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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

THE GRADUATE: "The Jeff Petry Story"

Jeff Petry may not be that physical shutdown defenceman Oiler fans have come to love over the years but he very well may become a defensively aware offensive defenceman the fans of the Oil drop can love for years to come.

Petry has athletic pedigree. His father was a famous baseball player in his day. Jeff also has a incredible hockey track record that may not awe you, but will definitely grab your attention. Jeff for certain is no slouch and I believe a player who has a skill set that the Oilers have not had for many years. Jeff is a athlete that has a drive to do well. He may at times appear to be down, but then there he is....coming back with a vengeance. Follow his hockey career and you will see, he is determined.

In 04/05 Petry was an All-State Honorable Mention, an All-Area 3rd Team All-Star, member of the CHSL All League team. He lead St. Mary’s to its first State Championship and scored 5 goals and 13 assists in 29 games. In 05/06 Petry played for Team East at the USHL Prospects/All-Star Game and won the Clark Cup with the Buccaneers where he had 2 goals and 5 assists in 11 games, which was tops among all Des Moines defenceman. Later in 06/07 Jeff had 18 goals and 45 points in 55 appearances with the Buccaneers. He won  USHL Defenceman of the Year and was named to the All-Star Game. Jeff was also USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year. 

In 07/08 had 24 points through 42 games,received  CCHA All-Rookie Team honors for his play. On top of being a CCHA Rookie of the Year finalist,  named MSU’s Outstanding Defensive Player and best freshman.

So all was looking good. After leaving school, he spent the last 8 games of his 08/09 season with the AHL affiliate in Springfield and took the off-season to get ready for the beginning of his pro career. Jeff went into the 2010 development camp looking good. His game was mature, media liked him, coach's liked him. Renny gave caution to the media, telling everyone to be patient with the player and let him develop at his pace. As history would be told, Petry went to camp, did ok but eventually would end up in OKC. He did get a call up due to injuries to play with the Oilers. He started strong, but started to fade some and would eventually be returned back to the AHL to continue working on his game. Petry worked hard in OKC and would eventually get another chance to play in Edmonton. He would end up playing 41 games in the AHL and 35 with the NHL. By season's end Petry was maturing well, and handling himself quite fine.

Petry may falter at times but the determination to succeed will always be what separates him from many other players who have come and gone over the years. In fact last year Jeff showed his compete level in one game specifically where he made that extra effort to stop a puck that would have most certainly been in the net, if not for his goal line save

 Which brings us to this season. Will Jeff Petry play this season with the Oilers on opening night roster? Will this be the year he firmly plants himself in the top 6 defenceman role for the Edmonton Oilers? Or will he need some more time to refine his game in the AHL? Lots of questions but best evaluated by looking at his history (which we just did), the circumstances on the Oilers blueline, and the skill set he has to offer the Oilers.

Most agree the Oilers have a long ways to go in becoming a stronger defensive team to play. The situation Jeff Petry finds himself in, is a numbers game. Not only with # of defenceman under one way contracts but a numbers game with waiver eligibility as well. Currently the Oilers have Whitney, Gilbert, Smid, Barker, Peckham, Sutton and Chorney. All of whom must clear waivers should they be sent down to the AHL to start the year. The Oilers will have 7 defenceman to start the year, so assuming all these men stay up, Petry will need to be sent down to OKC to start the year.

There are other possibilities to ponder. Sutton could be sent down with a hefty salary and buried in the AHL. Another team may pick him up, but at his salary, it is unlikely. Thing is, he brings a big body on defence the Oilers could plug in for a game here or there. Chorney is a possibility as well to be sent down, but would have to clear waivers as well. He very well may clear waivers as many oiler fans believe he would , but is it a chance the Oilers would want to take? They have a history of taking the safer route. Barker, Gilbert, Whitney, Smid and Peckham are going no where, so that leaves only two roster spots really available.

So the race for the final two spots left (one being the 7th defenceman, who I believe will be Andy Sutton) is between Chorney, Petry and Potter. Potter is a AHL vet with some NHL experience and could push well for that last spot as well. Should Potter make it, I would think it would be as the 7th defenceman role. The only thing that changes this scenario is a injury or a trade. Unlikely a trade will happen early on and we know the history when it comes to Oiler defenceman and injuries.

Smart two-way defenseman who is an excellent skater with good mobility. plays with an edge and can lay out good hits. Will battle in front of the net.  Petry has a cannon for a shot, but often will use a wrist shot so that it does not get blocked. Excellent accurate passer out of the zone, will skate the puck up himself when no outlet pass available. Has good mix of size, skill and awareness. Uses his stick well in blocking the lanes and taking away the pass or shot.

What I think should happen and what will happen are probably two different things. Let's say all the defenceman play to their potential. I doubt the Oilers send Chorney down through waivers to the AHL and risk losing him. It is also possible with Whitney still not certain on his injury condition, he may not start the year on the opening night roster. I am hoping Whitney is ready, but no need to rush him in early and cause serious long term damage.

Petry is on the cusp, should Whitney not start the year, it's likely Petry will play in the second pairing role and remain with the team for the year. By the time Whitney is ready to return, it's very possible another injury to the defence could happen and again there would be no changes needed to those original 8 we were considering for the opening night roster.

In the end, IMO I believe we see all 8 defenceman here in Edmonton with 1 on the injured list. When 1 injured player returns it is very probable another will be going off. I can't see Petry going back to OKC. Sorry Baron fans, but with his skill set and his determination and pedigree, I think and believe he is a oiler for the long haul. Should I be wrong? Well, let's just say, OKC already is going to have one heck of a defence. Imagine Petry playing there as well?

let's bring on the season. It's been a long off season and I am sure Jeff is raring to go and prove that he is the real deal and wants to show that he is "The Graduate"

you can follow me on twitter @revingev

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