WHEELING - It's no secret the focus of ECHL players here in Wheeling is to get out. It has nothing to do with us, but instead is all about career advancement.
Forward Nick Peteresen, considered by some (read: me) to be an All-Star snub, is proof positive that good things come to those who wait. A 6-foot-2, 186-pound native of Wakefield, Quebec, Petersen is getting his chance after being recalled to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL.
''You've got to do your best every night,'' Petersen said after a victory last week. ''They want you to be a consistent player wherever you're playing and work hard.
File Photo by JOSH STROPE
Nick Petersen was second in the league in scoring when he got the call from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
''I think I've been doing that the last couple months, and hopefully I'll get a chance to be up in the AHL and the NHL one day.''
He's getting the chance now, and it's every bit as much about his attitude and desire to get better, as it is the ridiculous numbers he has put up. Despite playing eight games less than the leader, Petersen sat second in the league in scoring heading into action Friday night, with 57 points (24g-33a).
Petersen had scored at least one point in a league-high 11 consecutive games prior to Wednesday night's 3-1 loss in Reading.
''Petey's just got a very high skill level,'' Nailers coach Stan Drulia said. ''When he crosses the blue line he's dangerous, whether he has the puck or he doesn't.
''He finds areas to get himself into position and it's pretty special when he crosses the blue line.''
That's all well and good, but everyone in the organization knows he can score. Heck, that's why he's a member in the first place. But around here, the points are nice, but not the end game.
''The thing is, with our team and our organization we grade these guys every single night,'' said Drulia, who has Wheeling in first place in the North Division in his first season. ''And we don't grade them on their points - we want them to be great hockey players.
''We grade them on their wall play, his net presence and things like that.
''When he's scoring that's great for our hockey team and great for his numbers, but ultimately he's got to play the game on the defensive side of the puck if they want to play at the next level and hopefully in the National Hockey League.''
The Pittsburgh organization isn't the only one to take notice. When he left for the Baby Penguins, Petersen was named Player of the Week, as well as Rookie of the Month.
''(The Pens are) always keeping in touch with me to see how things are going. They know my situation and they know I want to be at the next level, but this is best for my development right now,'' Petersen said. ''Obviously you want to be in the AHL, but it's good when you're putting up numbers here and it keeps your confidence up.
"When I get a chance, hopefully I'll have the confidence to be a good player up there.''
That chance is now.
Fans may have no doubt noticed a different look to the Nailers' power play. Most generally teams send out three forwards and a pair of defensemen with the man advantage, but Wheeling has scrapped that idea, at least on one of its units.
''We experimented a little bit,'' Drulia said. ''We want our power play to have two different total looks, and with the units we've got going on we can do that.''
Last week, Wheeling went with four forwards, keeping Casey Pierro-Zabotel back on the point, and just one defender. The PP that night produced four goals in six chances.
''That was the one unit we've worked on and we've got Zabby back there. Zabby's so smart with the puck,'' Drulia said.
With a guy like Kyle Bushee currently in Wilkes-Barre, that puts a lot of pressure on the Nailers' defense corps. So in part, they went with the look to lessen the stress.
''You put so many key defensive minutes into guys like (Peter Merth) and (Dan Henningson), we don't really want them on the power play,'' Drulia said.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net