a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Sunday, 7 August 2011

08/07/11 58.4 Rookie Report Card: Jeff Petry

Jeff Petry is the first rookie to receive a grade here who wasn't a forward. Judging the quality of his season is a little more difficult, because his job isn't solely to go out and produce offense. The other trouble is that we don't quite know yet what Petry is going to be. His season was good enough to warrant a B-, so have a gander at the explanation.

Injecting Petry into the lineup didn't necessarily seem to make fans think: "Aha! That's what we were missing." He seems to be above average in a range of skills, which means that he isn't just a utility player like a Strudwick, but we don't know yet how good he'll be. He was impressive as anything for stretches though, which bodes well for him.

Petry's offense didn't miss much of a beat from college to the AHL. In his last year at Michigan State, he posted 4-25-29 in 38 games (0.76 p/g). During the 41 games he played in OKC this year, Petry had 7-17-24 (0.59 p/g). That's not a huge dropoff considering that Petry was playing in a new city with new teammates, under new coaches, and with different systems. It's sometimes harder to play defense in the AHL because things aren't as structured, but he acquitted himself well enough.

It was in the NHL that his production fell, where he managed just 1-4-5 in 35 games while averaging 20:22 of ice time per game, along with 2:11 of powerplay time per game. That's not necessarily a knock on Petry, but consider that a player like the much maligned Tom Gilbert - who also went the USHL and then college route - debuted with 6 points in 12 games in the NHL, followed by 33 points in 82 games the next year.

Looking on the positive side of things, Petry has good hockey sense, accompanied by a good combination of size (6'3", 196 lbs), skill and speed. More than anything, it was those tools that had many fans impressed with him this season. He has the ability to read plays and get to any area of the ice fairly quickly. When he gets there he's big enough to knock opponents off the puck, or skilled enough to check them with his stick.

Petry was given credit for 48 hits this year (roughly 1.4 hits per game) which means that over a full season he would have had around 112-115. That makes him a considerably more physical presence than Gilbert, who had 69 hits in 79 games. Petry would have clobbered more players than Ryan Whitney as well, who was on pace for 68 hits in a full year.

Petry also blocked 49 shots in those 35 NHL games this year, good for 1.4 blocks per game. He should therefore have had around 115 blocked shots in 82 games.

It's worth noting that Petry had more hits than Jason Strudwick (43), who played 8 more games than Petry did, and Petry blocked just as many shots on average. Petry did play five minutes more than Strudwick per game, but Petry was a rookie. Petry also had twice as many takeaways as Strudwick in eight fewer games, but he isn't close to the Oilers' other, more experienced defensemen in that regard just yet.

The point of this is that if Strudwick is good enough to be the Oilers' 7th defenseman, Petry is at least an upgrade in that area already. He certainly deserves the NHL more than Taylor Chorney, who had 4 points in 12 games, but was on pace for fewer hits, takeaways, shots and blocked shots than Petry.

Jeff Petry looks to have surpassed at least two more experienced defenders in the Oilers' depth chart from last season. There is no shortage of people who would like to see him get significant playing time this season, which means that he must have been doing things right out there much of the time. The only question now is whether Petry rounds into a legitimate top-3 defenseman, or if he's a tweener with a range of skills but never really being exceptional in any one thing. Next season, hopefully he'll show us.

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