It has been quite the journey for the Calgary Flames’ first-round draft pick from 2019 Jakob Pelletier up to this point in time. After a successful junior career that saw Pelletier captain two different QMJHL teams and represent Canada at the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships, he turned pro in the 2021–22 where he had a massive rookie season scoring 62 points in just 66 games in the AHL. Pelletier then got his first taste of NHL action last season for the Flames. Pelletier will be an eyeing a full time spot for the Flames for 2023–24, and quite frankly, he deserves it.
Nothing left for Pelletier to prove in the AHL
When Pelletier turned pro two seasons ago, there was expectations for him. He was coming off four fantastic years in the QMJHL where he amassed 275 points in 210 games. He was a young and hungry kid that was ready to take the next step en route to becoming a Calgary Flame.
There were very few struggles for Pelletier in the AHL, he was fantastic in his rookie season. He finished second on the team in points and second on the team in goals. He was often the engine of the Heat where his speed and skill was on display every night. And better yet, there was no sophomore slump for Pelletier.
He roared out of the gates for the Wranglers in 2022–23 where he scored 34 points in his first 31 games of the year. With that performance, he got his first call-up to the Flames in early January—a well deserved reward for his play. After the year finished for the Flames (and we will get to his time with the NHL club later on), Pelletier went back to the Wranglers for the playoffs where he had 10 points in nine games. All he has done is dominate in the AHL.
Much like the Flames other 2019 drafted prospect, Dustin Wolf, Pelletier has done everything and more that has been asked of him at the AHL level. He has produced offensively, has been able to be trusted defensively, and at just the age of 22, Pelletier showed to be a fantastic leader on and off the ice. It is now the time for Pelletier to become a full-time Calgary Flame.
Pelletier’s first stint in the NHL
After being called up to the Flames on January 7, Pelletier didn’t see his first NHL game until January 21 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and boy, that game ruffled some feathers. Pelletier played on the fourth line that game with Trevor Lewis and Walker Deuhr where he only saw a total of 6:50 of ice time. Pelletier took full advantage of his limited ice sporting a CF% of 80 and was very noticeable in his limited amount of ice. He showed his quickness and hustle and created quite a few scoring chances for his line.
It was not until a few games later where Pelletier finally took the place of former Flame Milan Lucic on a line with Nazem Kadri and fellow Quebecer Jonathan Huberdeau in the top-six, and from then on, Pelletier never looked back. He stayed on that line for the majority of his time with the Flames until Darryl Sutter decided it was best if Pelletier watched from the sidelines while the team made one last push for the playoffs. So all he got in was 24 games, but it was something the team and fans alike needed to see. A young player showing promise, we all wish it could have been more, but we should get much more of Pelletier come this season.
It’s time for Pelletier to stick in the NHL
When Pelletier was given the opportunity to play a top-six role for the Flames last season, he showed why he dominated the AHL like he did. Sure, his counting stats were not all that impressive only scoring three goals and seven points in 24 NHL games, but the kid just has everything of a very capable NHLer. The energy he brings every night is what the team needs.
So many times last season the Flames just looked lifeless. No one was getting the team excited, they just looked like they didn’t want to be there. Then Pelletier showed up and changed that. No matter what time of the game it was, no matter the score or situation, if the camera ever panned over to Pelletier on the bench, often time he was giving someone a pat on the back or yelling in someone’s face out of excitement.
One of my favourite moments of last season was in a game against the Bruins at home where Huberdeau found the back of net and Pelletier was freaking out on the bench with him afterward. It was one of the few times Huberdeau actually looked like he was enjoying himself. The Flames absolutely need more of that.
I can also recall being in the Keybank Center in Buffalo when Pelletier notched his first NHL goal. I was sitting in the 300s and could hear him scream after the puck went in. For a team that needs more positive things in 2023–24, Pelletier will be the first to bring that.
Let’s not look past his play on the ice though, Pelletier was great in his small time as a Flame. While analytics aren’t the be-all and end-all of hockey, Pelletier’s numbers were fantastic. Through 24 games Pelletier repped a 66.6 CF%, a 1.18 xG/60 and a on-ice xG% of 62 (all according to MoneyPuck.com). Knowing it is a small sample size for a player that was heavily sheltered with offensive zone starts, the numbers were great, and Pelletier should have had more games down the stretch.
Pelletier is fast, has a very good skillset and has probably the highest motor on the team, his tenacity is what he will be known for and he showed that. He also demonstrated great chemistry with Huberdeau through those games, and while Huberdeau went through a carousel of linemates, maybe Pelletier can stick with him this upcoming year. Not to mention in the last game of the season, Pelletier showed great promise on a line with fellow first-rounder Matt Coronato, just another player who can potentially stick with Pelletier.
Young and fresh
Exactly as the Flames need to do with Matt Coronato, the Flames have to embrace the youth movement. Jakob Pelletier not only looks to be a capable top-six NHL player, but he seems to be a player that will be a leader for many years to come. And there is no time like the present for Pelletier to begin that journey.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire