JEFF PETRY: WORTH THE WAIT

Patience, the saying goes, is a virtue in the development of NHL defensemen. Rush, and you can ruin them. We’ve seen it happen. Resist the rush, ease them along the learning curve and, if the kid has the game and the gumption, you get rewarded. What you get, if you’re lucky, is Jeff Petry.

It’s been six years since the Edmonton Oilers selected Petry 45th overall in the 2006 Entry Draft as a string bean blueliner from the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL, so it’s not like he’s been fast-tracked. Petry spent three years at Michigan State University after draft day. He’s had stints in the minor leagues with Springfield and Oklahoma City.

Anybody who has watched how Petry, now 25, performed at the end of the 2011-12 season, and just as notably in logging more than 22 minutes of ice time in Edmonton’s 2012-13 season-opener against the Vancouver Canucks Sunday, can see it’s been time well spent.

Petry, with the benefit of time to develop, grow into his game and learn the ropes in the NHL, is only now entering prime time on a team that’s come up woefully wanting when it comes to developing defensemen from within the organization. He’s arriving right on time.

How good might Petry become?

COMING ON

Petry, a rakish six-foot-three and about 200 pounds, still has room to grow physically and in terms of his game, but the player we saw at the end of last season and Sunday against the Canucks paired with Ladislav Smid is already becoming a bigger factor than many thought him capable of when we first got a glimpse of him in Edmonton silks during the 2010-11 season.

Petry, who scored 2-23-25 in 73 games and averaged 21:46 in ice time last season, definitely has an offensive component to his game, but producing points probably isn’t going to be his calling card. The ability to cover a lot of ice and bang a little – maybe a lot if he fills out some more – and face the best forwards the opposition has is going to be his ticket. Already is.

Paired with Smid, the native of Ann Arbor, Michigan is morphing into that shutdown defenseman every team covets and needs. Better still, Petry can take care of his own end and moves the puck well enough to turn it back the other way in transition behind the likes of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ales Hemsky.

You can count the number of defensemen the Oilers have has with as many components to their game on one hand in the last decade – and on a finger or two if you’re talking about blueliners they’ve drafted and developed.

A year or two from now, might Petry be as important to the resurgence of the Oilers as all those blue chip first-rounders up front? Might his journey along the learning curve intersect perfectly with Edmonton’s return to contention?

We’re watching it unfold now.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Mumbai Max

    Seeing elite skill in a number one pick is cool, but watching raw talent evolve over years into elite skill is somehow more pleasurable and satisfying. Good article and good for Jeff and the organiztion.

          • Clyde Frog

            Check out Zdano Chara. He was the same age as Petry is now, 26, before he surpassed Petry’s point total, and that was after nearly 4 full years in the NHL.His offence didn’t develop until his late twenties. Not saying Petry is Chara, just that your assertion is incorrect.

      • True, but offense isn’t his calling card. He plays every facet of the game well.

        Last season he was tied for 60th in points which equates to top line points. Obviously that equals the points of the worst top liner but if he manages to add 5-7 points as his average output he will be more then adequate offensively for a top pairing.

        Every other part of his game seems top line so far.

        • DSF

          Being 60th out of 60 isn’t really all that great.

          I like Petry a lot but, unless he’s paired with a partner who has more offence, he’s a second pairing defenseman.

          • book¡e

            Yes, but it is still top 60 which is the point. With a small improvement (given how close the point ‘race’ is at that level) he could easily move to top 30. Considering his defensive strengths, that would make him quite good.

            In any case, if offence is your only measure, then it is impossible to argue with someone who is within the top 60 as not being a ‘top pairing’ unless only 15 or so teams have ‘top pairing’ defencemen, but that is not logical.

          • DSF

            Petry was actually 61st last season…and he only scored 2 goals.

            He was tied for 134th in goals scored.

            Vancouver had 4 defensemen who scored more points than Petry last season.

            Do they have 4 top pairing defensemen?

            Every team in the league had at least one defenseman (some had 3 or 4) who scored more than Petry except Minnesota who have now added Ryan Suter, who scored twice as many points as Petry last season.

          • book¡e

            There are two metrics here – THe top 60 ‘best’ defensemen in the league and The people who play ‘top pairing’ roles for the 30 teams (one would assume there are 60 of them as well). If talent were distributed perfectly evenly, then this would be the same group.

            So, yes, if Vancouver had 4 in the top 60, then they have four ‘top pairing’ defencemen and other teams (such as the Oilers by your measure) do not.

            Or, if only the top two players on each team are ‘top pairing’ defensemen, then it doesn’t matter – whomever played that position for the Oilers is a ‘top pairing’ defensman.

            You seem to be limiting your definition of ‘top pairing’ defensemen to the top 20-30 dmen in the league, which is simply illogical.

            However, you seem to be trying to shift the argument to ‘goals’ as a measure of ‘top pairing’ defensemen, which is great news, because with 5 goals Ladi Smid is tied for 54th.

          • DSF

            I think you need to expect a decent level of secondary offence from your first pairing D.

            I’m not going to go through all 30 teams but, if you look at most of the top 16 teams you’ll see that the point totals of their top two defensemen far exceeds the numbers Smid/Petry put up.

            I am quite sure Schultz will grow into that role over time and Petry will be a damn fine #3.

          • book¡e

            Tied for 60th actually.

            He doesn’t score many goals but he was top 45 for assists.

            Vancouver has been #1 in the league the last 2 years. We have been #29 and #30. As our team begins the climb to playoff contention I would think it would be more likely that Petry’s offensive output increase as well.

            I think 32 points(the added increase I mentioned before but you didnt’t comment on) and being great in all other aspects gives us the right to believe Petry is turning into a top liner. I mean it’s all opinion but the arrows point to him being a shutdown guy who can chip in offensively.

            Just has to show that he can do it full time consistently. That’s the last step.

          • Clyde Frog

            Putting the 3rd pot of coffee of the night onto his hotplate, located conveniently next to the toilet; DSF takes a deep breath…
            How! How? HOW could they still not see?!?! Despite a nights worth of work, A NIGHTS! People still are clinging to the notion that they LIKE Petry….

            Standing up he begins to pace his spacious bachelor pad, located just below Mother, he begins to mutter to his best invisible friend Jefff. “I have shown them Statistics Jefff! I have shown them reason! Yet they still do not see…”

            Jefff responds with an inquisitive look, as if in encouraging DSF to go on.
            “But, how can I make them? I have responded to every thought, to every inkling the internet has had…”
            Bending down he rubs Mr. Piddles, “What could possibly fight the ignorance of the internet, some days it just seems to big a task for one man…”
            Then like lightning he is struck by a thought, the excitement of it courses through his body; igniting every nerve as if on fire! MORE STATISTICS!!!!

            Kicking Mr. Piddles out of his and rushing through Jefff; DSF reaches his keyboard, all they need to see is more statistics. It’s so simple, how could he not have seen this before? The statistics don’t even have to be related, they are STATISTICS! They will stand on their own…

            Allowing himself a small gleeish giggle, DSF attacks his keyboard; soon they will see, oh so very soon!

      • Clyde Frog

        DSF lets out a girlish cry! It is time to exact his vengence!!!

        He hears a muffled yell from the ceiling above and repeats his cry softer, ensuring his excitement does not distract mother from her stories on the tv.

        He cracks his knuckles and sifts through the papers he knocked over earlier, hunting for the perfect insight he knows he wrote down weeks ago whilst perusing his thought journal and debating the merits of Cam Barker with Mr. Piddles; his favourite cat.

        Finally he will show the internet that they cannot be happy with Petry, there has been entirely too much positivity about things that have no right to be!

        Typing madly he translates the poetry of his thoughts onto the computer, hitting the enter key with a flourish!

        “Finally!” He congratulates himself at the perfect argument, how will anyone help but see his righteous view? The myth that has been growing around this Petry fellow will at last be dispelled by the master analysis he put forth.

        Sitting back in his chair, he allows himself a congratulatory Dr.Pepper; despairing to find the bottle empty… He sets to writing a strongly worded email to mother to ensure she replenishes his stock first thing tomorrow.

      • OilLeak

        I’d argue he’s at least a number #2 defenseman, but we may be splitting hairs at this point. Petry is a rare commodity, he can be used in all situations and eat up all the tough minutes.

      • Jason Gregor

        He doesn’t? You sure about that? He was 61st in scoring amongst D-men last year…In his FIRST full NHL season.

        If he improves by a measly four points he is 44-47th territory. Not a big stretch.

        • DSF

          Petry had 1 goal and 19 points at even strength last season.

          While I am sure he can bump that a bit on a higher scoring team, with Schultz getting the PP push, it could be pretty tough for him to do a whole lot more.

          • Oilfred

            You’re silly man to not think his output should increase on a team that added more weapons on forward and more overall depth.

            The Oiler’s GF totals are sure to increase and by extension alone so will Petry’s.

            I think its reasonable to expect even more than than a 4 point increase.

          • The Goalie 1976

            I agree that he should be able to get a bump in points. I see it happening at evens. Passing to the wonder 5 should result in more assists, plus if samwise and hemmer continue to play well.

            He is in really tough to get many PP mins, and he isnt really a goal scoring threat. The forwards are taking his PP min from last season.

            Kreuger seems to really trust him at evens, thats a good thing.

          • The Goalie 1976

            I’d take whitney off the PP now if it was me. We have sooo much depth at forward I’d keep running 1 D and 4 F out there.

            If this is Whitney at 100%, I’m worried ….
            It’s only 1 game (fingers crossed)

          • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

            Are you suggesting Schultz is getting the very opportunities everyone (except you) was referencing last summer when he was a free agent and edmonton was in the mix?

            **insert Carl Lewis “uh oh” audio clip here**

          • Clyde Frog

            Sighing DSF sits back in chair, they still don’t get it!

            Even with his maliciously elegant trap, the internet still has the gall to like something it has no right to like. Taking a long drink of Dr.Pepper (While thanking and cursing mother both for the delivery and how long it took) he absently plays with the small pile of Cheetos he was just recently using to reenact all the possible combinations and permutations of the coming NHL season.

            By painstakingly acting out each and every coming game, he has bridged the gap between statistics and reality! He can now with all certainty detail exacting predictions for all of the internet to enjoy.

            Now all he must do is translate his genius to the internet, surely everyone will understand the work he put and take his posting at face value; quickly discarding all other theories posited on the internet! Once they see his theories, he will WIN! The non-factual liking of Jeff Petry will stop! The world will once again be righted and the crisis that is enjoying Jeff Petry shall be at an end!….

            Cackling with a mad glee he sets to work, ignoring Mother calling downstairs for him to help with the garbage; there is important work to do! Someone on the Internet is wrong and does not know it!

          • Salvo

            I understand some your points DSF and if it is simply your opinion and/ or concern that Petry will not become the point getting, playoff contending type of top shelf D-man the Oilers need – I get it.

            However, I look at it like this and it may be something your overlooking.

            Take a macro approach for a moment.
            We watched a 29th place team with multiple variables of not good bloody enough. One of them was scoring – makes sense.

            Once this team begins TO CONTEND, I believe Petry, as he is currently scaling will get into the lower end of that top thirty that’s been bandied about here. As the team gets better – his numbers may reflect that.

            I mean, I think it’s pretty great that right now – after one full season – he’s already ascending as a bona fide 3.

            Your points may hold true this year – his numbers, if they remain relatively low, may reflect a team not in the playoffs come April.

  • I thought Petry was the best d-man on the ice last night – Oiler or Canuck. Reminded me of Ryan Suter – good at everything, though excellent at nothing. Not as strong as Smid, not as defensively sound as Schultz Sr., not as offensively capable as Schultz Jr., yet comparable to all three in their best disciplines.

    I sound like a homer.

  • He was very, very smooth last night. One interesting thing that caught my eye was how many times it looked like the winger on his side was ahead of him and had him beat yet Petry didn’t have anybody blow by him on the outside. His ability to control the gap and close was excellent.

    One more like him please and all the D angst goes away.

    • Petry has the ability to cover a lot of ice because he uses his head and has the skating ability to get there. Some guys have the smarts but not the wheels, others have the wheels but not the ability to process the game.

      Guys with both play in first pairings for many years.

  • yawto

    This is something that the Oilers have done right and it is funny how you look at things 6 years later. Taken 45th overall in the 2006 draft after the cup run, the oilers seemingly get their first pairing stud for defence. Maybe I am saying it early but believe I will quote this when it comes true, Petry seems to be every bit the player you are looking for for that #1 stud d-man.

    If you also factor in that in that same summer his partner, Smid, was a key cog in a Pronger trade, you realise that as bad as CFP leaving was, 6 years later, a defenceman taken that summer, one traded for that summer, and a first round pick we aquired from the ducks hoisting lord Stanley we got in 2008, are going to be key parts to this team going forward. Seems like the Ducks won a cup but in the end I believe we won the trade. Crazy, wouldn’t have said that 6 years ago.