, give them a chance, but it doesn’t work like that," Maurice said.

"You’ve got to work your ass off, and then, at some point, you are going to get a brief chance and that’s your chance to go. And if you do a little bit — you don’t have to score five — do a little bit and you get another one.

"The vast majority of these players that come into the league are the No. 1 player on every team they’ve been on since they were 12 years old. They never had to watch a game from the bench, ever. So it’s a challenge for them and we’ve had a big chunk of them. We’re a real young team, so we’ve got more than one guy going through it."

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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