Photo Credit – EHC Red Bull München
John-Jason Peterka might have Czech heritage, and with his family name you might think that the Buffalo Sabres prospect grew up surrounded by hockey, but that was not the case in his formative years. Hockey had not even been a consideration in Peterka’s family before he first picked up a stick… even if he was around an ice-rink on a regular basis.
“No-one in my family had ever played hockey before me at all! When I was 3 ½ or 4, I was always skating with my parents… just skating… and then I saw the hockey players going on the ice, and I just wanted to try it! So that is how I got started.”
Despite being on many European prospect watchers radars since he was 15 years old, Peterka came into this season as a somewhat overlooked player, and was outside the top 100 in most pre-season draft rankings. Part of that is down to his unique development pathway, a pathway that may well become all the more common in the near future. Peterka will be the first high-end European player who will have come through the Red Bull hockey academy.
Red Bull are well known for pumping money into sports around the world, and hockey is no different. In 2016, they invested $60 million in a state-of-the-art facility in Salzburg that has a claim to being the best hockey development facility on earth. Peterka thinks the move there – at age 14 – was great for his development.
“I think it was a really, really good decision. But at first it was really hard for me, going away from home, not living with my parents… but yeah, it was really good. The facilities were amazing, and like you said they have so much money… so I think it was a good decision!”
Peterka, who likes to go by the moniker “JJ”, left the Academy last summer and joined hometown DEL team EHC München – also part of the Red Bull family. He has held his own in the pro league, with 7 goals and 11 points in 42 games, while playing between the third and fourth lines. At the World Juniors he showed what he could do with more ice time against the best in his age group. Three goals in his first three games made everyone sit up and take notice, with his skill, shot and ability to get to the danger areas standing out every shift. Peterka himself highlighted three areas that he feels he excels in.
“One-on-one situations, my vision and my passing ability.”
His answer though to what he wants to improve on going forward was somewhat of a surprise though.
“I think my skating”.
Given that he routinely blows past defenseman even at the pro level, and always keeps his feet moving, if his skating keeps improving he will be able to win a race with anyone. Given his penchant for high-light reel rushes it is no surprise to see the player who he tries to model his game on.
“Patrick Kane was my favourite player for so many years, so Patrick Kane!”
That being said at #34 overall it feels like the Buffalo Sabres set themselves up for a potential “home-run” type pick down the line given the combination of skill, speed, and natural inclination to try and make big plays. There is a risk with Peterka, but it is one that was certainly worth taking, as it is easy to see a future first liner with 60 point potential inside the young German.
*this interview took place at the 2020 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic*
Check out our scouting report on Peterka for more details on his skill-set.
Interview post written by Alexander Appleyard. If you would like to follow Alexander on Twitter, his handle is @Avappleyard.