Unless you count the people that like to question my intelligence or feel bad for my parents, the most engagement I get when I write about Edmonton Oilers’ prospects is about Matvey Petrov.
Which is saying something because a lot of you really feel bad for my parents. Actually, it is really saying something because Matvey Petrov was the 180th pick in the 2021 NHL draft and he has absolutely zoomed that draft position in less than two years. By a lot. How close is the big right-shot left winger to playing NHL games? Let’s find out below.
What Did I See This Year?
Most often I start with the skills that give the player a chance to make the NHL and then focus on the areas of improvement. With Petrov it would be easy to highlight the 93 points in 65 games, which was good for 8th in OHL scoring. Or the 22 points in 20 playoff games which had him 9th overall in scoring. However, for Petrov I want to start with the areas that require more focus because they are relatively and they are in his absolute control. This is a prospect that could continue to accelerate his climb up the prospect rankings for the Edmonton Oilers, but the pro game is different and where Petrov needs to focus is what the pro game tends to expose.
E Stands for Effort?
When Petrov showed up at the Penticton Young Guns tourney
in 2022, it was his first crack at legitimate pro players with a year of seasoning under his belt. It did not go well. There were three particular areas that came into sharp focus about Petrov and his level of compete was at the top of the list. Petrov has such good size and skating ability to go along with his great offensive skills. However, too often Petrov’s shifts were marked with this type of compete level. Three times on one shift, Petrov had a chance to engage physically to try and gain puck possession.
Now I do not expect Petrov to run around like Steve Rice and make people pay for taking his puck. However, given all of his other skills, when Petrov chooses to engage, he is very effective.
When Ryan McLeod fell to the second round most of the critique was around his inability to play in the middle of the ice, especially in the neutral and offensive zones. Something that shows itself every now and then still as a pro. Matvey Petrov has this same exact trait. Now to be fair that did change this year for Petrov to some degree. The pro game has even bigger, faster players to defend Petrov. The middle of the ice gives him more options both for himself and for his teammates. In Bakersfield, I will be looking for more plays like this one here where Petrov doesn’t settle for a button hook or an outside play, but brings the puck to the middle.
The Defence Rests
The last area is the most common for an offensively gifted player: his defensive game. Most of Petrov’s defence relates again to his lack of attention to the required work ethic. Nothing fatal and nothing that indicates a lack of character. Offensively gifted players often don’t spend much time in their own zone, so are not often aware of what is needed. Here would be a perfect example.
Petrov also does have a lack of awareness in his own zone. That will require more work than just encouraging a higher effort level. Lots of video and understanding of his role in circumstances like the one below will help.
Petrov did make improvements in this area. He certainly improved his effort level back and was certainly more aware by the end of the season of his responsibilities. Watch this clip where Petrov tracks the puck while taking away two separate lanes for the puck carrier. He makes a deft little pass after gaining possession of the puck to finish the play.
Petrov On The Offense
The above might seem harsh and maybe a little disconcerting to Petov’s NHL chances. However, honestly, those areas to improve are more achievable than the other skills that Petrov possesses. There are a lot of opinions on Petrov’s best asset. It’s a good thing when there are divergent opinions because it means Petrov brings a lot to the rink.
For me, it begins with the shot. Petrov scored 40 goals in his first season in the OHL. He had a downbeat year on the goal front with only 27, but there were reports Petrov had played through an upper-body injury in the second half.
Petrov’s wrist shot is very quick off the stick, which makes it a challenge for goalies. It is also highly accurate.
Petrov can score from range with the slapshot. His release here is a little slower given the back swing, but the shot is strong and accurate.
The Puck Skills
Whether it was injury or a concerted effort, Petrov was substantially more creative this year setting up teammates for scoring chances. Petrov ended up with 67 assists and was third in the OHL. His vision in the offensive zone is very good. Given the threat of his shot, he generally brings defenders to him leaving his teammates open for very good looks.
As with any shooter, the ability to create more space for themselves, the better to get a quality shot off. If Petrov’s passing skills continue to develop at the pro level, defenders will be in a quandary as to how aggressively to defend.
I’ve left the skating to the end because there are not a lot of concerns. His top-end spend isn’t elite, but it certainly is good enough for the professional level.
In terms of his starts, his first two steps are very quick. He pushes quickly, keeps the skates close to the ice and his upper body remains very compact. Look at this little explosion off the faceoff to a loose puck in the corner.
The Future Watch
The keys for Petrov at the professional level will be to increase the pace at which he plays for certain. More importantly, I will be watching to see how much inside play Petrov creates this year. This will be particularly important against quicker and bigger players. For me, Petrov’s ability to do these things will have a substantive impact on Petrov’s NHL prospects. He has the size. He has the offensive skills. He skates well enough. The elements he needs to work on are fully in his control and that is an exciting proposition given how deep in the draft the Oilers found Petrov.
That is it for this week everyone. Feedback here or to @bcurlock on Twitter. Happy Fathers’ Day to all the Dad’s out there especially Bob. Love you Dad.