Team Canada is only through their first two games of the tournament and already are looking to be a better squad than ones dressed over the past few years. The team has outscored its opponents 12-0 in its first two contests.
The spotlight has already been shone on the team’s first line of Max Domi, Sam Reinhart, and Anthony Duclair, who look to be the team’s most dangerous trio. While after failing to record points in the team’s 8-0 blowout over Slovakia, captain Curtis Lazar and projected first overall pick, Connor McDavid hit the scoreboard against Germany. However, who is quietly tearing it up for the Canadians early on is Portland Winterhawks captain Nic Petan.
Flying Under the Radar
It’s hard to say that a player who made the team last year and is a former Western Hockey League scoring champion is a surprise to be making such a big contribution early on, but with the highly-touted names above playing ahead of him, it seems to be the case. The 2013 second-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets has six points through two games and, despite being just two games in, is leading the tournament in scoring.
This all comes while playing on the team’s third line alongside Guelph Storm’s Robby Fabbri, who sits tied for second in tournament scoring with four points, and Ottawa Senators prospect Nick Paul. The 19-year-old has also seen lots of time on the power play and has been cashing in on his opportunity to play with the extra man, including adding two helpers with the man-advantage versus Germany. Petan contributed to both Lazar and McDavid’s first goals of the tournament.
Helping the Team Improve on Last Year
The 5-foot-9 centre from Delta, BC wore the red and white for last year’s team, that finished a disappointing fourth place after a loss in the bronze medal game to Russia, where he recorded five points in the team’s seven games. It was the team’s second consecutive four place finish, but so far the team looks to be a stronger unite than the ones in years previous.
Through the first two games of last year’s tournament Canada sat 1-0-1-0 with a 7-2 win over the Germans and a 5-4 shootout loss to the Czech Republic. The team had 11 goals to its name during those games, but had also allowed six against, a far cry from the two goose eggs both Zach Fucale and Eric Comrie have chalked up early on.
Five of Petan’s six points so far have come in the form of assists. But that shouldn’t come as any surprise to those who have seen him play in junior. Last season the left-hander lead the WHL in assists with 78 while also adding 35 goals for 113 points in 63 games.
Doing His Damage in the WHL
This season Petan has seen a drop off in his offensive production with the Winterhawks though he is still averaging more than a point per game, 33 points in 26 games. He is on pace for 91 points (though with the tournament he will be missing games with his WHL club) which would be a drop of 22 points. However, his team is also not firing on the same cylinders as it was last season. The Winterhawks finished last season second place in the Western Conference with 114 points, but this season currently sit in fourth on pace for 79 points, the equivalent to over 17 wins less than a season ago.
Making Canada the Team to Beat
All of that aside, Canadians are loving what they are seeing from Petan and the rest of the team as they look to be rolling. After the same Slovakian team that Canada stopped 8-0 defeated the defending tournament champions from Finland Saturday afternoon, and the Americans needing a shootout to get by the Finns, Canada has quickly become the team to beat in Group A. Of course it is early and this tournament has been no stranger to surprises (not many expected Finland to win the tournament after dropping two of their first four games last year).
Petan has quietly been leading the team and it seems to be paying off. The attention thus far may very well be on the McDavids, the Domis, the Lazars, and the Duclairs, but if you don’t take the time to look up the scoring leaders, you might miss the third line centre that is doing the most damage so far.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.