Jeff Petry has been impressive at the Oilers rookie camp and that can sometimes lead to unrealistic expectations. The Oilers (like the Toronto Blue Jays and their pitchers) have a long history of fast tracking defensive prospects. Tom Poti arrived without really knowing how to play defense (John Short once told me he thought the problem with American high school kids is that they never learned to play without the puck–they always had the damn thing–and teams had to decide on them at the high school level). More recently, Taylor Chorney came out of college a year early and has struggled at the pro level for 2 full seasons.
Petry SHOULD be impressive at this rookie camp, he’s 23 years old!!! Petry has had a solid 12 months and is on track to have a solid pro career. In fact, he has a wider range of skills than any of the other blueliners who are trying to work their way into regular NHL work (Peckham, Plante, Petry, Motin, Chorney).
But pushing him? Defense is a tough position to play, and we’ve seen a tremendous amount of on the job training in the NHL over the last 5 years (beginning with painful errors by Matt Greene in the Stanley run. Costly) and there is no evidence pushing these kids pays off in terms of development.
So, it was a real pleasure to hear Tom Renney talk about this player and his rookie camp this afternoon. Renney: “We have to make sure–even with a player who has been very impressive here–as more of an adult looking player here at this camp; Jeff is not an NHLer today. It’s not the wrong thing for us to make sure he goes to Oklahoma City, so he can get a feel for the physical nature of the game. We can expect too much of this player who is so good in so many areas, and then three months from now we’re saying ‘what happened?’ Well let’s not go there.”
That might just be the most encouraging thing I’ve heard all summer.