Flames first round targets 2013: Nicolas Petan

Kent Wilson
May 31 2013 09:20AM

 

Nic Petan
- pic via Arian Durst

 

No draft eligible player scored more points in the CHL this year than the diminuitive Nicolas Petan. A member of Seth Jones' dominant Portland Winterhawks and a linemate of Sven Baertschi's ex-running mate Ty Rattie, Petan collected 120 points in 71 games to lead the WHL in scoring. Of course, Jonathan Drouin and a few others would have garnerd more points than Petan had they played as many games (Drouin managed 105 points in just 49 games, for instance), but Nic's output is nevertheless highly impressive.

A 14-goal, 35-point player the year previous, Petan's inability to jump beyond the late first round on most draft boards likely has as much to do with his sudden, unexpected point explosion as it does with his less than ideal size (5'9", 166 pounds). Guys who come out of nowhere to post giant point spikes on very good teams are rightly viewed with skepticism by scouts and such - there's the non-trivial chance that a performance like that could be an aberration and not a true representation of a player's abilities.

The Scouting Reports

That said, the descriptions of Petan tend to be overwhelmingly positive. Corey Pronman ranks Petan as the 32nd best prospect available and he says the little guy boasts a full suite of offensive tools:

He is a highly skilled individual, bleeding puck possession tools. He can make high level plays with the puck, be it in terms of controlling it, outmaneuvering opponents, or making top-end passes. He is a very creative, instinctive offensive player, showing a knack for turning normal plays into scoring chances. He has the pace to play in tight spaces. Petan is certainly a small player, but that helps him with shiftiness, as he is difficult to check in open ice. He possesses a nice first step, and he can move at an above-average level. He has a quality shot, and despite his size, he shows decent defensive ability. His diminutive stature (between 5'8" and 5'9") is his only glaring weakness, and overcoming it will be a challenge. Scouts have described him as feisty in terms of the effort and battle he displays.

Despite glowing reports on his skill and compete level and some of the best numbers in the Canadian Hockey League, Petan isn't getting much attention as a high-end prospect.

As mentioned, he typically shows up around 25 or later on most draft lists. ISS has him at 26th while central scouting has him at 33rd amongst NA skaters. In fact, Petan didn't even make NHLNumbers top-30 consensus ranks since so many scouting services had him somewhere in the second round. 

Of course, skepticism with high scoring pip squeaks isn't necessarily unwarranted. For instance, recent high scoring but tiny WHL graduates Jordan Weal and Brandon Kozun have gone on to be competent AHLers so far in their careers, but certainly don't project to be future stars at the NHL level now that they have left the WHL. It's tough to become a scorer in the show - it's that much tougher if you're small and not a freak of nature like Martin St. Louis or Theoren Fleury.

The other reason small guys get less love in scouting circles is they can't be projected to fill any role other than scoring. So while some of the "bigger bodies" may be able to fill a variety of niches down the road (grinder, checker, two-way forward, etc), anyone standing 5'9" or less has to be a better than average top-6 producer to make the leap and stick. 

The Numbers

Because of his incredible counting stats, Petan had the second highest NHLE amongst draft eligible skaters this year with 41.6. Only Drouin was ahead of him (51).

Of course, the other reason Petan hasn't leapt to the top of the draft pile is because the Portland Winterhawks were such a juggernaut this season. They finished with a record of 57-12-1-2 and a goal differential of +165. No team in the WHL scored more goals than the Winterhawks this year (334), in fact scoring 6 or more goals in 23 of their regular season games. In fact, only one other club scored more than 300 (Kelowna Rockets).

So there's a 99.9% chance Petan's output was augmented by the quality of his club this year. To determine the effect of the 'Hawks high end scoring, as well as his even strength and powerplay splits, I went through Petan's regular season game sheets recently. The results are actually better than I anticipated:

%Team: 37.0%

%ES: 67.5%

%PP: 29.1%

Petan was in on a very high percentage of his teams goals and scored a majority of his points at even strength (81 of 120). Those are both strong indications the player was driving the bus rather than riding it, so to speak. Sean Monahan, for instance, was also key to his club's attack, counting on about 40% of the 67's offense. Of course, he also scored less than half of his points at 5on5, but was also saddled was a vastly inferior club. 

Conclusion

Even if Petan's points total was inflated by a great Portland squad, his offensive splits are some of the strongest I've seen amongst draft eligibiles I've looked at in this fashion, especially when talking about guys available late in the first round.

The assumed risk of taking smaller players reminds me of Greg Nemisz.

Nemisz played on a similarly powerful Windsor Spitfires in his draft year but only counted on about 25% of that club's output. He was roundly considered a "safe" pick in 2008 when the Flames took him 25th overall because of his "big body" and potential utility at both ends of the ice.

The Buffalo Sabres took the much smaller Tyler Ennis one pick later that year. He led the Medicine Hat Tigers in scoring that year with 43 goals and 91 points. He has already played three seasons in the NHL and scored 30+ points in each of them so far (inculding the recent lock-out shortened year). Greg Nemisz, on the other hand, isn't even all that useful at the AHL level and probably won't be retained by the organization.

This little object lesson doesn't necessarily guarantee that Petan will make the NHL over some of his bigger peers going forward, but it does show how ignoring talent because of size or assuming a player will be useful in the future because he's bigger can be errors.

If the Flames keep their first rounder from Pittsburgh (28-30th), there's a chance Petan will still be on the board. With good raw output and contextual numbers, there are likely much worse picks the team could make at the end the first round.

Flames First Round Targets

Recently Around the Nation

Over at Canucks Army, Thomas Drance discusses the Darren Dreger assertion that Roberto Luongo won't report to the Canucks training camp if he isn't traded this summer:

Of course Roberto Luongo has a "bad" contract (in that it's a difficult contract to move, his performance is obviously full value for 5.33 million against the cap annually). But no matter how bad his deal is, that sordid piece of paper is at least tied to one of the two goaltenders in the NHL who consistently posts an elite even-strength save percentage season after season.

Elswhere, In his weekly thoughts article, Kevin McCartny of Jets Nation talks about the (non) relationship between winning and opponents size:

See a pattern? If we won against small teams more than large, we'd expect a line going from bottom left (bigger teams, lower win %) to top right (smaller teams, higher win %). If we lost more to small teams (say, because of speed), we'd expect the opposite line. I see... a blob. Yep, it's a blob. We lost every game to the tiny Canadiens, and we lost 4 of 5 to the monstrous Capitals. In between, there doesn't appear to be a relationship at all.

39d8109299a9795cb3b41a4e9b49d501
Former Nations Overlord. Current FN contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#51 the-wolf
May 31 2013, 04:53PM
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the-wolf wrote:

Of course he's better 'today.' But will he be better down the road than the plethora of other small players available this season?

On one hand people like to call the draft a crap shoot and on the next a guy like Petan is a sure thing.

Granted, scouting reports on him I've read lately have his skating as being significantly better than some earlier reports I'd read, so I acknowledge that he's above avergae in that dept., but enough to make an impact at the NHL?

I'm not hating on Petan, but before you draft guys like that with a 1st round pick in a draft full of much bigger guys who are also very skilled (and have a strong chance to at least play in the NHL even if they don't project as high as hoped, and no I don't mean pluggers), you really have to be sure.

Look at Sergei Samsonov, for example. I'm just quickly throwing that name out there, I know there's differences, but there's a 5th overall incredibly highly skilled smaller guy who, ok, played quite a few seasons, but who you wouldn't take at that spot in a re-draft.

Sorry, 8th overall, but point still applies.

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#52 clYDE
May 31 2013, 05:15PM
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everton fc wrote:

Just watched some highlights of Lindholm from the WJC... Man, he plays non-stop on both ends of the ice. Great on the PK. Or so it seems.

He seems to have an exceptional work ethic on the ice. He hustles. He's not afraid to get in the way of shots. Pretty impressive.

And he's fast. Real quick.

To this fan, Lindholm is the type of player you find on great teams. On dynasties.

I watched Lindholme and Monohan a great deal last year. I like Monohan but if Lindholme makes it to number 6, I really hope the Flames take him. Personally, I have Lindholme as the 2nd to 3rd best forward in the draft.

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#53 Sean Bennett
May 31 2013, 05:55PM
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Baalzamon wrote:

Defensive liabilities? Lindholm is arguably the best 2-way player (not forward--PLAYER) in the draft, while nothing I have seen about Petan suggests that he's much worse than average defensively--if he's below average at all.

Lindolm, in all of the reports I have seen so far, including McKeens, who are the most bullish on him (have him slotted above Barkov), do not classify him as an elite two-way player. He is considered above-average, and, as Kent cautioned, he played as a winger for most of this year. That position has far less responsibiities attached to it than the center position, as we all know.

Button, for what it's worth, believes Freddy Gauthier and Barkov to be the elite two-way forwards of this draft. Considers them to be on a level of their own in this regard when it comes to this year's crop.

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#54 Sean Bennett
May 31 2013, 06:00PM
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Just to be clear: Barkov has the higher offensive upside; thus, he projects as a top-five pick, whereas Freddy G is a mid-to-late first rounder.

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#55 the-wolf
May 31 2013, 06:06PM
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It's the 3 ES goals and how much did he benefit from Jarnkrok that I wonder about with Lindholm.

With Monahan, it's his skating.

The scouts have got to get it right.

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#56 BurningSensation
May 31 2013, 07:30PM
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Gauthier has a tool set that reminds me of Joel Otto.

He'd need to add some meanness to his game, but he looked to me like a hard minute guy who could shadow another teams top forward.

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#57 Austin
May 31 2013, 08:23PM
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It sounds like Barkov will be attending this Flames specific combine. He didn't specify any teams directly but he says he sees himself going in the top seven and would be attending specific evaluations or something similar to what Monahan is doing. Again, I think taking Petan this late in the draft would be fine. In regards again to what Conroy said in a recent I interview, the Flames won't be taking a project like Jankowski with their top pick. They want someone who will be NHL ready next year or the year after. The top 3 fit this requirement obviously. Barkov and Nichuskin do as well and they have the frame for it. Lindholm is a bit more iffy as I see him taking another year. And Monahan might be ready but probably not in a top 6 role. Moving into the lower tier I think Ristolainen could at least play top 6 D, as could Nurse. Can't be much worse than Butler. Domi probably isn't ready nor is Shinkaruk. But they are projected to go later in the top 10 anyways.

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#58 Baalzamon
May 31 2013, 08:33PM
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@Austin

Sounds like they want Barkov, but will settle for Monahan if the Finn isn't there. As much as I like Lindholm, that's honestly fine with me.

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#59 Sean Bennett
May 31 2013, 08:36PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Perhaps. Im not sold on Freddy Gauthier being a grade-a player over Petan though. He scored 60pts in 62 games in the highest scoring arm of the CHL (QMJHL) for an NHLE of just 23. He was 4th on his team in scoring and a full 40 points behind the team leader (and almost 60 points back of Nic).

Unless there are some significant circumstances dampening his production (which is possible), Gauthier projects as a middling forward in the NHL. Apparently he's very toolsy being big and a good skater such which is why he is mentioned as a mid first rounder, but I've seen enough Colton Gillies in my time to be suspicious of those sorts of players when they crop up.

Anyways, aside from disagreements over specific players, I would caution against assuming the construction of the team 3-4 years down the road and making picks based on those assumptions. Three years ago Calgary's roster and perceived needs were different than they are today and will likely change, probably in unpredictable ways, in the next 3-4 seasons.

For me, it's always about picking the best value pick available, particularly in the top-30.

Guathier played the toughest minutes on that team against the top forwards of opposing teams as a rookie. I would call those mitigating circumstances. Have not watched Petan play, but I doubt he was thrown to the wolves like Gauthier. Plus, Petan has played an extra year in the CHL.

Furthermore, Gauthier himself was the first to admit that once he broke his jaw during the season, it was tough coming back. He was on a roll offensively before then.

I have no doubt this kid will be a second or third line shut-down center who has the size and smarts to make lives difficult for opposing stars in the NHL for years to come.

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#60 Baalzamon
May 31 2013, 08:43PM
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@Sean Bennett

Petan and his linemates were absolutely thrown to the wolves. Theirs was the line that was matched against MacKinnon in the memorial cup, for instance.

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#61 Sean Bennett
May 31 2013, 09:00PM
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Baalzamon wrote:

Petan and his linemates were absolutely thrown to the wolves. Theirs was the line that was matched against MacKinnon in the memorial cup, for instance.

Hmm..that`s good to know. I would still pick Gauthier over Petan, however, as we already have Johnny G and Baertchi in the prospect pool. Another winger in that mold may not be what the doctor ordered. Big two-way centers that can skate are what we are short on, and that is why I think the Flames need to roll the dice on Monohan with their 6th pick, Gauthier with 22nd, and D-man with the third.

Alternatively, I would be really impressed if the Flames picked RW Nichushkin (if available with the sixth), C Gauthier with the 22nd, and Bowey or Morin with the last pick (McKeens has Morin at 10th in their final ranking; they are way too bullish on him at this point, but there is just so much potential there that we cannot pass him by with the last pick if he is still there).

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#62 Baalzamon
May 31 2013, 09:05PM
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@Sean Bennett

Actually Petan is a center. Anyway, your opinion is fair, and I'm sure you're not alone.

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#63 Sean Bennett
May 31 2013, 09:34PM
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Baalzamon wrote:

Actually Petan is a center. Anyway, your opinion is fair, and I'm sure you're not alone.

Yeah, he plays center in the WHL. But at 5`9 he would be hard pressed to play that position in the NHL. Jaden Schwartz, for example, is a bit bigger and stockier, but possesses a very similar skill-set and body type. He was forced to the left-wing in St.Louis (although the Blues are just a very deep team in general).

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#64 T&A4Flames
May 31 2013, 09:56PM
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Baalzamon wrote:

Petan is irrefutably better than Dauphin and probably Dickinson too, while none of the rest of the players you mentioned will be available 30th. In any event, you think that none of those players have concerns? If they're available that late in the first round, they DEFINITELY do. Mantha, for example, is ridiculously inconsistent and often lazy.

Same thing was said about Brandon Saad, if I remember correctly.

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#65 Baalzamon
May 31 2013, 10:08PM
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@T&A4Flames

And people said "McNeill's bigger" when the Flames took Baertschi. What's your point?

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#66 T&A4Flames
May 31 2013, 10:11PM
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I'm hoping for Bowey with that pck. Otherwise, I'd look at Justin Bailey or even Steve Santini. Unless Ristolainen is available at 22, draft a fwd and then Bowey (hopefully).

Depending on what's available at 22, I also wouldn't be opposed to trading down a few spots to pick up a 2nd rnd'r.

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#67 Austin
May 31 2013, 11:36PM
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For me it's a toss up between size and two way ability instead if skill and lacking size. I think if its our last pick in the draft it would be okay to take either of these guys. I still think Burakowsky will be available so we should just take him. Best of both worlds. Well not really but he's not as small as Petan and has first line skill if he pans out.

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#68 T&A4Flames
May 31 2013, 11:39PM
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Baalzamon wrote:

And people said "McNeill's bigger" when the Flames took Baertschi. What's your point?

My point, B, is that perceptions at this age are skewed. Just because a big young kid seems lazy and inconsistent doesn't mean he is or always will be. Saad is in the final 4 with his team. What's your point??!

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#69 SmellOfVictory
June 01 2013, 12:26AM
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@the-wolf

Petan presents as one of the surer things in this crapshoot, in my opinion. That's including all of the bigger dudes who are rocking a PPG in Junior leagues. Certainly, some of them will end up being awesome, and some will end up being okay. I still think Petan has a good chance of outstripping most of them.

Petan's Junior stats absolutely blow almost any prospect out of the water, including guys like Jaden Schwartz and Brendan Gallagher. This is almost 2 points per game spending the majority of the season as a 17 year old. As a late first round pick, I can't think of a better risk to take, all things considered.

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#70 the-wolf
June 01 2013, 12:37PM
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SmellOfVictory wrote:

Petan presents as one of the surer things in this crapshoot, in my opinion. That's including all of the bigger dudes who are rocking a PPG in Junior leagues. Certainly, some of them will end up being awesome, and some will end up being okay. I still think Petan has a good chance of outstripping most of them.

Petan's Junior stats absolutely blow almost any prospect out of the water, including guys like Jaden Schwartz and Brendan Gallagher. This is almost 2 points per game spending the majority of the season as a 17 year old. As a late first round pick, I can't think of a better risk to take, all things considered.

If the Flames take him, I sure hope you're right.

So much talent in the 1st, yet a lot of differing opinions. Gauthier, for example. Hard to know whether to hate the guy or if Calgary should jump on him at 22.

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#71 BJ
June 01 2013, 01:34PM
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Gauthier looks like a solid pick. Its important to have a good 3 rd line. when we were good we had the identity line of yelle clark simon/nilson... great shutdown line... wouldnt be opposed to a combo of lindholm gauthier or monahan gauthier... although if we do take lindholm we have to take a good center with blues pick.... morin would be a good 3rd pick

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#72 EugeneV
June 01 2013, 06:20PM
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Kent, I went through all Monahan's game sheets for 2012/13 and only 29% of his points came on the powerplay, so I'm not sure where your numbers come from on Monahan.

It will be a huge mistake to take Lindholm over Monahan. I don't want us to be stuck with a "small" center. We need a big beast of a man to control the game and the puck.

Not like the shrimps up highway 2.

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#73 seve927
June 02 2013, 01:43PM
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EugeneV wrote:

Kent, I went through all Monahan's game sheets for 2012/13 and only 29% of his points came on the powerplay, so I'm not sure where your numbers come from on Monahan.

It will be a huge mistake to take Lindholm over Monahan. I don't want us to be stuck with a "small" center. We need a big beast of a man to control the game and the puck.

Not like the shrimps up highway 2.

So did I. I came up with 39 power play points, 39 other (included a couple of EN, and short handed). I don't think it could be far off, as the totals added up to the right numbers. While I was at it, I did 2nd assists as well, and he had twice as many first as second - so that seemed pretty good. But I just watched a bit of the prospects game again, and Monahan really looked slow. I remember seeing him last year and being really impressed. Now I'm really not sure. I think it would be worth a whole lot to try to get Barkov. Lindholm has kind of moved back to my second choice, and I'm now almost thinking I'd prefer Domi to Monahan. I'm really hoping they can swing something with Tampa.

Petan looks really, really good. I'd have no problem if they took him, especially at 28. As Craig Button says, one of the biggest mistakes teams make is putting too much emphasis on size. Petan looks completely legit to me. He scored at an even better rate while Rattie was gone to WJC. You never know with any of these prospects. There are some bigger guys I'm sure will be great, but it's hard to know which one it's going to be. I think Petan is a very good bet be a top 6 guy.

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