SUN Hockey Pool

Petry wants job with Oilers

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

Jeff Petry figured it was time.

Despite having a year of college eligibility left at Michigan State University, the 22-year-old defenceman decided to leave school early and turn pro.

Now, despite taking part in his fourth Edmonton Oilers development camp, the Ann Arbor, Mich., product will be at his first NHL training camp in the fall.

"I just felt like it was the best decision for my career to leave school early and just concentrate on hockey for now," Petry said. "I have a full year left, but I've been taking online classes to get credits going and I'm going to take summer classes from now on."

Selected by the Oilers in the second round -- 45 overall -- of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Petry scored four goals and added 25 assists in 38 games with Michigan State last season.

He then signed an entry-level contract with the Oilers and was sent to Springfield at the end of the year, where he collected three assists in eight games.

"It was great to get that eight games experience," Petry said. "It opened my eyes on what I need to improve on. I learned a lot from the guys up there in that short period. There is a lot to do and I just have to devote more time to it."

Petry is expected to play with the Oilers' AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City this season. He represents the next wave of Oilers defencemen.

"The beauty of his situations is that he's had that little bit of extra time to be a young adult," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. "The way the game has morphed into what it is coming out of the lockout, it's not an easy game for a defenceman and a young one at that.

"But he looks really poised and he's handling things really well. It's pretty exciting to watch him play. I like him."

It's been a long road for the six-foot-three, 180-lb defenceman. The Oilers have been patient with his development, which is usually a requirement with blue-liners.

Petry is looking forward to making the jump from the college game.

"I've been training with some of the guys who have come back to school to get their degrees, like Justin Abdelkader from the Red Wings," he said.

"I've been training with those guys and am listening to what they've been though and what the jump was like for them."

The hope for the Oilers is that Petry eventually develops into a solid NHL defenceman with an offensive upside.

"I think it's been a good process for me," Petry said. "I put on some weight, got stronger and I feel more comfortable on the ice. Forwards come at you with so much more speed at the pro level, so for me, it was great to have those three years at Michigan State to develop."

One of the biggest adjustments he'll make this season coming out of college is getting used to the length of the season.

Petry will play twice as many games in Oklahoma City than he did with Michigan State.

"I think it's exciting for me," he said. "Being with that process for three years, a lot of time you fall into the same habits, so it's good to get outside the comfort zone and I think it'll benefit the learning process.

"By no means am I going to jump up and be a superstar up here. I have to learn from the guys around you and listen to the coaches and be coachable and do what they say, because they know what it takes to take the next step."


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