Nic Petan had 28 points in 21 games through the WHL playoffs. (Getty Images)
Nic Petan has just finished golfing with Portland teammates Brendan Burke and Taylor Leier when I called. But unlike most hockey players who hit the links, Petan’s season isn’t quite finished. Thanks in large part to his offensive contributions, the Winterhawks knocked off Edmonton in the Western League final to earn the Ed Chynoweth Cup they had come so close to the past few years and punched a ticket to the Memorial Cup in the process. All in a season where coach/GM Mike Johnston was suspended by the league for alleged recruiting violations.
“It’s just sinking in right now,” Petan said. “We worked really hard all year and we’ve done it for Mike.”
Though numbers don’t always tell the whole story, it tough to talk about what Petan has accomplished without trotting out some digits. His 120 points (including 74 assists) in 71 games tied him for the regular season scoring crown alongside linemate Brendan Leipsic, while Petan’s 28 points in 21 post-season games ranked him second behind other linemate Ty Rattie. And the feisty pivot did it all while weighing in at 5-foot-9, 166 pounds. Needless to say, he’s done some disproving.
“You get that knock, guys saying you’re too small,” Petan said. “But it’s the size of your heart. You have to show those big guys you’re not going to be scared out there.”
Having said that, Petan does want to bulk up a bit.
“Over the summer I definitely want to get up to 175, maybe 180 pounds,” he said. “You can always get stronger, gain weight and be more physical out there.”
Because of his size, Petan will likely be a second round pick this summer at the NHL Draft in New Jersey. At the beginning of the year, scouts wanted to see him attack more and also wondered how much of his success was due to playing with Leipsic and Rattie. For Travis Green, the assistant coach/GM who took over operations when Johnston was suspended, Petan has easily demonstrated that he can stand on his own accomplishments.
“Nic has a strong compete level,” Green said. “Good edges, high skill and he has a good feel for attacking bigger players.”
Growing up in Delta, B.C., just south of Vancouver proper, Petan followed the WHL’s Giants. So it’s funny that along with players such as Joe Sakic, Martin St-Louis and Tyler Ennis, he likes to watch diminutive Montreal rookie Brendan Gallagher, who starred for the Giants not too long ago. Because of those Vancouver teams, Petan dreamed of playing in the ‘Dub’ as a kid. His older brother Alex played Jr. A for the BC League’s Coquitlam Express and just finished a very successful freshman season at Michigan Tech, where he’ll be joined by cousin Demico Hannoun next year.
Nic said that the whole family is tight, but with the Memorial Cup starting this weekend, the focus from outsiders will be on the bonds he has forged with Leipsic and Rattie. The pressure will be on the Hawks to preform against similar high-flying acts from London and Halifax, plus the host Saskatoon Blades, who ranked third in WHL offense (Portland was first).
“We’re not similar players, but we have similar skill,” Petan said. “Our chemistry came right off the bat.”
When the puck is dropped in Saskatoon, it may be a matter of which team plays the best firewagon hockey. And that is not an impediment for Portland and Petan.