With Calgary Flames fans clamoring to see 2019 first-round pick Jakob Pelletier take his solo rookie lap, head coach Darryl Sutter is taking a more patient approach with the winger.
Pelletier, listed at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, has been produced at a point-per-game clip in the American Hockey League the past two seasons and was recalled Jan. 7 ahead of the team’s five-game road trip.
While it doesn’t appear that he’ll suit up in game action anytime soon, Sutter sees value in having Pelletier around the group.
“You bring them on trips, and they have to watch how guys, before you play in the NHL or before you’re successful in the NHL, you have to be around those guys and see what it’s like,” Sutter said on Tuesday. Pick somebody out. Prepare like him, work like him, practice, and don’t think you’re him…I’ll tell you what I think you’re like and go from there.”
Pelletier’s size remains a sticking point for the coach.
“As he gets a little stronger and gets a little more weight, then he’s going to have a better opportunity,” he said. That’s what happens. He can still do that. He’s only 21.”
After a subpar (by his own admission) training camp, Pelletier is grateful for the NHL opportunity – even if it means sitting in the press box for now. He’s biding his time and enjoying the experience of being around NHLers every day.
Pelletier said his phone call with general manager Brad Treliving telling him he was joining the NHL club is a memory sure to last a lifetime.
He was like, ‘Pelts, pack your bags. You’re coming with us for the road trip,” recalled Pelletier of the conversation.
Pelletier then called his family in Quebec City to give them the good news.
“I think it was like one o’clock in the morning in Quebec City,” he said. “They were kind of like, ‘What’s going on here?'”
The lessons are sure to benefit Pelletier when he does eventually make his NHL debut. Calgary has one of the oldest rosters in the league, including Stanley Cup champions like Milan Lucic, Tyler Toffoli, Blake Coleman, and Nazim Kadri. There’s also fellow Quebec-born forward Jonathan Huberdeau. Pelletier joked that he now has someone to speak with in his mother tongue.
“The work ethic, also the lifestyle,” he said, of what he’s gleaned thus far in the NHL. “Just to be a pro guy, I think you have to bring it every day… every guy [on the Flames] has been good to me.”
Sutter drew parallels to Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube, two Flames-drafted players who were also undersized, but have become top-nine mainstays and key parts of the organization’s future.
As Pelletier hopes to one day join them in a similar role, he’s remaining upbeat.
“We haven’t talked too much to be honest,” he said of his interactions with the coaching staff. “I think they love the positivity that I bring each day.”
It’s that Pelletier’s positivity will depend on while he remains with the Flames. If Sutter’s comments are any indication, that solo lap will have to wait.
“At the end of the day, I want to get him in,” Sutter said. But you know what? We’re not 10 [points] up [in the playoff race] and we’re not 10 [points] out. That’s the way it works…He’s got energy for it and a passion for it and a work ethic for it. He’s a good kid.”