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Jeff Petry: (Still) a beast on the blue line

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Six years after coming to Montreal, Petry is still a force.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Six years later, and still arguably one of the best deals pulled off by the Montreal Canadiens in recent years (in my opinion). If you don’t know which move I’m referring to, it is the acquisition of blue-liner Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers for a pair of picks in the 2015 NHL Draft.

When general manager Marc Bergevin went out to seek the offensive defenceman, he wanted to get more flare and add a bit of size to his team’s back end. The six-foot-three, 200-pound Ann Arbor-native was a second round pick in 2006, having played 295 career games with the Oilers, posting 17 goals and 57 assists.

Although Bergevin will constantly tell everyone who asks — or even if they don’t — that his best move was the Shea Weber-for-P.K. Subban swap in June of 2016, this one should come up in those conversations more.

When Petry first came to Montreal, my thoughts were, for the most part, positive. I knew he was a potential top-four defenceman, I knew he could play decent minutes, and I knew he brought a sense of leadership and size to add to the depth of the Canadiens’ core, behind the likes of Subban and Andrei Markov.

I also remember him struggling to find his form when he first came, having not found the scoresheet for the first 12 games. But then something clicked for him, and his energy surged, netting three goals and seven points through the last seven games of the season. The players who were eventually drafted in return for Petry were Jonas Siegenthaler, now a Washington Capital, who has put up just two goals in 96 games, and Caleb Jones, who has netted five through 71 career games in Edmonton as he begins his NHL career.

As a member of the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation since March 2014, I remember on the night of April 24, 2015, the Canadiens were set to play Game 5 versus the Ottawa Senators, when I was awarded the ‘Rookie of the Year’ among my many peers in that great organization, and they awarded me a prize: a signed jersey of none other than, you guessed it, Jeff Petry.

At that time, he had only played 23 games with the Habs, and I was conflicted. There were other players I could’ve received: Subban, Markov, Max Pacioretty, Carey Price, Tomas Plekanec, even Sergei Gonchar or a young duo by the names of Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. But no, I received Petry. I was still very happy. Six years later, only Price and Gallagher remain with Petry from that aforementioned crop.

In the last few years, Petry has proven his worth, with his points total always increasing, minus last season’s COVID-shortened schedule, and his goal-scoring has hit the double digits the past three seasons. He’s likely to pass it again this year, having found the back of the net already seven times this season.

Only missing two games in the last four-plus seasons (knock on wood), he recently played his 700th career game . Through the Canadiens first 21 games this season, along with his seven goals, the 33-year-old has 13 assists, leading the team in points, two up on teammate Tyler Toffoli.

If the Canadiens are to get back on track, and it seems that is finally beginning to happen, Petry is one of the quiet leaders who will help. Last season, during the play-in round versus the Pittsburgh Penguins and first round matchup versus the Philadelphia Flyers, Petry scored two game-winning goals for the bleu-blanc-rouge.

Petry, who signed a four-year contract extension back in September 2020, has ingrained himself in Montreal’s core, establishing himself as part of the future. He will be a major player in whatever success the team is destined for in the next few years.