Jakob Pelletier is having a great impact outside of the numbers

Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
1 year ago
Jakob Pelletier was called up from the Calgary Wranglers just after the New Year hit. He scored 36 points in 33 games in the AHL. Despite sitting in the press box and watching a few games as a healthy scratch after the call-up, the newly turned 22-year-old forward has come into the Calgary Flames lineup and made an immediate impact. Not only is he a fun, clearly light-hearted kid excited to learn more about himself with more NHL experience, but he’s also a very talented player.
Pelletier was drafted 26th overall by the Flames in 2019, and in his 19 NHL games so far, he has played the part of one, working his way up to the top line with Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli. He has scored 7 points in 19 games, but his analytics are some of the best on the Flames in the short time he’s been with the big club.
Per Evolving-Hockey, Pelletier’s analytics are solid as well. His goals above replacement (GAR) sitting at -1.1 does leave a bit to be desired, but his expected goals above replacement (xGAR) of 2.3, which is 14th on the team, reflects more of what we can watch every night.
Below is his RAPM chart from Evolving-Hockey, showcasing that he is creating plenty of offence, but the scoring touch isn’t there entirely, and his defence is a little below average.
It’s hard for me to worry about a 22-year-old kid’s defence at this point, and if he’s producing that kind of expected goals for per 60 (xGF/60), which happens to be the third highest on the Flames to this point behind only Andrew Mangiapane and Mikael Backlund in that order.
Pelletier only playing 19 games gives him time for those lower numbers to regress if he can continue to find his groove, but it also gives him time to have those other numbers come down. However, judging by his decisions with and without the puck, the first option seems far more likely.
Take this sequence in the Flames’ game against the Minnesota Wild. Pelletier registers a shot on goal, but what he does without the puck makes him so lethal.
First, he comes in to support the puck along the wall. Once Toffoli receives it in the bottom-half of the circle, he supports the puck there, too, with his stick on or close to the ice until he receives the puck and shoots immediately generating a high-danger chance.
The play starts with Pelletier in the slot and moves to him making a sweet move away from the defender protecting the pass lane. He opens up a lane for himself, but instead a shot comes from the right circle, in which the newly open-in-the-slot rookie finds the puck and saild it wide. Obviously not the result you want, but he was able to get to the position in the first place, which is the most important piece of the puzzle at this point.
First, the pass by Nikita Zadorov is excellent. But the speed that Pelletier possesses and the way he received the puck almost effortlessly will be of plenty of use in the future as he develops.
I’m a big proponent of the use of analytics, and at this point, I think Pelletier is the perfect example of why something like expected goals is useful. Even though his box score numbers or analytics that reflect the kind of points he’s putting up may not be the most flattering, he’s doing the little things correctly, and they’re resulting in high expected goal numbers. He fore-checks well; he’s able to think out plays and move into open space; he’s fast; he’s always ready for a pass; and most importantly, he’s clearly having a ton of fun.
Pelletier will be a high-impact top-six forward for years to come if he continues to play like this, and he deserves all the recognition he’s receiving from the media and his coaches.

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