Name: John-Jason Peterka
Team: EHC München (DHL)
Position: Right wing
Stats: 42 games played, 7 goals, 4 assists, 11 points, 14 PIMs, -6 plus/minus rating
NHL Central Scouting ranking: 7th (European Skaters)
Comparable NHL player: Michael Frolik
German prospect John-Jason Peterka might not be the best skater, the best shooter or the best passer — but when you have one of the best motors in the draft, as Peterka does, that can go a long way towards making a positive impact for a team.
The past two years have seen the impressive emergence of Germany as a prospect-developing country, with defenseman Moritz Seider going 6th overall to the Detroit Red Wings last year and forward Tim Stützle capable of going as high as 2nd in this draft. While Peterka isn’t on the same level as these other two, he stands in his own right as someone with a lot to offer whatever team lands him.
Like Seider and Stützle, Peterka honed his craft in his draft season in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, the top professional league in the country. This is important, as all three players spent their seasons around former NHLers and longtime North American pros — in Peterka’s case, this includes Derek Roy, Keith Aulie, Chris Bourque and Bobby Sanguinetti, among others. While Roy is the only one who was something of a star in the NHL, the rest nevertheless still successfully worked their way up through junior and minor leagues to play at hockey’s highest level, accumulating valuable experience and knowledge along the way.
Undoubtedly, some of this experience and knowledge was passed on to the young Peterka this season, both on and off the ice.
When you watch Peterka display his work ethic and 200-foot game, it’s easy to see the influence of his veteran teammates. He is a real buzzsaw out on the ice, skating hard and applying pressure in all three zones, even though his size is average. Most importantly, his motor doesn’t quit, as he’s able to keep up this aggressive pace incredibly consistently on a shift-by-shift basis. He’s not the most purely skilled player, but he can play both with and against skill because of how well he forces turnovers and creates space with his hustle.
What a shift from John-Jason Peterka. Keeping the cycle alive in heavy traffic. Manages to pass the puck before it crosses the blue line. Good forecheck along the half wall. This kid is special. Stützle and Peterka are having a great WJC debut. #2020NHLDraft #WorldJuniors2020 pic.twitter.com/lYJw2uNgW8— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) December 27, 2019
That being said, however, he’s not exactly a slouch in terms of talent. He’s an above average skater, with some explosive acceleration that can burn opponents if they get caught flat-footed. He’s mostly a straight-line skater, but he can weave and circle a bit in the neutral and offensive zones to buy himself more time or find better opportunities. The Munich native can also handle and distribute the puck at full speed, elevating him from being just an energy player to an actual offensive threat in transition.
He understands the game at a high level, too. Instead of being directionless in his efforts, he is quite calculated in where and when he applies pressure, forcing mistakes while on the forecheck or breaking up enemy possession in his defensive zone. He’s not a particularly dangerous or notable shooter in any way, but he shows good anticipation about where loose rebounds are going to pop out or when he should go hard to the backdoor to receive a pass.
The key with Peterka, really, is looking at the sum of his parts.
He’s not a true standout offensively, but he looks like a guy who will be able to score 40-50 points per season at the NHL level once he hits his peak. While he probably won’t become an elite shutdown forward, he has all the tools needed to develop into someone who can reliably kill penalties and help close out games. And with his motor and his consistency, he’ll be a guy who can reliably log a lot of minutes on a game-by-game basis.
Not only did this reliability and versatility help Peterka spend all season among men in the DEL, it also helped him make the German roster for the World Juniors, where he scored four goals and six points in seven games, a level of success that is pretty rare for a 17-year-old at that event. Given how polished he already is and how comfortable he is playing against older competition, there’s a good chance that he’ll be NHL-ready before most others in the 2020 draft class.
There’s a certain safety to Peterka and what he brings as a draft prospect. He’s the type of guy who makes up for a low ceiling with having a high floor. Even though that might not make him an exciting prospect for fans of an NHL team to follow and want to draft, getting an impact NHLer after the 20th pick or so in the draft is never a guarantee. Adding a player who ultimately goes on to play 800+ games as a Middle 6 winger is better than adding someone who ends up failing to stick at the sport’s highest level at all.
Whether he ends up going as high as 20th or as low as 40th, whatever teams ends up drafting Peterka will have little trouble fitting him onto their NHL roster in the not-too-distant future.