St.John’s IceCaps Update: Christmas Break

The IceCaps get into the rhythm of standing still by losing one game and winning the next. Heading into the Christmas break, they stayed true on that form. The IceCaps split the mini-series with the Hamilton Bulldogs, leaving themselves entrenched in the playoff battle once again.

While Connor Hellebuyck continues to impress, the IceCaps saw more from their veteran players than from their upcoming prospects. Jason Jaffray and John Albert had the most enticing boxcar numbers, while Carl Klingberg was the headline stealer among prospects.

CURRENT STATS

  • John Albert 32GP 9-14-23 (2GP 1-2-3 this week)
  • Eric O’Dell 29GP 12-8-20 (2GP 0-0-0 this week)
  • Chase Balisy 29GP 7-13-20 (2GP 0-0-0 this week)
  • Carl Klingberg 32GP 9-10-19 (2 GP 2-1-3 this week)
  • Will O’Neill 28GP 5-7-12 (DNP this week)
  • Patrice Cormier 21GP 5-5-10 (2GP 0-0-0 this week)
  • Brenden Kichton 31GP 3-7-10 (1GP 0-0-0 this week)
  • JC Lipon 31GP 1-9-10 (2GP 0-1-1 this week)
  • Ben Chiarot 24GP 4-5-9 (NHL this week)
  • Scott Kosmachuk 29GP 3-4-7 (DNP this week)
  • Kyle MacKinnon 21GP 1-6-7 (2GP 0-0-0 this week)
  • Jason Jaffray 7GP 3-3-6 (2GP 2-3-5 this week)
  • Kris Fredheim 25GP 2-4-6 (2GP 0-1-1 this week)
  • Austen Brassard 31GP 1-5-6 (2GP 0-0-0 this week)
  • Keaton Ellerby 18GP 0-6-6 (DNP this week)
  • Mike Cornell 10GP 2-3-5 (2GP 1-1-2 this week)
  • Ryan Olsen 31GP 2-3-5 (1GP 0-0-0 this week)
  • Nicolas Blanchard 22GP 0-5-5 (1GP 0-0-0 this week)
  • Julien Brouillette 11GP 2-2-4 (NHL this week)
  • Blair Riley 26GP 1-2-3 (2GP 0-0-0 this week)
  • Julian Melchiori 32GP 0-3-3 (2GP 0-0-0 this week)
  • Ralfs Freibergs 4GP 0-2-2 (2GP 0-2-2 this week)
  • Ben Walker 13GP 0-1-1 (DNP this week)
  • Jordan Hill 17GP 0-1-1 (2GP 0-0-0 this week)
  • Ryan Parent 1GP 0-0-0 (1GP 0-0-0 this week)
  • Patrick Holland 7GP 0-0-0 (DNP this week)
  • Brandon MacLean 12GP 0-0-0 (2GP 0-0-0 this week)
  • Connor Hellebuyck 22GP 12-8-2, 2.45 GAA, .925
  • Peter Budaj 11GP 0-5-4, 3.52 GAA, .889 
  • Jussi Olkinuora 1GP 0-1-0, 6.07 GAA, .824
Jason Jaffray has is now donning the captain’s “C” on his jersey, and he lead by example in the team’s last game, a 4-2 victory over the bulldogs by scoring two goals and adding two assists. I mentioned in my last IceCaps update that Jaffray would have a positive influence on the group, hopefully setting a good example for youngsters. Considering Kosmachuk sat out to watch this weeks games from the press box and Jaffray producing offensively, it’s obvious Jaffray is doing a good job. 

Latvian call-up (from the ECHL’s Ontario Reign) Ralfs Freibergs has been a positive addition on the blueline, adding two assists before the Christmas break. Will O’Neill took a seat in favour of the AHL contracted player, and it may lead to an NHL contract.

Carl Klingberg has been playing well of late with five points in his last six games, and he could be warranted for a promotion soon. With Evander Kane out until February, coupled with lacklustre production from TJ Galiardi, it wouldn’t surprise me if 2015 is the year Klingberg finally sticks.

Ryan Parent played his first game with the IceCaps since signing an AHL deal after beginning the season with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign. He left to play in the Spengler Cup afterwards, and should be able to use that confidence to get himself into a top-four role in the AHL at very least.

Peter Budaj still can’t buy a win, and it looks like his North American career is close to over. I once thought Budaj to be a strong backup option at the NHL level, but it seems his demotion has hurt his confidence. Look for Budaj to wind up in Europe after the season (or possibly even before).

On that note, Jussi Olkinuora is playing solidly at the ECHL level this year. In 21 starts, the Finnish goalie factory import has amassed a 10-7-4 record with a respectable .910 save percentage and 2.74 GAA. Although backup Joe Cannata sports better numbers in 10 starts, it’s a solid stepping stone for the developing goaltender, but he needs to show he’s ready to compete in the AHL. If Budaj jumps ship, he should be able to handle the backup role in the AHL.

Patrice Cormier was called up once again, which I find to be a bit head-scrathing. Cormier has been outperformed by John Albert and Eric O’Dell lately, and with Bryan Little, Mark Scheifele, Mathieu Perreault and Jim Slater ahead of him on the depth chart with the Jets, you would think a winger would be a better call-up option…

The IceCaps signed former Vancouver Canucks 2nd rounder Yann Sauve to a professional tryout. It’s obvious the team is worried about defensive depth, and Sauve has the draft pedigree to be a solid bet. He played in three NHL games last season.

LOOKING AHEAD TO NEXT WEEK

The IceCaps will cap off (excuse the obvious pun) 2014 with a game against the AHL winning leaders, the Manchester Monarchs. The Monarchs destroyed the IceCaps with a 6-2 win in the previous meeting that saw Colin Miller score three points, and Peter Budaj get one of his first shellackings. 

The IceCaps will then travel to Hartford for back-to-backs against the Wolf Pack. It will be the first two meetings between the two club’s. The Wolf Pack are currently 17-10-2, good for 3rd place in the Northeast Division.

CURRENT ICECAPS DEPTH CHART

Jaffray-Albert-Klingberg

Balisy-O’Dell-Lipon

MacLean-MacKinnon-Walker

Blanchard-Olsen-Brassard

Freibergs-Fredheim

Melchiori-Cornell

Hill-Kichton

Hellebuyck

Budaj

DECEMBER LOG

Dec 5: 1-0 L, @ Worcester

Dec 6: 3-2 W, @ Worcester

Dec 9: 5-4 OTL, @ Providence

Dec 10: 4-1 L, @ Providence

Dec 13: 6-5 OTW, vs Toronto

Dec 14: 4-0 L, vs Toronto

Dec 17: 5-2 L, vs Hamilton

Dec 19: 4-2 W, vs Hamilton