Over the past decade, Germany has been working its way toward the upper tiers of international hockey. German product Leon Draisaitl, the third-overall selection in 2014, is in the Hart conversation for the currently suspended NHL season. In the past couple drafts, Germans like Dominik Bokk and Mortiz Seider have been well-regarded and were selected in the first round. This season,forward Tim Stützle appears poised to be selected in the top five of the draft, giving Germany another potential top-tier player. And while Stützle gets most of the attention in this draft, there is another German forward, John-Jason Peterka, (along with a third player in Lukas Reichel) who could be selected in the first round as well, making this perhaps the most successful NHL Draft ever for German hockey.
Who is John-Jason Peterka?
As mentioned above, John-Jason Peterka is a German-born forward currently projecting to go somewhere in the first or second round of this year’s draft. He is a hare on the smaller side at 5’-11” but not necessarily slight as he’s listed at 192 lbs. He played this past season in the DEL, Germany’s top men’s league, where he put up decent production in a limited role on one of Germany’s best teams. His team, Red Bull München, was atop the DEL when the season was suspended and then canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. Peterka has also played internationally for German in World Juniors competition. He was dominant at the 2019 Division 1A U18 Tourney to help the Germans get promoted back into the top tier, and then he put in a very strong effort as a 17-year-old at this year’s U20 WJC with four goals and six points in seven games to help power an impressive performance for Team Germany and keep them safe from relegation. A rundown of his career stats from Elite Prospects is shown below.
Peterka played his junior hockey the past few years in the Czech Republic at the Red Bull Hockey Academy in Salzburg. He was dominant at the junior level, culminating in a 2018-19 season in U19 junior where he put up two points per game as a 16/17-year old. Making the leap up to DEL was a big one, but one that he seems to have made pretty decently, putting up 11 points in 42 games as a teenager in the mid- to upper-tier European men’s league. He was significantly outpaced by fellow first-year draft-eligible Tim Stützle (and also behind fellow possible first rounder Lukas Reichel), but he was still one of only three players in their draft season to play more than a handful of games in the top German league.
As a player, Peterka is best known for his speed, which is high-end and likely near the top of the draft class. He also has very good hands that give him the potential for truly high-end scoring ability. The combination of speed and skill make him a player with a high ceiling, but his game is also a bit of a work in progress overall. Some evaluators note that he has some issues with consistency and has to clean up some mental lapses to become a more complete player. He also seems to need to learn to better utilize his speed and incorporate more lateral movement into his game. He’s a bit of a project in some ways, but the potential is very much there and the inconsistency this season could be chalked up to a choppy, limited role for RB München.
Where is Peterka Ranked?
Peterka’s playing style, development path, and perceived inconsistency make him a difficult player to place in a draft ranking. This is apparent in his wildly divergent rankings, a sampling of which ranges from the top-20 all the way down to the back half of the second round.
#7 — NHL Central Scouting - European Skaters (Final)
#14 — HockeyProspect.com (January)
#41 — Future Considerations (March)
#54 — The Draft Analyst (March)
#20 — TSN-MacKenzie (Midseason)
#42 — TSN-Button (March)
#35 — EliteProspects.com (February)
What Others are Saying about John-Jason Peterka
The strengths and weaknesses of Peterka’s game right now are echoed throughout the profiles on him in different places, though the scouting services are widely divided on where he should actually go in the draft order. First we go to Dobber Prospects, where Jokke Nevalainen had this to say about Peterka in December:
Peterka’s value comes from his great skating ability which is noticeably good even at the men’s level. He has both great speed and quickness, and he is a very fluid skater. He uses his speed effectively to force opponents to take penalties. Peterka also has good skills, especially his puck-handling skills and passing skills which are both very good. … His all-around game is still very raw, even though he is on the older side for his draft class. Shift-to-shift and game-to-game consistency is also a bit of a concern.
This profile had him as a second- or third-round pick, but it was also before Peterka’s big breakout at the World Juniors. Overall, Peterka seems like one of the more difficult players to place in this draft, but nobody seems to doubt there is major potential there.
Next we go to a profile of Peterka at The Hockey Writers from Dayton Reimer, where he talks about Peterka’s speed and hands, but also put some emphasis on his high-intensity playing style:
On top of blazing speed, Peterka also possesses above-average hockey sense and intensity. He owns a patience unexpected for someone who plays at such a high speed, and he’s become incredibly dangerous on the Red Bull’s power play. His defensive game is not as refined as his offensive instincts, but he still shows no fear and is not afraid to get into high-danger situations despite his smaller stature. He’s a very intense player and doesn’t shy away from physicality.
While Peterka is slightly undersized, the type of fearless game described here can help make up for that. He seems like a player who perhaps just has to slow his mind down a little bit in transition to become really dangerous. His shot selection has been criticized in a few places, which makes me think he skates himself into the corner too often while trying to create space on the rush and runs out of options. If he can learn to more selectively use his speed, that seems like it would be a major benefit to him.
Moving along to the Prospect Nework, they have a nice rundown of the strengths and weaknesses for Peterka. We’ll highlight a couple of the stated strengths and one of the weaknesses described here. First the strengths:
Peterka’s speed makes him very deadly in transition, often catching defenders unprepared to defend him properly, leaving gaps in the ice which he often compromises [sic] on.
His quick hands allow Peterka to find his teammates for dangerous scoring opportunities in tight spaces which he often displays around the net on the man advantage.
Then one of the observed weaknesses:
Peterka is very much a straight-line player– he lacks good lateral agility which sometimes limits his offensive potential, despite his high energy style of game.
It’s a little bit hard to pinpoint how good Peterka’s hockey sense is based on the descriptions out there. Sometimes it seems to be described as very good, particularly with respect to the power play, but other times it seems like he skates himself out of plays too often, which is an aspect of decision-making in itself. His speed is clearly an asset and the vision to make him a good passer and playmaker is there, it’s just a matter if he can put it all together on a more consistent basis to become a truly dangerous player at the next level.
A Little Video
In the below highlights video, you can see the way that Peterka uses his speed in transition to make things happen and you can also see a bit of those very good hands mentioned in his profiles.
An Opinion of Sorts
Peterka is an intriguing prospect, but one that is tough to place in a draft like this where there is a lot of talent. He does seem to have the potential to be a very good player at the next level with his elite speed and quick hands. His path is a bit outside of the normal route a top-tier prospect takes to get into first-round consideration, so he is a little bit of a wild card. He was good enough to play in a decent European men’s league in the DEL and contribute, albeit in a limited role. His World Juniors performance is tough to ignore, but I do generally try to temper expectations off of individual tournaments. I think he could be a decent player to take a chance on in the later portion of the first round, though whether I think he’ll be a good pick for the Devils is going to depend heavily on how the NHL handles the team’s conditional picks once they determine a path forward from the Covid-19 pandemic. I think he makes good sense in the 30-40 range, though there are likely to be some players I feel stronger about available in the 20s. Either way, he’s an interesting prospect with definite upside. The straight-line speed, intensity, and some of the inconsistency issues makes the name Michael Grabner pop into my head (which would be a pretty good outcome in itself) but the addition of good passing ability and utility on the power play makes it seem like he could be something a little more complete. This is dependent on him putting things together a good bit though, and he may be a little bit of a project to warrant a first round pick. If the Devils, one way or another, end up with a pick in the early second round or perhaps right at the end of the first, that’s where I’d prefer to see a shot taken on a player like Peterka.
What do you think of John-Jason Peterka based on what you’ve read? Any player that he reminds you of in particular, despite not a lot of direct comparables to his development path? Would you like to see the Devils pick a player like him in this summer’s draft? Do you think he’s someone to avoid? Comment with your thoughts below and thanks for reading.