It was quite surprising when the Winnipeg Jets had 20-year-old Nic Petan on their opening night roster.
The first year pro, himself, was even unsure a spot in Winnipeg’s lineup would be available for him. Nevertheless, Petan worked hard and did all the right things in training camp, which gained the trust of Jets head coach Paul Maurice.
“[Making the team] was my main goal going [into training camp],” said Petan, Winnipeg’s second round (43rd overall) selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. “I don’t think they had me in for a spot right at the beginning, but I just worked my way on. I got some games, which I’m happy with.”
Petan made his NHL debut in a 6-2 win against the Boston Bruins in Winnipeg’s season opener on Oct. 8. At 9:51 of the third period, he would score his first career NHL goal off his right skate.
“[Scoring] doesn’t really happen that much to many guys in their first game,” Petan said. “It wasn’t a pretty one. With family in the crowd, it was a pretty awesome experience.”
Petan, 5-foot-9, 175-pounds, played 14 games scoring just one point — the aforementioned goal — and averaging 9:31 of time on ice with a minus-2 rating before the Jets decided demote him to their AHL-affiliate the Manitoba Moose on Nov. 19. Rather than keeping Petan in the NHL as a fourth-liner playing limited minutes, the Jets found it better fitting that he receive more playing time with the Moose.
“If you asked anyone, they’d want to be in the NHL,” Petan said. “But I think it might be better for myself to play a little bit more and get the ice time I need.”
In six games with Manitoba, Petan has one goal and two assists with a minus-4 rating. He has not exactly produced offensively as most hoped.
“It’s been different,” Petan said of the AHL. “I’ve got a lot of friends on this team, so they’ve welcomed me pretty well here. It’s still early to judge. I’m just trying to get used to it.”
Petan rejoins good friends defenseman Josh Morrissey and goaltender Eric Comrie on the Moose. The trio played together on Canada’s 2015 World Junior Championship gold medal winning team.
“We’re really good friends,” Petan said. “We work well together on the ice, and off the ice we are tight. Any chance you have to win a championship with guys and play [together] during the year, I think it is pretty cool. You get a real friendship going.”
Whether or not Petan returns to the NHL club this season will be determined as the year progresses, but for now, it is important for him to play in the AHL so he can translate his skills and creativity from juniors to the professional level. In time, Petan will be the players the Jets hope he can be.
Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.