When the Winnipeg Jets selected Nic Petan with the 43rd pick of the 2013 draft, some questioned whether the undersized forward would be able to handle the grind of the professional circuit. Now, five years later he has proven to be more than capable at the AHL level but is still having trouble cracking the NHL roster. Petan recorded 52 points in 52 games for the Manitoba Moose, but was dressed for just 15 games with the Jets in 2017-18 and kept out of the playoffs entirely. Speaking with Jason Bell of the Winnipeg Free Press, Petan’s agent Joe Oliver of KO Sports Inc. worried that his client might be stuck too far down in the depth chart to ever prove himself:
I think [the Jets] are one of the more exciting teams to watch in the NHL, and there’s a little bit of envy because I would like Nic to be part of that. But at this point he seems to be on the outside looking in.
He’s champing at the bit to say, ‘Hey, listen. I want to be part of it.’ But that may not be possible just because of the number of players in front of him.
Oliver makes it clear that Petan holds no frustration with the Jets organization and would love to remain with them, just that it may not be possible given the glut of wingers ahead of him. With players like Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers and Mathieu Perreault penciled in on the left side, it will be hard for Petan to really show off his best attributes. Those are his offensive instincts and playmaking ability, something that isn’t really apparent when playing fourth line minutes or sitting in the press box.
Petan is on the Jets’ huge list of restricted free agents this summer, and if the team believes that he could fetch them some value on the open market a trade could be best for both sides. Winnipeg has plenty of depth on the wing in the minor leagues, and if another club is willing to pay up for a once-prized prospect saving money is just an added bonus for the Jets. While Petan doesn’t have much leverage after 95 relatively uninspiring NHL games, he is still another contract that would have to be dealt with this summer. The team has enough on their plate with players like Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey, Brandon Tanev, Adam Lowry, Connor Hellebuyck and Joel Armia all scheduled to become restricted free agents.
After watching the Vegas Golden Knights ride a group of misfits all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, one has to wonder if we’ll see more teams take a chance on talented-but-underutilized young players. Petan fits the description of a Vegas-style player perfectly, after his big junior and minor league production but relative failure in the NHL so far. Though he hasn’t asked for a trade, it might be the best thing for his career.