Reevaluating Morgan Klimchuk

Morgan Klimchuk will always have big boots to fill. Being the guy who was traded for Jarome Iginla, he has most often been the butt of the joke that was post-apex Jay Feaster management. 

While Sean Monahan dazzled in the NHL and Emile Poirier was lighting lamps in the Q, Klimchuk plodded along in the Dub. He probably was the least impressive of the 2013 first rounders, struggling to find his place among the WHL’s best. At the same time, Monahan was scoring 60 in the NHL and Poirier was being named an AHL all-star in his first year of pro. His unimpressive WHL stint turned into a disappointing AHL stint, with nine points in 55 games during his first full try in the league. Many, probably everyone, thought he was done.

That’s why it’s such a shock to see people clammoring for him to be called up, or to have no choice but to acknowledge him as one of the best prospects in the organization right now. Morgan Klimchuk has broken last year’s records for points and goals in 48 fewer games. How did he turn the corner?

Redemption

The 2016-17 season began almost the same as the last one finished for poor Klimchuk. He didn’t get a chance at the Young Stars tournament and got in one preseason game. He was sent down in the third round of cuts, and was healthy scratched for his first game of the year.

Klimchuk got his shot in after Heat captain Mike Angelidis was suspended. In his first game of the season, he scored two points. Two games later, he had a four point night with two goals. The next night, another two point game.

So how has Morgan Klimchuk turned himself around? Well shooting >30% helps, but he has also made substantial improvements to his stat line since this season began. For starters, let’s go back to the end of the 2015-16 season.

stockton ppg3

You don’t need much reminder, but Klimchuk’s 2015-16 was terrible. His points production was in the garbage, and his shot generation somewhere worse. 

Now we are only seven games into Klimmer’s year, but those numbers are starting to improve. He is now at two shots per game, a good benchmark for offensive production. He needs to keep pushing that number higher though if he wants to sustain that. Klimchuk is also way above that comical 0.148 primary points per game. He already has eight to his name, five of them coming at even strength. 

So what did Klimchuk change to put up such big numbers? I reached out to Stockton Heat radio man Brandon Kisker for an answer:

No doubt he’s been a popular topic right now but I’ll give you the same answer I’ve given.

Not a thing.

Last year for whatever reason he just was unlucky. He should’ve put up a ton more points and was putting in tons of work. When things weren’t going his way, he wouldn’t get frustrated, rather adapt his game to play a role the team needed as a shutdown two-way player.

This year the same player exists on the ice but he’s getting the numbers he should’ve been getting last season. He’s one of the hardest workers and nobody was more upset about his lack of point production than him last year, however he stuck with the program, put in work during the offseason, but is still that same great player who’s getting the results he deserves.

Kisker, as he stated in Taylor’s article up there, has always seen the positives in Klimchuk. In his opinion, Klimchuk already has the skills, it was just a matter of getting the right circumstances. This current season seems to have been what he was waiting for.

Reevaluation

Because of this sudden outburst from Klimchuk, it’s time to reevaluate his role in the Flames organization and set some new expectations. He’s already halfway to the number we predicted earlier in the year.  

As I’ve alluded to throughout this article, Klimchuk is currently riding some unsustainable waves right now. He’s certainly not going to keep shooting 30%, and we can certainly expect his goal totals to drop down a bit. He’s not going to get 97 points, as his point-per-game stats are indicating.

On the other hand, the improvement is quite clear. He’s always been a trustworthy defensive forward for the Heat, but has also made the most of opportunities when tasked with an offensive role. Thanks to the Hunter Shinkaruk being called up, he has a bigger chance with the offense. Kisker, again:

You know I asked Coach about what he’s talked to Morgan about and he basically told me not much [with regards to how Klimchuk’s role has changed from last year to this year]. Essentially Morgan is a responsible player and Coach feels safer when he’s out on the ice. The fact he’s not only providing a defensive presence but also some offense just builds his own confidence to the point that nothing really needs to be said to him. Morgan is still out for critical PKs, still out on important d-zone draws but just finds himself (now with Shinkaruk’s call up) on the top line with some playmakers as well as more power play time. Too early to tell since it’s only been one game but he will be getting added minutes considering Shinkaruk is with the big club for the time being.

So for the immediate future, we have Klimchuk on the top line with Mark Jankowski, another high-producing prospect. He’ll be getting minutes, special teams time, and offensive zone starts. What he needs to do is give Huska and the Heat a reason to keep him on as the top line winger when Shinkaruk comes down. His defensive game has already earned his coach’s trust, and his offensive game is finding fans. Now it’s all a matter of putting the two together.

It would be very disappointing if Klimchuk took a step backwards now. With many other Stockton forwards, mostly rookies, starting the year off extremely well, there are players waiting to usurp him should he fall behind. He has a wonderful opportunity in front of him, now it’s all a matter of making it count.

  • everton fc

    I’d let Morgan prove himself for the season. See if he can keep the consistency in his game. If he can continue scoring as his sot percentage decreases… Next season should see him closer to the big club.

    The forwards on the farm who need “final, or close to final assessment”:

    Vey, Shinkaurk (already here), Hathaway, Poirier, and Pribyl.

    See what we have with this group. Toss in Lomberg as the “long shot”. Let Klimchuk, Mangiapane, Jankowski have the time in the “A” to hone their collective games.

    Aagard’s looking good in Adirondack. I knew he would do well there. Another possible prospect.

  • jupiter

    You stat’s guy’s are funny, Can’t just say you were wrong when you put him at the bottom of your prospect list.Afterall stats are everything, right. The guy goes off the radar screen, you right him off.

    Now you’re saying his stats are unsustainable, and he better not fall-off his pace or someone else will take his spot. That can be said for every player in Stockton.

    The coach has been saying all along that he has been playing well and the points will come.
    When will your math and human behavior come together?

    • cjc

      *shrug* they had him at 18, but if they had him inside the top 10 the collective FN readership would have laughed at the editors. Maybe he ranks as high as 15th there, but honestly that is splitting hairs. If you read the reviews, it hardly sounds like he was written off – only that a rough year meant that he had work to do to remain a viable prospect.

      Flames brass is not reading FN and thinking let`s dump Klimchuk because they ranked him 18th. FWIW, FN did not write him off either. They merely said he had work to do. Looks to be paying off, to which I say great.

      He is not going to shoot 30% all season though.

      • jupiter

        Yea I see your point. My “shrug” was seeing Pribyl rated at 8 or 9 without playing a minute in NA.

        ps I am quite aware that Flames brass could care less what is said here.

  • McRib

    “Klimchuk plodded along in the Dub”

    Morgan Klimchuk had 1.30 PPG as a 18 year old following the draft, which over the course of a full season would have been good enough for 94 Points. He also battled injuries that year and played with little help in Regina. When he was traded to Brandon as a 19 year old he had 1.67 PPG, which translates to 120 Points over a full year (finally playing in an offensive system). Looking past the fact that he likely would have been even better if he didn’t regularly battle injuries those two years. If you take those PPG numbers extrapolated over those two full seasons in the WHL he sould have easily hit the 220+ Point threshold, I wouldn’t say that is “plodding along”. Hahah

    I watched Klimchuk extensively in the WHL and I never saw anything short of a future third line winger who is good on both sides of the puck. The crazy thing is whenever he was healthy (which a lot of times during those two years he always seemed to be labouring with an injury) you could tell he had the potential for even more offensive upside, especially in Brandon for those final 30 GP where he had 1.67 PPG, but yet he still could have had 2.0+ PPG if he was firing on all cylinders during that time, which he wasn’t for most of it. It’s not a stretch to think he can’t end up as a good two way second line winger who can step up to the first line. All in all his year really doesn’t surprise me in the slightest and I think his game will only continue to get better to be honest. Kris Versteeg in his prime would be a very obtainable comparable, although I think he has far more upside than that.