Red Deer Rebels defenseman Alexander Petrovic certainly knows how to make an impact.
At January's Top Prospects Game, with scouts from all 30 NHL teams watching his every move, he had a pair of assists and a fight, finishing a goal short of a Gordie Howe Hat Trick; regardless, he certainly caught the attention of many.
Not that they weren't watching him to begin with.
In 57 WHL games, he had 8 goals and 27 points, and is No. 29 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2010 Entry Draft -- a jump from No. 34 at the midterm.
The offense Petrovic supplied was nice, but at 6-foot-4 and 193 pounds, he's more known for playing a mean, nasty game.
"I like playing that way," Petrovic told NHL.com. "I'm a bigger guy, and I've got to use my speed to my advantage. Use it on other guys and punish them out there."
Red Deer coach Jesse Wallin, however, said Petrovic is smart enough to know when and how to deliver his punishment.
"He knows when to step up and go for that hit and use his size to his advantage," Wallin told NHL.com. "It's not a detriment or something that he takes a lot of minor penalties (he had just 87 penalty minutes this season). He's smart about it. That's what makes him good."
Scouts certainly have noticed.
"He's big and strong in his own zone, with a nice first outlet pass," B.J. MacDonald, Central Scouting's WHL scout, told NHL.com. "He shows good inside positioning and can be snarly at times. He looks and plays like a defenseman. I like his upside and he will continue to improve. He is legit."
Hockey Canada also found him legit, as it named Petrovic to the team it sent to the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament over the summer. He didn't make it onto the score sheet, but left home feeling good about himself and his game.
"I knew playing against those guys I had to pick up my foot speed," Petrovic said. "… But I can play with them and I played well with them."
He had a setback early in the season with the Rebels, as a high ankle sprain suffered in a practice sidelined him for seven weeks, but he recovered to turn in a strong season that saw him more than double his scoring output from 2008-09, and finish a plus-3 after his minus-4 rating in 66 games last season.
"He's a guy that's got a pretty good all-round game," said Wallin. "He does everything well. Maybe sometimes he's a guy that's so calm with the puck -- and that's a skill that you can't really teach -- but at times that might get him into trouble because he is so calm and confident with the puck, he might hang onto it a bit too long (and) it might end up with him turning the puck over because of that. That's also one of his biggest assets -- he's calm, keeps his head up, makes a nice play."
If he can continue to add an offensive component to his game -- like he showed at Top Prospects -- that will make him even more desirable to NHL teams.
"That's another thing I have to work on," Petrovic said, "jumping into the play, getting pucks through from the point."
Wallin is confident it will come in time for him.
"He's a guy that at 18 and 19 that's going to play a lot of first line power play minutes because he can make the right play with the puck," said Wallin, who currently uses Petrovic on his second power-play unit. "At 17 right now he's already playing a ton, he plays against other teams' top lines, he's always the first guy out on the penalty kill, so he gets a lot of minutes there."
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