Jeff Petry is one of three defenders who grew up in the NCAA that we often compare to each other. I’ve always slotted them in this order: Taylor Chorney, Jeff Petry, Cody Wild. This winter, that changes.
This season both Chorney and Petry are struggling and Wild is playing well but finds himself listed as a “healthy scratch” far too often to move up the prospect depth chart. Let’s look closer at Petry.
Petry drew all kinds of attention one year ago and was named to the NCAA West Regional All-Tournament Team, the CCHA All-Rookie team and won Michigan State’s Top Rookie and Outstanding Defenseman awards.
This season more was expected, on the PP, EVs and PK. Regarded as a “complete player”, scouts say he handles the puck well, has great skating ability, can get physical and is improving defensively. I wasn’t convinced of Petry coming off his season one year ago, for the following reasons:
- Reports of some gaps defensively
- Reports of inconsistent play. Coach Rick Comley: “I thought that on some nights he was our best player and other nights, he played more like a freshman.”
- He started his college career much later than most top quality prospects.
- Reports that are not consistent re: his foot speed.
- Offensive numbers are good but unspectacular.
One year ago, at age 20 (remember he’s a freshman at age 20) he goes 42gp, 3-21-24 which ranks him 9th on his team in scoring (2nd among defenders). He is +2 on a team that is +12 overall and there are no less than 5 defenders with a better plus minus number. His point total (24) meant he was in on 17.8% of the Spartans 135 goals.
This season, at 21, the offensive numbers show improvement (as a percentage of team offense) which is the main reason he is ranked at #7. Petry is still back of the pack in plus minus. He is currently 18gp, 1-6-7 which ranks him 5th (tie) on his team (leads the defensemen), he’s -11 (on a team that is -23 overall). There are 3 defenders with signficantly better plus minus numbers, but two of them are freshman so it’s unlikely they’re facing the same level of competition. Petry’s point total (7) means he has been in on 24% of the Spartans’ 29 goals. That number (24%) is quite high and central to his value at this time. He’s a very good college offensive defenseman, not far from Tom Poti territory if he can sustain it.
With the offensive ability as a backdrop, I had earlier ranked Petry 4th overall for winter 2008. A big part of the equation had to do with how he was progressing defensively but I misread the plus minus numbers. In order to avoid confusion (mine) again, here is the plus minus number for each Spartan defender along with their status (Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior) which is an aid when attempting to estimate we have for toughness of minutes:
- Brock Shelgren (fresh) +1
- Ryan Turek (junior) -3
- Matt Crandell (freshman) -4
- Brandon Gentile (senior) -7
- Justin Johnston (junior) -8
- Jeff Petry (soph) -11
- Tim Buttery (fresh) -13
We know from reports that Petry is facing tough opposition. He played with freshman Matt Crandell this weekend which may speak to the coach attempting to work a promising young player in with a trusted veteran. The fact remains Petry isn’t getting the desired results in a season when the coach was relying on him. I don’t know how you can put that in a positive light and have no interest in trying.
Back to the offense: 24% (of overall offense) is a pretty high number for a sophomore defender, even considering his age. Here are the three college kids as sophomore’s for comparison:
- Petry 24.1%
- Chorney 20.2%
- Wild 18.4%
Looking at the game summaries and boxscores (Michigan State has a really good site) it seems to me that Petry is playing monster minutes and that may also be impacting his effectiveness. Also helping the downward spiral is goalie Jeff Lerg, whose SP is down (.912 this season, .898 in conference) from his career number (.922 when the season began).
This is obviously going to be a trying season for him (Michigan State is being outscored 54-29 in 18 games) and it’s going to be even more difficult to rank him (as some have done) as the best prospect in the Oilers system. Guy Flaming over at Hockey’s Future has always been very high on him, which I suspect comes from talking to the scouts. Quoting Guy: “Petry isn’t really lacking in any one area; he can skate, pass (21 assists last year), shoot (95 mph shot un the USHL All-Star game), makes safe decisions under pressure, can play physical and he’s still maturing. Where once he was a gangly specimen, all arms and legs, he is now physically thicker and stronger, although he’s still not tipping the scales at the 200 lb mark despite what the MSU Spartans suggest on their team site. He is not an elite defensive prospect, but Petry is still a player who is projected to be a top-pairing contributor at the NHL level.”
Petry is the first player on this winter’s top 20 whose current in-season performance is as much about negatives as positives. It’s fair then to suggest that there is a distinct gap between top 6 and the players who follow them. The math tells us Petry as a defensive player is not tracking on a level commensurate with what we’d associate with a top rated player in the system, but his offense implies he is ahead of the other college (Chorney and Wild now pro) kids we have been comparing him to for a couple of years.
I think it’s safe to say that “draft steal” might be a bit of an overstatement at this time.