If you had to name candidates for the “breakout player of the year” for the Stockton Heat, there’s a lot of good ones. Andrew Mangiapane established himself as an elite force in the league at age 21. Ditto for Rasmus Andersson and Oliver Kylington. There’s a handful of players who stepped up and had big seasons this year.
But Brett Pollock might also have a strong case. The winger spent his rookie season in the ECHL putting up middling numbers, which is usually a dead end for a prospect. After a rough start to the season, Pollock exploded to become one of the Heat’s more consistent players. What does that mean for his future?
Pollock began his career with the Edmonton Oil Kings, becoming a key secondary scorer on the loaded 2014 Memorial Cup-winning squad. Generally known for being steady and smart, he was regarded as a potential draft steal, but his performances in the WHL playoffs boosted his draft stock, eventually winding up a Dallas Star in the second round on draft day.
As the Oil Kings were being dismantled by graduating prospects, Pollock was forced to be the leader. He excelled in the role, leading the team in scoring two years straight and generally having to carry the load. Although he didn’t put up huge numbers, he was one of the only bright spots for some dismal Oil Kings teams, becoming one of their more reliable all-around performers. The Stars included him in their trade package for Kris Russell, making him a Flame on trade deadline 2016.
Pollock’s pro career started off on the wrong foot. Unable to crack a full Stockton Heat roster, he began his rookie year in the ECHL. The goodwill he built up in the WHL kind of fizzled out, as he put up a middling 31 points in 61 games, not even cracking the top 10 for team scoring.
Pollock began the season as a 13th forward for the Heat. He only played once for Stockton in their first 12 games, and then only got in the lineup every two or three games. Pollock wasn’t very effective in the early goings of the season, only picking up two points in his first 16 games.
A hat trick against the Texas Stars changed all that. Pollock started breaking through after the eye-popping performance, becoming more involved for the Heat. Although he went on a seven-game scoring drought immediately after the hat trick, he picked up 15 points in the last 21 games of the season, becoming one of the most consistent performers for the Heat down the stretch.
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The chart is pretty reflective of his season’s story. He put up the occasional point every once in a while, scored a hat trick (the large spike) and was then off to the races. Pollock’s late season form was very promising. If he had a bit more time (or if he wasn’t scratched for a pretty large chunk of the season), he could’ve probably finished around the 20 NHLe mark.
Pollock didn’t put up points in volume, but you do have to like that he only picked up three secondary points all year. He slowly found his way to the powerplay, mostly because a lot of other options had disappeared, but also out of merit.
Pollock’s numbers in the AHL are pretty pedestrian. Players with similar production often don’t have great chances at being NHL players.
But given his growth from the ECHL to AHL over one year, perhaps Pollock is primed for a breakout. Usually players don’t make those types of jumps going from one league to the next, but Pollock had very similar scoring rates in both leagues (0.51 to 0.43 PPG). He’s shown some real promise in a bottom six role for the Heat after an unconvincing rookie season and could slowly inch his way to becoming an NHL option in the future. He’s still young (22) and has some runway; it’s not wild to think that he could become more than an AHL bit player.
There’s another season ahead where he might feature more prominently for the Heat. Perhaps a real breakthrough season awaits.
Emile Poirier | Austin Carroll | Morgan Klimchuk | 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