Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

It’s never too early to meet hockey’s future

The World Juniors have just gotten underway, but alas Team Canada’s jerseys do not have the names of Portland Winterhawks on them. Good thing Team Switzerland will play later today, led by Flames top prospect Sven Bartschi. Here in Portland, our motto for the next week is Go Switzerland! But let’s not forget that elsewhere in Canada, hockey’s future is playing in the World U-17 Hockey Challenge. The Winterhawks are proudly represented in this tournament by rookie sensation Nic Petan, who is all of 16. He has the privilege of playing on a line this year with Sven and Ty Rattie, and together they have collectively already racked up more than 130 points this season. It may be a little early to make draft predictions about Nic, but you may want to put him on the radar now. Because his frequency is about to get very loud.

The math: Nic played for the Winterhawks in three games as a 15-year-old last season, earning his first career point with an assist in his WHL debut on Dec. 18 at Seattle. But he spent most of last season with the Greater Vancouver Canadians of the BC Major Midget League, where he posted a team-high 49 points (19 goals, 30 assists) in 35 games. He was Portland’s first round pick, 16th overall, of the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft.* He shoots left, he plays Center and his birthday is March 22, 1995. So far this season Nic has racked up 23 points (8 goals, 15 assists) in 35 games played.

He’s on Twitter, but of course: @petan19.

He understands the value of hard work: When I profiled Nic earlier this year for the Winterhawks Booster Club Newsletter, I had to wait for him to finish practice, where he was one of the last players off the ice. So it’s no surprise that when I asked him what advice he’d give to young players about making it to the next level of their hockey career, he told me “Always have a good work ethic and never give up. A lot of practice helps. I’ve always worked hard, and that’s what brought me to this level.”

Speaking of practice, scoring never gets old: One of the most hilarious things about waiting it out in that practice was watching while Nic and one of his teammates kept scoring. Every time he got just as excited as if it was a real game. I’ve been to several practices since, and it’s the same every time. If you didn’t know better and you just saw him at practice, you’d think he was scoring for the first time by how excited he gets.

He puts teammates first: Everytime I’ve talked to him since then, Nic has mentioned at least once, if not more, how he just wants to help his team, be a good playmaker and make his linemates look good. Considering who his linemates are, that’s a no brainer. A lot of players give me a lot of well-rehearsed cliches and nice quotes that sound good, but it doesn’t mean much if you don’t back it up with your actions. You can see by his stats so far this season that indeed Nic meant exactly what he said…the majority of his points are from assists.

He’s one smart cookie: Like many of the young Winterhawks players, Nic attends high school here in Portland, where is he is one year ahead in English. But he does need a little help to get there; he only has the Canadian equivalent of a learner’s permit to drive, so roommate Taylor Leier (another rookie to watch) drives him around town.

It’s a small hockey world: Nic hails from Delta, BC, also the hometown of Winterhawk Taylor Peters. Nic’s brother, who is now 19 and playing in the BCHL, played minor hockey with Taylor.

Of course he likes golf: Among Nic’s favorite off season, non-hockey endeavors are soccer, football and golf.

As for his talent, maybe it’s all those free haircuts and dinners: His mother owns her own barbershop and his dad owns a restaurant called La Notte.

The reality is a little different: Nic’s favorite TV show is “Friends.” I explained to him that life in New York for the average working person is a tad different in reality. Luckily for Nic, if he should get drafted the New York Rangers, for example, he won’t have to worry about that. Because whether it’s on or off the ice, he’s anything but average.

The bottom line: Nic’s very friendly, easy to talk with and very mature for his age. Like all the Winterhawks, he puts his linemates and teammates first, and like I said, he loves to score and make pretty plays. If you’re lucky enough to live where they might be broadcasting the U-17 World Hockey Challenge, I’d suggest tuning in and paying attention to this one. And if not, well, get ready hockey fans. Because something tells me he’ll be coming to an NHL rink near you in the future.

But don’t take my word for it: If you really want to get to know him, may I suggest checking out this hilarious little YouTube video/profile on Nic from friends and family back when he was in 8th grade:


*Source: Winterhawks.com/roster

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com