Although Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Travis Green coached him with the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League, he says his history with Nic Petan has very little to do with the 26-year-old forward’s presence on the current Vancouver Canucks roster.
“I know him well as a player, I’ve had other players here from Portland as well,” Green said. “It has no bearing on whether he makes the team or not, he’s gotta earn it. He understands that as well.” As an assistant or head coach with the Winterhawks, Green also coached eventual and now former Vancouver Canucks Sven Baertschi, Derrick Pouliot, Brendan Leipsic and Luca Sbisa.
“Obviously, it’s been a long time but it’s nice coming in knowing, not only some coaches, but a lot of the players as well,” Petan added.
Bottom line, the Delta, BC native has simply earned it.
“It’s huge, I have friends, family texting me a lot,” Petan said. “I try to answer everyone, it’s a dream come true playing in the NHL in general but here in your hometown it’s pretty cool.”
The preseason ticket requests are hefty, but the distractions are few.
“Just play hard, I know my offensive game is there,” Petan said, “but just play a 200-foot game, pucks in, pucks out, the regular thing. It’s about executing and doing the right things that way.”
Those players he knows have taken notice.
“He’s a really good player,” stated JT Miller, his sometimes preseason linemate. “I’ve played against him for awhile now, and he’s kind of good at everything. He’s sound defensively, I’d say an under-rated skater and he can make plays at both ends of the rink.”
Petan, 5-foot-9 and 165-pounds, was a prolific scorer in juniors. In 2012-’13, the year Portland won the Western Hockey League championship and lost the Memorial Cup Final, he shared the team lead in scoring with Leipsic with 120 points. Forty-six of those points were goals. That summer he was drafted 43rd-overall by the Winnipeg Jets, slipping in the draft mostly due to his size. The ensuing season he 35 goals and 113 points. His NHL career that started in 2015 has taken him from Winnipeg, to Toronto, and now home.
Gradually, he’s thinks he’s starting to find his way around the net again and he’s gotten quicker.
“I think I’ve played up and down the line-up the last six years, so I’ve played in every position I feel like and I’ve watched really good players play in higher positions and also high end players play in 4th or 3rd line roles,” Petan explained. “I just learn every year and I think I’m getting better as the years go on.”
In four preseason games he’s totalled 8 shots on goal, two assists and two goals.
“It’s obviously pretty nice putting a couple home, that gives you a little confidence there,” Petan said, “but still things to work on in the D-zone and little things like that. I think we’ve had a little chemistry with linemates and as a whole team too.”
He’s averaged a little more than 20-minutes in ice time and even while playing on the wing he’s been called upon to win some important draws.
“I love taking face-offs especially if they’re important ones, I live for that,” Petan said. “So whether I play centre or not I like hopping into those.”
He won three consecutive offensive zone draws in the left-wing circle in the final 90-seconds of the 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night with an extra Vancouver Canucks attacker on the ice. High pressure face-offs with an empty-net behind him.
“With the age and growth I just get smarter and I’ve learned a lot from a lot of guys, so I came in, not with nothing to lose, but with a little extra confidence and I knew I was gonna get some looks to play some extra minutes in preseason and I think I’ve taken advantage so far.”
Petan is in the line-up again Saturday night for one last chance to prove himself and lock something down.
“I feel comfortable in all those situations and of all the training camps I’ve been in, this is the one that’s been most comfortable,” Petan said. “I just take that as a positive in general.”