October 15, 2013
Alex Peters brings a clinical eye to being the second-last line of defence.
The Plymouth Whalers rearguard is third in a line of brothers who have come through the Ontario Hockey League, following his brothers Justin and Anthony, who are both goaltenders. The youngest Peters, who's sprouted into a big-bodied blueliner at 6-foot-3¼ and 207, never pledged to the goalie fraternity.
"I just wasn't good at playing goalie," says Peters, whom NHL Central Scouting listed as a B skater on its preliminary listing. "It was a big shock to my family. I ended up picking defence. I think they were ready for a change."
Peters is among a trio of draft-eligible defenceman drawing scouts to Whalers games, along with rugged newcomer Josh Wesley (son of long-time NHLer Glen) and Swiss rookie Yannick Rathgeb. Plymouth has, by its standard, an atypically young lineup this season after reaching the Western Conference final last spring, with 17-year-old goalie Alex Nedeljkovic and third-year forward Matt Mistele also regarded as top prospects. Peters, who played a combined 71 games as a 16-year-old, practically qualifies as an elder statesmen on Plymouth's blueline.
"He plays really hard, he makes good first passes, he's playing a lot," Whaler coach-GM Mike Vellucci says of Peters, who scored his first OHL goal on Oct. 1. "It's great for him and Josh Wesley, two young guys who are going to learn quite a lot as the season goes on. Petey played a lot for us last season and he got a great experience. He was one of our top penalty killers last year, so he already knows that coming into this year."
Peters' oldest brother, Justin, is in the Carolina Hurricanes organization. Anthony Peters helped the Saint Mary's Huskies reach the University Cup final last March before settling for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport silver medal.
Alex Peters' ceiling might be set by the knowledge of positioning and helping the Whalers transition to offence that he displays over the course of the season. His size and athleticism will get him a long look. In high school Peters was an accomplished sprinter. In 2012, after being drafted by Plymouth, he won a silver medal at the Ontario athletics championship in the junior boys 200 metres.
"There's a lot of small detail you have to focus on," the Blyth, Ont., native says. "If you have a bad start it makes a huge difference. It's like mentally focusing before a game. It relates well [to hockey]."
1. What's element of the your game where you would like to show improvement by the end of the season?
"I feel like I'd to show more offence. Right now it's not 100 per cent in my game, but showing a little more would make me a more rounded player.
"I'm just trying to keep it simple because we have a young team, The more you stick to your position, the easier it is. I'm not out here to carry the puck end-to-end, I'm just a steady guy."
2. Which NHL defenceman do you study closely because you feel your game is similar to his?
"I would say [Niklas] Hjalmarsson on Chicago. He's just a guy who can move the puck well and is just steady."
3. Who is the toughest forward you have faced so far in the OHL?
"Obviously, [Erie Otters'] Connor McDavid is one of the best players in the league. Knowing he's on the ice always keeps your head up."
4. Plymouth is young this season. Which of your now graduated teammates stands out when you reflect on who helped you as a rookie?
"Last year, we had two veteran D, Colin MacDonald and Austin Levi. They were good to learn from, they were really composed in the D zone."
5. If hockey was wiped off the face of the earth, which sport would you play?
"In high school I did track and field and volleyball. It was fun doing that. Coming here, I missed out on that but obviously hockey is No. 1. In track I got silver in the 200 metres at the all-Ontarios. It was fun."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.