Last season was arguably the best of Jeff Petry’s 11-year NHL career. With the Canadiens needing even more from him in 2021-22, will he be able to step up again and how will that affect his fantasy value?
When the Habs got off to that unsustainable hot start offensively, few were producing more than Petry who had 13 points in his first ten games. Over a full season, that’s a 107-point pace. Clearly, it was only going to go downhill from there from an offensive standpoint.
The dip was fairly significant as when Montreal’s offence sputtered, so too did Petry’s as he had a 21-game stretch in March and April where he had just a goal and seven assists. His role wasn’t really changing – he was still the second defender most nights (aside from a few games when Shea Weber was out) – but the ebbs and flows hit Petry harder than most players. That’s normal for him and eventually, he turned things around heading into the playoffs as he had points in seven of his last nine regular season games.
In the postseason, Petry’s offence dried up once again – he didn’t score in 20 games while notching just six assists. Few blueliners produced for the Habs in the playoffs as Petry tied Weber and Joel Edmundson for the team lead in scoring by a defenceman. Of course, that only tells part of the story as Petry played an instrumental role in helping Montreal make it to the Stanley Cup Final, logging more than 24 minutes a game. He wasn’t producing on the scoresheet but it was still a solid playoff performance.
Season Stats: 55 GP, 12 goals, 30 assists, 42 points, +6 rating, 20 PIMS, 4 PPG, 2 GWG, 128 shots, 22:44 ATOI, 56.1 CF%
Playoff Stats: 20 GP, 0 goals, 6 assists, 6 points, -2 rating, 6 PIMS, 0 PPG, 0 GWG, 36 shots, 24:04 ATOI, 51.5 CF%
5 Year Averages
(The stats for 2019-20 and 2020-21 have been extrapolated to an 82-game rate.)
For the majority of his tenure with the Canadiens, Petry’s role has been pretty well-defined as the right defenceman on the second pairing whose overall ice time would put him second on the team. With Weber not playing this season (if he ever returns), that’s not going to be the case anymore. The spot on the top pairing is his and with newcomers David Savard and Chris Wideman behind him, he’s not going to be challenged for playing time. Even when he’s struggling, they won’t be able to do much to limit his playing time at five-on-five.
On the power play, Petry will move up to the top pairing on what will almost certainly be a four-forward unit. With Mike Hoffman (once healthy) and Cole Caufield likely to play prominent roles, the top group shouldn’t be deploying the recent strategy of set up the point shot over and over and over (and over) again. As for the penalty kill, Petry was fourth among blueliners in that regard and that shouldn’t be going up as Savard figures to play a prominent role in that regard. If Alexander Romanov gets trusted with a bit more ice time in that situation, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Petry’s shorthanded playing time dipping a little bit. Knowing they’re going to lean on him more than ever in other situations, reducing his tough minutes – even by a few seconds here and there – would be helpful.
There’s an understandable temptation to swing big here with Petry’s projections. He’s basically the only veteran offensively-capable defender on the roster (we’ll see if Wideman’s KHL production translates to NHL success or if Mattias Norlinder makes the team) and Weber isn’t going to cut into his production anymore. The sky should be the limit.
But I tend to go conservative with these and I’ll do so to an extent here. I don’t think it’d be wise to project at a higher rate than last season which was basically a career year in terms of points per game when he played at a 61-point pace. Optimistically speaking, even on this roster that has improved offensively, expecting a defenceman to get that many points isn’t wise. There’s also the fact that Petry will line up against better competition without the Chiarot-Weber pairing drawing the top assignments. With Petry being the only proven offensive threat from the back end, he’ll be keyed in on a bit more than before.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not projecting a big drop or anything like that but I expect Petry to be around his career norms. And that’s a good thing from a fantasy perspective. Blueliners that put up 40 or more points are hard to come by; ones that put up the type of add-on stats (shots, hits, and to a lesser extent, blocks) are slightly rarer. From a fantasy perspective, he’s a low-end number one or a high-end number two option and he should be one of the first Habs off the board in all formats.