Calgary Flames prospect Jakob Pelletier deserves more NHL playing time
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
9 months ago
Calgary Flames fans have waited patiently (impatiently?) for Jakob Pelletier to make his NHL debut. But now that it’s happened, it’s hard not to be impressed with Pelletier’s first four games in the show. Regardless of role or ice time, the 2019 first-round pick has more than held his own since debuting on Jan. 21 vs. Tampa Bay. And Pelletier deserves to keep this run going.
Don’t be alarmed by Calgary’s decision to send Pelletier (along with Walker Duehr and Dennis Gilbert) back to the AHL Wranglers. That was smart roster management as it allows for salary cap relief and better accrual during a nine-day break in the schedule. It also allows for Pelletier and company to get games in with the Wranglers while the NHL team is on hiatus.
But when this break is done, Pelletier has earned a recall back to the big club because he’s performed like an NHLer. With a small sample size and tailored minutes, Pelletier has more than earned his keep with the Flames thus far. Let’s start with Pelletier’s five-on-five outputs. All underlying metrics courtesy Natural Stat Trick.
Interpreting that data is simple. When Pelletier has been on the ice, Calgary is spending way more time on the attack and generating way more quality opportunities than they’re allowing. And Pelletier’s case is even stronger when you look at his individual counts (at all strengths) in his four games so far.
Knowing how little Pelletier played in his first two games, 11 shot attempts in four appearances is decent. But what really pops is where those attempts are coming from. Nine of them have been deemed scoring chances and more than half have come from the slot. If Pelletier keeps generating like this, his first NHL point won’t be far away.
I’ve also liked Pelletier’s versatility. His game has translated nicely from a top line role in the AHL to fourth line minutes with the Flames. But Pelletier has also performed well since being bumped up the depth chart, whether it be on a line with Mikael Backlund or with Nazem Kadri. That type of plug-and-play ability could go a long way in keeping Pelletier in the NHL in the short term.
Players like Dillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane entered the NHL in similar circumstances. They started further down the lineup, worked hard, and saw a few more stints in the American League before cresting as full time NHLers. If Pelletier does go back to the Wranglers at some point, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
As we hear all the time, the NHL is “an everyday league”. It’s not easy for young players to consistently bring it the way this league demands. For now, though, Pelletier has and he fully deserves to be in the lineup Feb. 6 at Madison Square Garden. We can let the rest play itself out from there.
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