Flames first round targets 2013: Nicolas Petan

 

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

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  • Truculence

    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.

  • BurningSensation

    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.

  • BurningSensation

    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.

  • T&A4Flames

    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.

  • T&A4Flames

    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.

  • SmellOfVictory

    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

  • EugeneV

    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.

    • seve927

      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.