Prospect Petry: room to grow

A good profile from Inside College Hockey today got me thinking about Oilers prospect Jeff Petry.

According to Guy Flaming of Hockey’s Future, Petry is the number one prospect in the Oilers’ system. He’s an all-round defenceman with good size and a cool head, and despite a lack of elite offensive skills he projects as a top-pairing defenceman. He was USA Hockey’s Junior Player of the Year in 2007 and last season was part of the CCHA All-Rookie Team and won the Top Rookie and Outstanding Defenseman awards for Michigan State.

The profile from Inside College Hockey had one notable quote from Michigan State head coach Rick Comley:

“I thought that on some nights he was our best player and other nights, he played more like a freshman. All-in-all he’s certainly an offensive defenceman and I think where we’ll really see improvement this year is on the power play.”

Here’s what Michigan State’s defence corps looked like last season:

Mike Ratchuk – 42GP, 6G-19A-25PTS, 48 PIM, +4, 10.9SH%
Jeff Petry – 42GP, 3G-21A-24PTS, 28 PIM, +2, 3.7SH%
Daniel Vukovic – 42GP, 3G-19A-22PTS, 24 PIM, +5, 5.3SH%
Brandon Gentile – 39GP, 0G-9A-9PTS, 24 PIM, +8
Jeff Dunne – 37GP, 3G-4A-7PTS, 29PIM, +6, 10.7SH%
Ryan Turek – 35GP, 0G-5A-5PTS, 29PIM, +4
Justin Johnson – 24GP, 0G-2A-2PTS, 6PIM, 0

Looking at those numbers, Jeff Petry was at the bottom of the group in two areas: plus/minus and shooting percentage. Petry actually fired more shots at the net than any of the other defencemen (82), and I’m not worried about that shooting percentage number—if anything, it indicates that the only direction his goal scoring can go is up. Based on the coach’s comments, I’d guess that Petry was playing relatively difficult minutes (probably behind Dunne and Vukovich based on age/performance) but not the hardest ones out there. The fact that he was at the tail end of the top-six in plus/minus suggests that his defensive game could still use some work.

All of those players listed saw some time on the powerplay. Here are the scoring stats with the man advantage for the best three:

Ratchuk – 3G – 12A – 15PTS
Petry – 1G – 11A – 12 PTS
Vukovic – 3G – 9A – 12PTS

Going by the coaches comments again, I would imagine that Petry was initially the number three option on the powerplay, behind Ratchuk and Vukovic. Ratchuk is leaving Michigan State this season, so it seems like a safe bet that Petry’s going to be the first option on the number one unit.

Another interesting thing is that Jeff Petry wasn’t used on the penalty kill (although recently signed free agent Bryan Lerg, with a reputation as an offensive forward, was) in his rookie season—something that I would imagine is going to change next year.

What’s my point with all of this? Simply that Jeff Petry is a very young defenceman (’06 Entry Draft) and that he isn’t a complete player even at the college level at this point in time. He has intriguing upside, and it seems reasonable to expect leaps-and-bounds improvement this coming season, but he still has lots of room to grow.

—Jonathan Willis is the owner of Copper & Blue, a blog dedicated to all things Oil, and a frequent contributor to

  • Hippy

    Petry by no means is an NHL-ready prospect, nor someone who will be an AHL star. But I think he'll make some serious strides this year, most guys do in their 21-year old season in college.

    Like you said, with the departure of some of the veterans, it further solidifies his position as the top-pairing defender on that team. I'd look to see him get some serious ice time on both the PP and ES, and hopefully on the PK.

    The way this kid skates, it makes me drool. It's so effortless for him. I think whatever offensive potential he's showing in college will easily translate into NHL success.

  • Hippy

    Obviously, the best case for the org would be if this guy was so good that he just made a place for himself but the current reality doesn't seem bad as well: he's certainly good enough to evoke hope but he's still not so far along the development trail as to force entry into the Wild-Bisallion-Chorney offensive defensemen clusterfuck.

    We should see a big rise in his numbers this year and in the amount of praise attached to his name as well.

    One last thing, he's a year older than guys who usually finished their frosh season, correct? I guess his parents did the old hoops/football thing where they held him back a year in school?

  • Hippy

    One last thing, he’s a year older than guys who usually finished their frosh season, correct? I guess his parents did the old hoops/football thing where they held him back a year in school?

    Yeah, and that's something I hadn't thought of. Petry spent the extra year in the USHL before he jumped up to the college level, so age-wise he's a little ahead on other freshmen.