Who slots into Jakob Pelletier’s slot in the lineup due to his injury?

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
6 months ago
Things only got worse on the Jakob Pelletier front since he left the preseason game against the Seattle Kraken with an apparent upper-body injury. His status was unknown for the most part until today when he showed up at practice with his left arm in a sling, per Eric Francis. Then, things hit rock bottom when the team announced that he would need left shoulder surgery and would be out indefinitely.
The hope, obviously, is that Pelletier can return as soon as possible and, most importantly, be fully healthy on his return. The worst-case scenario would be rushing him back or at least attempting to. At the very least, this happened at the beginning of the preseason and not around the 20-game mark. He will end up missing time, but it won’t come in the middle of a season where he could potentially be having strong production. Instead, he gets a clean slate to come back to during the regular season.
But this begs the question, with Pelletier out, who could potentially take his spot?
First, let’s assume that Pelletier earned a spot in the top six, likely on the second line with Nazem Kadri and Matt Coronato. That gives players room to move up in the lineup so a young player can take a spot in the bottom six, or Huska could throw one of the youths to the wolves and see how they perform. Nonetheless, there are important decisions that need to be made in light of this news, and there are a couple of players that could be in contention for a roster spot.
The first name on the docket is Adam Klapka. To most, his name being included in this article isn’t surprising given the kind of performances he has had in the prospect showcase games and in the first couple of preseason games. The very, very big winger has been arguably Calgary’s most creative young player (at the very least, he was in the games leading up to preseason), and the way he has used his size and skill to his advantage has been mesmerizing. The 23-year-old could certainly be contending for a bottom-six spot, so if the decision is made by Huska to move up a player into the second line, Klapka could fill that spot with ease.
The next player, who is admittedly a little less of a sure bet, would be Connor Zary. How do you replace a scoring winger with lots of skill both at even strength and special teams? Put another one in his place. Zary does still have some maturing to do, but we saw him take big strides in the AHL with the Calgary Wranglers last year, and even though he’s not as speedy as Pelletier, he provides other qualities that could be useful to a top-six. The only real questions would be whether or not the coaching staff feels as if he’s ready, which he can prove in the preseason, and whether or not it would be worth giving him fourth-line center minutes when he could get big minutes in the AHL.
The most LIKELY option, however, is Dryden Hunt. He’s a young-ish player, but still, he’s someone who can be effective in a fourth-line and penalty-killing role. The main thing is he’s solid defensively, and with the role he will be playing, that’s all you need. He’s not the most exciting choice here, and I’m sure there are some who would prefer to give one of the young players a go. But Hunt is a safe option that can provide speed and stability on the fourth line.
No matter which way the coaching staff decides to go with this decision, losing Pelletier is a major blow. But, the goal now is to get him back and fully healthy as soon as possible and have his replacement be serviceable for the time being.

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