As I had stated previously, I was planning on writing up a weekly Moose feature, recapping the week that was and the week to be. Instead we have opted to write up a monthly hit on your Manitoba Moose, the AHL affiliate of the Jets. It will focus on how the Moose did and who to watch for.
The first month of the season was an up and down ride for the Moose. They finished October with a 5-4-0-0 record. Which is decent, considering they lost the first two games to the Iowa Wild by a combined score of 12-2. A very worrisome start to say the least. Eric Comrie let in 3 goals in game 1, a 4-1 loss, then in relief of Ken Appleby (3 goals on 13 shots in game 2 start) let in another 5 goals in two periods in the 8-1 loss. The team rebounded the following Friday and won their first game of the season 2-1 over Belleville and followed that up with a 6-2 loss the following day.
Kristian Vesalainen joined the team for the 5th game, against the San Antonio Rampage, tallying an assist in a 4-1 victory, he followed that up with 3 assists in a 6-3 win. Mason Appleton picked up 3 goals and 2 assists in that game.
For their first slightly extended road trip, the Moose lost 4-1 in Milwaukee. With the newly recalled Mikhail Berdin between the pipes in the following game, the Moose took a 2-1 SO victory against the Chicago Wolves and followed that up by beating Milwaukee 2-1 in overtime. Berdin looked great in both those games, his first two AHL starts. A good sign of things to come, as most believe he will surpass Eric Comrie on the depth chart, maybe as soon as this season.
Fortunately for the Jets this season, and the Moose, there have been no significant injuries, with the only recall being Brendan Lemieux, and only reassignment being Kristian Vesalainen. Eric Comrie and Tucker Poolman were brought to Finland as insurance, not due to injury. This means that most players were able to play somewhat consistently. It is a lot harder for us to decipher who is injured and who is being healthy scratched, with the AHL schedule being what it is, lots of back to back games, crazy travel schedules, some players are just given rest days, in order to try and keep the legs fresh.
Of course, as seems to be a constant between the big club and farm club, usage. Why are some players playing and why are some players not playing consistently. As mentioned, the schedule is rough at points. But hasn’t been too bad to date. Luke Green is a player that comes to mind as someone who should be playing every night but hasn’t to date. Again, he could have been battling something, as he has played in 2 of the last 3 October games for the Moose, and the 2 games so far in November. The AHL has such a high turnover rate for players, guys drawing in and out of the bottom 3 or bottom 6, so we tend to focus on the top 6 generally. Same goes for the top 4 on D with the bottom pairing being plug and play style.
Players to Watch
Kristian Vesalainen, he has looked good so far for the team, but his only points are those 4 assists in his two games. He has missed the last three games with what is called a minor injury, hopeful he will be able to keep his season going next weekend at BMTSP.
Sami Niku, a player who is the best defensive prospect in the system, he has had a decent start to the season, including a brilliant goal where he walked the entire opposition in the ozone and buried a wicked shot. This is something we can get used to as he grows his game even more, and hopefully gets the call to the NHL very soon. He has 1 goal and 4 assists in 10 games to date. Of note, he was healthy scratched 1 game for “breaking a team rule”. I say he was upset about being snubbed for the Finland trip and punched the coach. (Obviously that didn’t happen)
Mikhail Berdin, rocking a 3-0 record and a .941 sv% so far this season, it comes with some hope that he will be able to develop into a future backup to Connor Hellebuyck. He has yet to lose a pro game after also starting 3-0 in Jacksonville with the Icemen. It will be interesting to see if the Moose keep him and send Appleby to Jacksonville, or send Berdin back and get him playing every night.
Mason Appleton, he has 11 points in 11 games so far. Though he was great last year too and kind of slowed down, we will see if he has developed into a more consistent player in his second pro season.
Logan Stanley, he has 0 points in 8 games to date. Not surprising, he will really need to get it going, scoring from the blue line is key in today’s game.
C.J. Suess, rocking a strong start with 6 goals, we will get to see how he plays once his shooting % regresses from the 30% it sits at today. He is an interesting prospect, a player that I have always kept an eye on, we will see if he can develop into some solid NHL depth in the hopefully near future.
You may be wondering why this post is titled “Moose Stache”. Well, myself and our founder, Roddy, are raising funds for Movember. We are trying to stop men dying too young. The Movember Foundation is an organization that supports hundreds of different initiatives throughout Canada. Prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health are the main causes of men dying prematurely and hope to reduce the number of men dying too young by 25% by 2030. So please take a minute to read what Movember does for men, and of course every donation helps, but more importantly, make sure the men in your lives know their bodies and are getting checked out regularly by a doctor.