It’s safe to say that Nic Petan is another player who benefited in his rankings from the NHL readiness criteria, over potential upside. He’s certainly shown that he’s too good for the AHL, but interestingly enough when he’s played in the NHL, the results have consistently been underwhelming. Petan seems to be the ultimate tweener, and heir apparent to the Seth Griffith legacy of being just good enough that you’d hate to see him lost on waivers for nothing, but not good enough that you want to see him in the lineup every night.
Last season Nic Petan had 16 games in the NHL and put up 3 points. This is noteworthy since his time in the AHL says he’ll be an offensive contributor and with 31 points in 25 games with the Marlies last season, he had the highest points per game pace. He was given a chance to play an offensive role in a number of situations, Spezza, and Kapanen were two of his most frequent linemates, but Gauthier was his also in that mix. He had the opportunity to play with Tavares, and Matthews as well, in hopes that some of his offensive ability might come out, but in the combined 26 minutes Petan was on the ice with either Tavares or Matthews, only one goal was scored for the Leafs. And in the entirety of the 2019-20 time Petan spent with the Leafs, he was on the ice for 25 goals, and only assisted on 3, without scoring once. He one goal that was scored while playing with Tavares, Petan did pick up an assist on. Petan’s assists came on goals for Spezza, Gauthier, and Kapanen.
A slight majority of the games played by Petan came during Babcock’s time as coach, playing 9 games and picking up 2 assists. Petan played 7 games under Keefe, seeing less icetime and only picking up one assist. Petan is more or less an odd man out, as he had the least amount of exposure to Keefe than the other Marlies/tweeners on the list. He wasn’t on the Marlies roster last season, and wasn’t demoted until after Keefe took over in November. While Petan still looks to be a good player, he essentially fell victim to not having the same familiarity with the coach as pretty much every other bottom six player who ended up thriving in their callups.
One of the other things that seemed to occur with Petan when he was up with the Leafs is that he seemed to be utilized in more of an energy, almost pesty type role, especially when he was playing under Mike Babcock. While the fact that he has this skill set is nice, I wonder how much of his offense was stifled to make Petan a more suitable linemate to Timashov and Gauthier at the start of the season. If Petan is allowed to play the style that works for him in the AHL, would he have a better chance at long term success? I’m hopeful we’ll get a chance to learn that in the preseason.
Petan has one more year left on his contract at $775k/yr and this is probably the biggest selling point in still exploring what the Leafs have in Petan. He’s cheap, he can line up at any forward position, and at 25 there still could be some untapped upside there, but history tells us that’s wishful thinking. Given his contract there is a risk that Petan would be claimed on waivers if he is sent down to the Marlies next season, but that risk is more of an issue of Marlies center depth not really a crushing blow to the Leafs, although in the bizarre reality we live in, losing NHL capable depth isn’t ideal.
It’s entirely possible that Petan could make a case for himself in Leafs training camp or make his case for being at the top of the callup list, and like this list illustrates his comfort as a pro and abilities are still make him a more favourable option than players like Adam Brooks or Jeremy Bracco, who were one time considered strong prospects. While the last thing the Leafs may need is another undersized forward, Petan remains a solid depth option for the Leafs.