He’s been a popular guy recently.
Like really popular.
He was named Calgary’s Prospect of the Week a couple weeks ago. He was featured in the Calgary Herald just a few days later to start the month. He spoke with Aaron Vickers of CalgaryFlames.com on a piece that just ran on Monday. I’ve received emails from various Calgary media members about him. I even got questions in person from the great Roger Millions and Ryan Leslie while at the Flames vs. Sharks game in San Jose. He was a frequent question during my Ask Me Anything on Reddit this past weekend.
So what’s up with the most popular prospect of the moment, Morgan Klimchuk?
Sure, establishing new career highs in goals (5) and points (10) in 48 fewer games gets you noticed, and in a big way. Ranking in the top 20 of the American Hockey League in points and leading your team in goals in the early goings is big too. Especially when last year it took Klimchuk up to his 13th game of the year and 17th of his AHL career to even register his first point, which also turned into his first and only multi-point game of his rookie season.
That’s a stark contrast to his first point of his sophomore season, which took all of 2:43 into his first game of the year to get and his first multi-point game of the season 4:58 after he had scored his first of the year. Then he followed that performance up with a 2 goal and 2 assist performance in San Diego to join exclusive company on the Heat’s all-time list of players to hit four points in a game, the most in team history. He’d add another multi-point game during his next one in Tucson and put up a goal and an assist during Pink Weekend.
Last year was a tough season for Morgan offensively no doubt. For a 28th overall pick who was over a point-per-game during his junior career, nobody truly expected him to not put up points, and yet 55 games and 9 points later, fans were already writing him off as a key Flames prospect.
Amazing what a few points will do for your image right?
The turnaround has been fierce. Fans have all of a sudden seen the glimmer of hope that Klimchuk has opened with his strong start to the season and are reconsidering how they view him in the big picture.
So the question has become one I’ve frequently been asked as someone who’s seen 62 games out of his 66 game AHL career. What has he done differently to be so effective?
The answer is simple.
Not a thing.
Sure he put in work during the offseason but Morgan was already one of the hardest workers on the team. There was nobody more frustrated than him to not be putting up points. This year, I don’t see Morgan playing any differently than he was last season, however, I think last season he was just a bit snakebitten.
Last year Klimchuk was 10th on the team in shots with 88 but ranked 25th in scoring percentage, converting at 3.4%. The only players that had a lower percentage than him but had more points were Brett Kulak (2.8%, 59GP, 3-14-17) and Austin Carroll (2.5%, 53GP, 6-7-13).
For whatever reason, the shots he was putting up weren’t going in and he quickly had to adapt and try to fill a role for the team. Sure he wanted to fill a point scoring role, but when he wasn’t having the offensive success he had to look elsewhere to contribute and boy did he ever.
He blossomed into one of the most reliable players on the Stockton Heat, on the ice to kill penalties, during key defensive draws and most importantly, when the game was on the line. I know it’s a flawed stat but without advanced stats the best I can tell you about Klimchuk’s defensive skill was that he finished even last year on a year when only seven other regular players who played over 25 games for the Heat finished even or better. One of which, Hunter Shinkaruk was a minus-6 in Stockton and only finished plus-1 because he was a plus-7 in Utica. The vast majority of these players also finished with more points than Klimchuk with the exception of Hunter Smith.
Morgan also had a streak of 19-straight games even or better.
So yea, the points weren’t falling but he quickly found a role to be successful at, and yet people wrote him off as if he was never going to amount to anything. Most of these people are not only rethinking their position, but were only using stat sheets to judge him which isn’t enough.
Even if it weren’t for his emergence offensively this year, I still thought Klimchuk would translate well in the NHL game and be an impactful player, similar to Stanley Cup Champion like Dan Paille. A 20th overall pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 2002, Paille produced at nearly the exact same pace to Klimchuk during his junior career. Paille would find success in the NHL as a role player who could produce offensively, enough to the point he played 582 games for the Sabres, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers and 75 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
There’s not much else to say about Klimchuk other than I’m not surprised he’s found success and I never doubted he would. He was a hard worker last year, is a hard worker this year, and hasn’t changed the type of player he is.
What he has changed is the confidence people have in him to produce and while everyone seemed to write off the final worthy piece of the Jarome Iginla trade leaving in free agency (Kenny Agostino), the hope has now returned that the trade of one of the franchise’s greatest and most popular players can yield the Flames a terrific NHL player.
I can’t say I’m now just beginning to believe because that’s a lie.
I believed last year.
One of the things that helps make a brand great is the recognition. It’s why when you see a blue star, you know it’s the Dallas Cowboys, or an intersecting N & Y it’s the New York Yankees.
Just as when you see a black and silver shield you know it’s the Oakland Raiders.
Well the Rochester Raiders basically stole a brand in hopes it brought them immediate recognition. Maybe if this was a non-football team you’ll look at this and think it’s not a blatant ripoff but this is an indoor football team. And yea, their logo is different enough, but come on. This is like the “Ice Ice Baby” of logos. You know what you’ve done Rochester…for shame!
Brandon Kisker is the Heat’s Director of Broadcast & Media Relations and is in his fourth season as a broadcaster in Stockton and second for the Heat. He yells a lot when excited, but that yelling is genuine, and typically fist pumps when goals are scored or big saves are made. He thinks Rick Jenerette is really top shelf…..and that is where mama hides the cookies. He’s debuting a new suit in the upcoming games as soon as it gets back from the tailor and has now moved from Lululemon being his favorite store to Nordstrom’s Rack, aka The Rack. He blames two equipment managers for his love of both stores. Follow him on Twitter @kiskerbc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments or questions.