As the only remaining 2013 first round pick to have not played an NHL game before this season, Morgan Klimchuk has been waiting in the wings for a long time. He only got a minor taste in the NHL this season, but will he be back for more?
Klimchuk developed a reputation in the WHL as one of the more reliable and steady players. Two strong seasons in Regina saw him enter the 2013 draft as a projected first round pick. With three first round picks that year, the Flames used their 28th overall selection on the Pats winger. That pick was traded to Calgary by the Penguins, forever linking Klimchuk to Jarome Iginla.
His final two junior years saw him emerge as one of the WHL’s hot commodities. An injury shortened 2013-14 saw him finish third in Regina scoring despite missing 15 games. The next season, Klimchuk was sent to the Brandon Wheat Kings for a potential Memorial Cup run. He picked up 50 points in 33 games, but his playoff aspirations were cut short due to injury.
Despite a strong junior career, his pro debut did not go as well. Klimchuk found himself buried in the rotation during his first year in Stockton, playing 55 games but only picking up nine measly points. It wasn’t a great sign for the young winger, but there was still plenty of runway to develop.
His next season was much better, fast-tracking the long term assessment people made after his rookie year. Klimchuk exploded out of the gates, nearly doubling his previous year’s production in the first two months of the year and working his way back into the prospect conversation.
Klimchuk started the season on Stockton’s second line, but eventually worked his way to the top as Mark Jankowski, Andrew Mangiapane (in bursts), Garnet Hathaway, and Marek Hrivik found their way to the NHL (or got injured). He was a jack of all trades, master of none type player. He wasn’t really exciting or dazzling, but didn’t really make many mistakes either. His highlight of the year was certainly getting an NHL game in, where he played fourth line minutes against the Boston Bruins and was sent down afterwards.
|GP||G||A||P||Primary points||5v5 Points||5v5 Primary points||NHLe|
Klimchuk was a primary point monster, a role that was kind of dropped on his shoulders when everyone else left to the NHL. He was one of the better 5v5 players on the club, finishing second behind Andrew Mangiapane in 5v5 points and 5v5 primary points for forwards.
There are concerns, however. Klimchuk didn’t really have much of an improvement from last season (66-19-24-43, 31 primary points, 29 5v5 points, 22 5v5 primary points in 2016-17), as you can see in the first chart. He was rarely better from a points production standpoint than last year, and never really cracked 30 NHLe, a pretty troubling sign. Given the leap from his first AHL season to the next, I think it would be reasonable to expect a slight bump in production, but nothing really came of it. Klimchuk actually shot less than he did last season, which is also pretty concerning.
Some of that makes sense though. Klimchuk is more of a 200-foot player than a scoring threat. As stated earlier, he’s not a guy who will blow the doors down. His task this year was to become a bit more polished and refined defensively. If his offence had to suffer a bit, so be it. The Heat were more reliant on Mangiapane and the defence as offensive outlets, so Klimchuk got to focus on the defensive side of things.
His one game played in Calgary saw him finish with a 58.33 CF%, technically making him the corsi leader for the Flames. Not entirely significant, but that’s pretty neat.
Klimchuk is one of the Stockton Heat veterans most likely to receive a second contract. He’s rounded out his game to become a reliable 200-foot option, something that could prove handy in the bottom six. Never getting a shot at proving himself in the NHL also factors in, as the Flames probably feel that they owe him a chance in the big league.
I think of him as a poor man’s Michael Frolik: not going to get a lot of offence going, but certainly a very reliable two-way player that can be trusted to be safe and responsible. If he can do that on the fourth line next year with Drew Shore, perhaps the Flames have two shutdown lines. That’s a good setup to have.
But that’s all contingent on him making it. Klimchuk has a lot of competition ahead of him for a roster spot, and he’s not necessarily the most impressive player auditioning. His skill set at the NHL level is likely limited to bottom six defensive winger, whereas players like Mangiapane and Spencer Foo might have more upside. Klimchuk’s not going to light the lamp very often at the NHL level, which is probably not what the team that needs scorers is looking for. He could be handy, but with limited spots and a lower ceiling, he’s got some work ahead of him.
Hunter Shinkaruk | Spencer Foo | Rasmus Andersson | Tyler Wotherspoon | Oliver Kylington | Josh Healey & Adam Ollas Mattsson | Mitchell Mattson | Hunter Smith | Mason McDonald | Tyler Parsons | Juuso Valimaki | Nick Schneider | Adam Ruzicka | Matthew Phillips | D’Artagnan Joly | Glenn Gawdin | Zach Fischer | Dillon Dube | Filip Sveningsson | Eetu Tuulola | Adam Fox | Linus Lindstrom | Pavel Karnaukhov & Rushan Rafikov