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 OilersNation.com.