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Oilers bank on pedigree, potential

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton Oilers second round pick (45th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Jeff Petry, hopes his 2009-10 junior year eclipses a disappointing sophomore outing at Michigan State. (Photo courtesy of MSU Athletic Communications)

The Michigan State Spartans had a dismal year in 2008-09, and defenceman Jeff Petry shared his team’s disappointment. Only two seasons removed from their third national championship, the Spartans finished second-last in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association this past season with only 10 wins in 38 games. And as for Petry, he posted two goals, 12 assists, and 32 penalty minutes in his sophomore year, a 10-point drop from his freshman figures.

But season to season comparisons aren’t always fair, and despite losing ground in the points department, the defenceman finished first among Spartan blueliners and only 10 points shy of the team’s leading scorer, winger Matt Schepke.

It was a lackluster season on all accounts, but Oilers Assistant General Manager Kevin Prendergast is confident the 21-year-old Michigan native can turn things around in 2009-10.

“It wore on him a lot this year,” Prendergast says. “I think he got himself into a few bad habits in that he tried to do things he wasn’t capable of doing towards the last third of the season. But eventually he started getting back into his zone, in his comfort level, and playing within himself as we call it.”

At 6’3” and 200 pounds, Petry has the physical components covered.  Mentally, he should have a pretty good handle on things as well: his dad, Dan Petry, was an All-Star Major League pitcher and helped the Detroit Tigers win the 1984 World Series.

It may be too early and farfetched to make cross-sport “like father, like son” comparisons, but the younger Petry’s lifelong exposure to the ups and downs of the pros certainly gives him a unique perspective – and perhaps some unique pressures.

“He comes from a great pedigree, so he understands the pressure of pro sports,” Prendergast says. “He learns the game very quickly but gets very frustrated if he doesn’t do well. He’ll be back in Michigan State next year and it’ll be a big year for him, but I think at this time next year, we’ll be giving serious consideration to bringing Jeff up.”

When that happens, Oilers fans can expect to see a competent two-way defenceman.

“He’s a big kid, he’s got a cannon for a shot, and he can quarterback the power play,” the Oilers exec sums up. “He’s got some offence to his game, and he’s good defensively.”

When asked for an NHL comparison, Prendergast hesitates.

“That’s hard to say. He’s sort of a ‘tweener at this point. He’s got some offence to his game, and he’s good defensively. Maybe a young Cam Barker in Chicago, in that they both shoot the puck really well, they both skate really well, they both have the same attributes in that they can create plays and are adequate in their own end.”

Though Petry’s style may be difficult to pinpoint and his ’08-09 season tough to praise, Prendergast says his Oilers future is bright.

“I feel he’s a blue chip prospect for us. I think we’ve seen the tip of the iceberg as far as how he’s going to be as a pro.”

Visit every Friday in May and June as we profile the top six Oilers prospects with the team’s Assistant General Manager Kevin Prendergast.

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