Calgary Flames prospect Jakob Pelletier used sparingly, but impresses in debut
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Pike13 days ago
The Calgary Flames beat the Tampa Bay Lightning by a 6-3 score on Saturday afternoon. But the big story to many Flames observers was somebody that didn’t hit the scoresheet at all: rookie Jakob Pelletier, the club’s 2019 first-round selection who made his NHL debut against Tampa Bay.
Pelletier didn’t play a ton, but he looked good when he did, with his brief audition showcasing a lot of positives in a short span.
“He looked great,” said Flames forward Dillon Dube following the game. “That whole line looked great, him and Walks and Lew were awesome today. They played with a lot of speed. Honestly, I think they got us going at the start. They looked awesome.”
Pelletier played with Walker Duehr (“Walks”) and Trevor Lewis (“Lew”) on the fourth line. He also substituted for the scratched Adam Ruzicka on the second power play unit, though that unit only saw the ice for 43 seconds in the opening period.
Pelletier’s line played 3:55 together at five-on-five, per Natural Stat Trick, and out-shot the Lightning 4-0, out-chanced them 3-1 and won the high-danger battle 2-0 during their shifts together. Considering the circumstances, with occasional centre Lewis playing in-between a pair of players who entered the afternoon with six combined NHL contests on their combined resume, they’re promising early returns.
The game got chippy and more physical as it wore on, and the constant churn of special teams play led to head coach Darryl Sutter shortening his bench in the last two-thirds of the game. Pelletier played 3:06 in the first period and 3:44 in the final 40 minutes, while Duehr played 3:56 in the first period and 4:38 in the final two periods. Lewis, who plays on the penalty kill, was occasionally folded onto a line with Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli.
“When I came out for warm-up I was kinda stressed,” said Pelletier to the media following the game. “First shift, too. But I think after the first one I was like, ‘it’s just playing hockey,’ right?”
Pelletier’s family found out he was playing late on Friday night, and after some tears of joy several family members were able to get onto the last flight into Calgary from Montreal, arriving in town in the wee hours on Saturday morning.
“It’s great,” said Pelletier of the chance to debut in front of his family. “They’ve supported me since I was young. To be able to play in the NHL in front of them, it’s been great.”
Speaking to the media post-game, Sutter’s comments regarding Pelletier went viral. (He quipped “what number is he?” and then put on his glasses to read Pelletier’s statline from the game sheet verbatim.)
(Sutter’s shown a tendency to downplay individual performances and emphasize team attributes, even dismissing the notion post-game after a 6-3 win over Tampa Bay that it was his team’s most complete game of the season. His comments about Pelletier post-game, while a bit surprising in their tone, seem very much in keeping in how he’s attempted to manage his team’s highs and lows – for better or worse.)
Was Pelletier the star of the show on Saturday afternoon? Nope. He was merely a bit player. And, to steal Sutter’s phrasing, yeah, he probably does have “a long ways to go.”
But as the saying goes, there aren’t any small parts, just small actors. And if Saturday’s curtain-raise on his NHL career served as an audition of sorts, despite the coach’s protestations, it’s hard to imagine we don’t see Pelletier in the lineup again soon.
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