-- While this week’s development camp at MTS Iceplex may be more about learning the ins and outs of what it means to be a Winnipeg Jet, that isn’t stopping Nic Petan from showing what he can do.
“I think every time you get a chance to go on the ice, whether at development camp or training camp, you want to prove something,” Petan said. “You want to show what you've done better at, or what you've got better at. I think little things like shooting and passing, you can always get better at.”
As the 43rd overall pick in 2013, Petan has been to a couple development camps already. He believes each time he’s here, he finds more to add to his game.
“Just coming to the pro level, I know it's more about defence as well,” said Petan. “This past season I focused on defensive play, face offs, being the low man in the zone, and I think I got better at it.”
Offensively, Petan’s stats jump off the page. In his last three WHL seasons with the Portland Winterhawks, the 20-year-old has registered 422 points in 188 regular season games.
He’s one of many players that have stood out this week to Manitoba Moose Head Coach Keith McCambridge.
“I thought (Tucker) Poolman looks real strong on the back end. I thought (Jansen) Harkins looks strong. (Brendan) Lemieux, his strength, his skating stride. Petan, the accuracy of his shot, and again the skill. I could list off quite a few of those,” said McCambridge following Saturday’s ice sessions.
Poolman’s strength may be on the blue line, but University of North Dakota Head Coach Dave Hakstol (now with the Philadelphia Flyers) used Poolman in a forward role for parts of the 2014-2015 season.
“It was an interesting year for me. I played a few different positions, had fun at both of them,” said the 22-year-old Poolman. “We had a good team, made it pretty far, played in some big games. But it was a lot of fun.”
His North Dakota team made it all the way to the NCAA Frozen Four, where they were eliminated by Boston University. Poolman says playing the two positions gave him a different perspective on the game.
“Completely different game,” Poolman said. “Playing forward, the game is just quicker. Quicker plays, fast moving, always skating. Whereas on D, you're always surveying the game and things like that…I’ve taken a few big hits on the forecheck (as a defenceman), so it’s nice to be on the other side of that.”
Poolman says he continues to get more comfortable as each development camp goes by. He knows as much as he wants to stand out this week, it’s more about showing a good work ethic.
“I just want to improve every aspect of my game, and work on the little things,” he said. “When you get to this level, it's all the details that add up to make the big picture.”
McCambridge feels camps like these can mean something different for every player. Coaches are always evaluating, but each individual player is at a different developmental level.
“Well from the players we've seen in the past, (we’re) seeing if there's an improvement. For the individuals we had in the American League, just seeing where they are conditioning wise,” McCambridge elaborated. “And for the draft picks and free agents coming in here, an opportunity to evaluate them, and see where they're at career wise at a very young age. A lot of different things to look at, but definitely a real upbeat group with a top-end skill set.”
Included in that group is former University of Michigan captain Andrew Copp. Though he wasn’t at development camp last year because of school requirements, he’s doing everything he can to “be social” and catch up with prospects he hasn’t met since being drafted in 2013.
Copp played in the final regular season game of 2014-2015 with the Winnipeg Jets. He recorded his first career point (an assist) in a 5-1 win over Calgary. He already knows what his biggest challenge adjusting to the pro game will be.
“The difference between 35 college games and 82 NHL games is obviously huge, whether I'm in the NHL or the AHL, it's a big difference,” he said. “So just kind of working on that, trying to slim down a bit, just based on that game difference. Obviously I need to work on my hands and shot, and all the hockey skills, skating as well.”
The path to constant improvement is paved with challenges and obstacles. Copp got a taste of what the professional life is like last season, when he joined the Jets after signing his entry-level contract on March 26, 2015. That experience is one of the things that keeps him going.
“Definitely nervous at how it's all going to shake out. But excited at the opportunity that I have here,” he said. “Excited with the opportunity to play in front of these fans and play with a lot of good players at the NHL level, and of course all the prospects here. The AHL team is going to be very good too. Just excited with the opportunity I have coming in the fall.”
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com