2023 Calgary Flames Prospect Rankings: #3 Jakob Pelletier

We’ve now entered the upper echelon of Calgary Flames prospects as we kick off the top three. Coming in at the #3 spot in the 2023 TWC Calgary Flames Prospect Rankings is forward Jakob Pelletier. The 2019 first-round pick made his NHL debut this past season and never looked out of place. Pelletier is without a doubt the team’s most NHL ready prospect and is expected to be a full-time Flame in 2023–24.

Pelletier’s development so far

Pelletier was the Flames’ first-round selection in 2019 at 26th overall. When the Flames selected Pelletier, it became just the fourth time in franchise history that they had used a first-round pick on a forward playing out of the QMJHL—the first instance coming in all the way back in 1980.

Going into the draft, Pelletier was coming off a 39-goal, 89-point season in the QMJHL in his D+0 season, a total that ranked second on his team. After being drafted by the Flames he would continue at a similar pace in the QMJHL, posting 82 points in 57 games in his D+1 season. The total ranked third on his team behind two over-age players. He’d also serve as the team’s captain that season.

That same season Pelletier represented team Canada at the World Juniors, becoming one of the team’s standout players despite playing on a stacked Canadian roster. He’d finish the tournament with seven points in seven games en route to a silver medal.

The following year in 2020–21 Pelletier made his debut for the Val d’or Foreurs after being dealt in the offseason. In a shortened season, he’d lead his team in scoring with 43 points in 28 games. He’d also lead his team in the playoffs with 23 points in just 15 games, a total that ranked third in the entire QMJHL.

The year prior to getting drafted, Pelletier was also scoring at a point-per-game pace as a 16-year-old rookie in the QMJHL, posting 61 points in 60 games. All said he finished his junior career without a single season below said pace.

In 2021–22 Pelletier would make his pro hockey debut for the Stockton Heat. Despite some giving him less than a 10% chance of making the NHL after his final year in junior, Pelletier would take a huge step in his first season as a pro.

In his rookie season in the AHL, Pelletier would find immediate success, racking up 62 points in 66 games to finish second on the Heat in scoring despite being just 20. He’d also finish the season third in the AHL for scoring among rookies, earning him a spot on the AHL’s all-rookie team.

This most recent season, Pelletier once again lit up the AHL with 37 points in 33 games to start the year. His play earned him a call-up to the Flames in January where he established himself and never looked back. Pelletier would close out the season in the NHL, posting seven points in 24 games despite a lack of opportunity from the coaching staff to finish the year.

Pelletier’s strengths and weaknesses

At just 21 years old, Pelletier is already a very well-rounded player. He carries the ability to play on either side of the ice and can also take on the responsibilities of a centre if needed. Past that he’s able to play and excel on both the power play and penalty kill. He’s the type of Swiss Army knife type forward that coaches love these days as he can play anywhere in your lineup.

One of the main reasons for that is his mature and high-end hockey IQ. Pelletier has been described as a very smart player for his age which allows him to excel in all different situations. Despite being in the early stages of his career, he already carries a level of trust that coaches desire in NHL players. He rarely sacrifices defence for offence, but instead is consistent in his relentless attack at both ends of the ice.

As well, Pelletier carries a high-end motor. He’s always competing and fighting every single shift. Despite his small stature, he never shies away from the dirty areas on the ice and is constantly battling for the puck. You’ll typically find him around the net fighting for space, and it leads to a lot of goals and chances in high-danger areas.

Wranglers head coach Mitch Love had this to say about Pelletier’s compete level.

“I think it’s just his competitiveness, his will, his heart. Whether it’s a small area game in practice, a situation in a game or whatever the case may be, he just does not want to be outworked. He has the ability in the way he sees the game, his hockey sense. And especially as an undersized player, you’ve got to find ways to be efficient in terms of how you play the game, and he does that.”

Mitch Love on Jakob Pelletier

Just take the below examples as proof. Even during his time in the NHL, he was constantly battling in front of the net and it led to chances and goals. In both instances, Pelletier finds space in front and either deflects the incoming pass or battles to knock home a rebound.

Another great example of what makes Pelletier such a great player is his first NHL goal from this past season. In the below clip he recognizes where the play is going and gets on his horse to drive towards the net. Sure enough the puck ends up on his stick and slots home a nice shot.

Lastly, he’s just a great guy to have on your bench and in your locker room. At every level he’s played at he’s been a leader. He captained his QMJHL team at the age of 19, was a leader on team Canada’s 2021 World Junior team, and even with the Flames, he was constantly hyping up his teammates. He was a breath of fresh air for an ugly situation in Calgary last season and the exact type of player you want around your team.

Now of course he does have some weaknesses in his game. In particular his skating can hurt him at times. As a smaller player Pelletier was always knocked for not having the high-end skating that most players his size do. The perception has always been that if you want to make it in the NHL as a smaller player, you’ve got to be fast. Pelletier is proving that’s not always the case though.

To this point in his career, he’s still been able to produce at every level despite his average skating and small stature, and it will be very interesting to see how he adapts to becoming a full-timer in the NHL next season.

Perhaps his skating prevents him from becoming a top-six winger in the NHL, but the rest of his skillset including his hockey IQ and overall maturity and compete level should ensure that he has a place in the NHL going forward even as a bottom-six option.

Pelletier’s next steps

For Pelletier, the next steps are to become a full-time player in Flames lineup in 2023–24. He really doesn’t have much more to prove in the AHL as he’s already dominated the league at just 21 years old. The logical next step for his development is to play a full season with the Flames and not see time with the Wranglers.

There’s just absolutely no reason he shouldn’t be in the NHL next season.

Despite playing 24 games this past season, Pelletier was regularly a healthy scratch throughout the second half of the season and never fully established himself as a regular in the lineup. With a new coaching staff and philosophy behind the bench, there’s no reason Pelletier can’t be in the opening night lineup and remain there all season.

Calgary Flames 2023 Top 10 Prospects

Honourable Mentions | #10 Arseni Sergeev | #9 Lucas Ciona | #8 Parker Bell | #7 Walker Duehr | #6 Matthew Phillips | #5 Jeremie Poirier | #4 Connor Zary | #3 Jakob Pelletier | #2 Matt Coronato | #1 Dustin Wolf

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