Winterhawks center named league player of the week

by: PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS - Portland Winterhawks center Nic Petan races up the ice in the season opener against Seattle.Hard work already has paid off for Nic Petan.

The Portland Winterhawks center was named Western Hockey League player of the week Monday. He scored a WHL-leading eight points in three games over the first weekend of the season.

"Little things went my way," says Petan, a 17-year-old player from Delta, British Columbia says. "And I worked really hard on my body to get ready for this season."

Petan, 5-8, went from 153 to 166 pounds with an offseason gym regimen.

"I got a little heavier, faster and stronger," he says, "just so I could go up against the bigger guys in the league."

That and his WHL experience — this is his second full season in the league — helped him get off to such a productive start.

"I notice a big difference," he says. "I've got more strength in my stick and my legs. I feel more explosive.

"And the big thing is confidence. The experience goes along with that, just knowing the things I did last year, doing them better and executing them in our team play."

Petan had one goal and one assist Friday as the Winterhawks opened with a 5-2 home loss to Seattle — despite their 57-27 edge in shots.

In the rematch at Kent, Wash., the following night, he had a goal and three assists and was named No. 1 star of the game, a 6-2 Portland victory.

On Sunday, he had two goals as the Hawks won 4-2 at Tri-City.

Petan opened on a line featuring last year's leading Winterhawk scorer, winger Ty Rattie, and promising WHL rookie Oliver Bjorkstand from Denmark. Bjorkstand led Portland in scoring during the preseason.

Another rookie, Minnesotan Keegan Iverson, took Rattie's place after Rattie drew a game misconduct at Seattle.

"We all had really good chemistry," Petan says. "Oliver is very fun to play with, and Keegan played pretty well for us."

Petan says it didn't hurt, either, that he was wearing his favorite jersey number again — 19 — after suiting up as No. 33 last season.

"I've always been No. 19, but last year I didn't get it because they were keeping it for Ryan Johansen, in case he came back (from the NHL)," Petan says. "This year, I wanted to change numbers right away. It's definitely helped."

Petan says he's worn 19 since he started playing hockey as a youngster, and his brother, Alex, a 20-year-old center at Michigan Tech, also wears 19.

The other thing that keeps Petan in a positive frame of mind is his penchant for reruns of the TV sitcom "Friends."

"My favorite show of all-time," he admits. "I pretty much live off watching that show. I can quote a lot of things from it. It's just a really funny show. It puts me in a good mood."

Petan and the Hawks will regroup over the next few days in preparation for two games at the Rose Garden, 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday versus the Kelowna Rockets.

In 2011-12, Petan had 14 goals and 21 assists, helping Portland reach the WHL finals for the second year in a row.

He came to camp this year knowing that, with the loss of forwards Sven Bartschi and Brad Ross to the pros, and with new forwards on the roster, the returning Hawks were in line for more of a leadership and scoring role.

"I came into the season wanting to get a point a game," he says, "and 30 goals for the season was my goal."

So far, he's ahead of pace, and the league has taken notice.

Petan got news of his WHL honor after his morning stint at Sunset High. He is taking marketing and law there, attending with his roommate, Winterhawks rookie forward Paul Bittner.

"It's a good accomplishment, I'm very excited about it," Petan says, "but it's just one weekend. Got to get ready for Kelowna."

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