IceCaps Year in Review: Part II Posted by IceCaps on
Over the course of a long American Hockey League season, keeping pucks out of the net is just as important as scoring goals and the defence corps of the 2013-14 St. John’s IceCaps did a good job at doing just that.
This season, the IceCaps allowed 207 goals, the tenth fewest in the league, a testament to the team’s defensive depth and commitment to smart play in their own end.
Plus minus is often regarded as a catchall statistic that tracks a player’s efficiency in regards to goals for and against while he is on the ice. A high plus-minus rating for a defenceman would mean that he is not only contributing to a team’s offensive numbers but also doing his part in keeping the puck out of the net.
This statistic perfectly sums up the year Ben Chiarot enjoyed this season.
Chiarot’s +29 rating was the fifth best in the league and was a large part of the reason he was named the IceCaps’ Defenceman of the Year. As the cornerstone of the IceCaps defence corps, Chiarot tallied six goals and 14 assists over 65 games and earned his first taste of NHL action with a callup to the Winnipeg Jets in November.
Chiarot wasn’t the only IceCaps defencemen to earn time in the NHL this season. Strong play from Zach Redmond and Julian Melchiori resulted in recalls for both players.
Saving it for the playoffs
The IceCaps defencemen were a steady force on the blue line all season, but for some members of the IceCaps back end, they didn’t really hit their stride until the postseason.
Offensive defencemen Will O’Neill posted the best regular season point totals of his professional career this year with 36 points in 68 games, but took his game to another level in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He recorded 16 points in 18 playoff games to finish tied for fourth among all playoff scorers.
Jordan Hill is another example of a player who was built for bigger games. A stay-at-home defencemen, Hill chipped in with 12 assists in the regular season and was a reliable, shot-blocking machine all year, while also finding a scoring touch with a pair of big goals in the postseason.
Following the end of the WHL season, the IceCaps were the benefactor of one of the franchise’s top prospects in 2013 first round draft pick Josh Morrissey. He quickly acclimated to the pro game in his eight regular season appearances and hit his stride in the playoffs. His vision and talent were apparent to all who watched as he compiled nine points in 20 postseason contests. Not bad for a 19 year-old.
Just a lone member of the IceCaps defensive staff cracked the roster for the 2014 AHL All Star Classic held in St. John’s and he did it in his rookie season.
A seventh round selection in 2013 by the Jets, Brenden Kichton blossomed in his first year of professional hockey. Coming off an 85-point campaign for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League, Kichton kept his offensive touch, scoring ten goals and adding 38 assists in 76 games. His 48 points was tops in the league for rookie defencemen and earned him IceCaps Rookie of the Year honours.
The IceCaps defensive corps will remain largely the same for the upcoming 2014-15 season.
Kichton, O’Neill, Hill, Melchiori and Chiarot are all signed for the upcoming season. With eight defencemen already under contract with the Jets, that nucleus will likely be in tact to begin the campaign, barring an injuries up top.
The IceCaps will have two holes to fill thanks to a couple of key departures. Zach Redmond, who was a member of the IceCaps since their inaugural season in 2011-12, signed a contract with the Colorado Avalanche, and his puck-moving skills and ability to play big minutes will be missed.
Due to league rules concerning rookies and their entry-level contracts, Josh Morrissey will be returning to the Prince Albert Raiders for his final season of junior eligibility. Morrissey will be given the chance to crack the Jets roster at training camp but if he doesn’t make the cut, he is unable to be returned to the IceCaps and will play out his final year of junior instead.