It hasn’t taken @Jakob Pelletier long to make his mark in the American Hockey League.
Pelletier, the Calgary Flames’ 2019 first-round draft selection, joined the AHL’s Stockton Heat to start this season after his four-year major junior career concluded with the 2020–21 campaign.
Heat head coach Mitch Love immediately slotted Pelletier on the left side of Stockton’s first line. Has he been able to keep up with 2020–21 Heat co-scoring leaders @Adam Ruzicka and @Matthew Phillips?
Well, allow the numbers to speak for themselves. Pelletier has five goals and 12 points in his first 10 professional games. Of those five goals, a league-leading three have been game-winners.
Stockton is currently riding a nine-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s contest against the Henderson Silver Knights. Do the math: Pelletier has scored the winning goal in a third of the games over that stretch.
Ruzicka, Pelletier, and Phillips currently rank first, second, and third on the Heat with 14, 12, and 10 points, respectively. Pelletier is the youngest player on that line and the fourth-youngest on the team, older than only @Dustin Wolf, @Connor Zary, and @Yan Kuznetsov.
Only two AHL rookies currently have more points than Pelletier this season. St. Louis Blues defence prospect @Scott Perunovich currently leads all first-year AHLers — and the entire league, regardless of age or position — with 18 points in just 11 games, but he’s also 23 years old with three years of college hockey to his credit.
Buffalo Sabres blue-chip winger @Jack Quinn also ranks ahead of Pelletier. The 2020 eighth-overall pick has eight goals and 14 points in 10 games with the Rochester Americans this season, but he barely counts as a rookie. Quinn managed to play 15 games with Rochester last season while the Ontario Hockey League was offline due to COVID-19.
To summarize: Pelletier only trails the 2020 Hobey Baker Award winner and a recent top-10 pick in his second pro stint on the AHL rookie scoring leaderboard. He ranks 11th in the entire league with his 12 points.
Pelletier has been converting on his chances at a very high rate. His 17.8 shooting percentage is unlikely to continue but his high shot volume has been encouraging. Pelletier ranks third on the Heat with 28 shots in 10 games, just four back of Ruzicka — renowned for his ability as a sharpshooter — for the team lead.
The Flames picked Pelletier with the 26th-overall selection in the 2019 NHL Draft. He’s one of the six players selected in that year’s top 27 who are still awaiting their National Hockey League debuts (Alex Turcotte, Philip Broberg, Matt Boldy, Samuel Poulin, and Simon Holmstrom are the others).
If Pelletier continues at this pace, he won’t have to wait much longer. He’s consistently taken steps forward since he was drafted and captured Canada’s attention
with his plucky point-per-game performance at the 2021 IIHF World Juniors.
Only five players — including fellow Flames prospect @Ryan Francis — scored points at a better per-game rate than Pelletier’s 1.54 in 2020–21. He scored 43 points in 28 games while serving as captain of the Val-d’Or Foreurs, adding 23 points in 15 playoff contests en route to his team’s loss in the QMJHL finals.
Standing 5’10” and weighing 180 pounds, Pelletier is capable of upending games with his relentless forechecking, deceptive skating, and heavy shot. Stockton’s coaching staff has already entrusted him with penalty-killing duties less than a dozen games into his professional career. Should Pelletier make it as an NHLer, there’s a good chance he does so as a strong 200-foot player.
If the injury bug bites the Flames in the coming weeks (or if the team becomes dissatisfied with its current secondary forwards), Pelletier could be an ideal candidate for a promotion. He’s versatile, responsible, and strong in the offensive zone. Doesn’t that sound like the profile of somebody who could thrive on a line with @Mikael Backlund?
FlamesNation managing editor Ryan Pike perhaps said it best —
— at this point, it’s starting to feel more like a question of when we see Pelletier instead of if we will.