Jakob Pelletier’s goal celebrations have become must-see TV, and what’s especially cool is that he’s even more excitable when he isn’t the guy who scored.
The Calgary Flames’ rookie left-winger will lift your spirits … just like he tried to lift linemate Elias Lindholm after Monday’s second-period marker against the Dallas Stars.
That isn’t the only example.
Last week, after Jonathan Huberdeau buried a timely goal in a battle with the Boston Bruins, Sportsnet’s cameras captured a guaranteed-to-make-you-smile moment. Back at the bench, Pelletier squeezed Huberdeau in a hug, shaking him with his right arm, repeatedly tapping his chest with his left and chattering in his ear.
After five or six seconds, with the youngster not letting go, Huberdeau started to chuckle.
“Sometimes, it gets the best of me,” Pelletier said the next day with a sheepish grin.
It might be his best trait, and that’s saying something since this freshman forward brings a lot to the table — speed, hockey sense, growing confidence with the puck on his stick.
Pelletier, who turned 22 on Tuesday, is charismatic. He’s enthusiastic. And he’s a non-stop source of positivity, a valuable asset for a team that hasn’t had a whole lot to feel good about of late. While the Flames finally snapped out of their five-game skid with Monday’s dramatic victory in Dallas, they’re still in a pickle and not a playoff spot.
“You know, he’s a great kid,” Lindholm beamed when asked by FlamesTV’s Brendan Parker about that bearhug-hoist from Pelletier in the Big D. “He brings a lot of energy, a very positive guy, and he has been really good for our team. He’s always happy and celebrating. It’s fun to play with him.”
Jakob Pelletier credited with lifting spirits on bench
It’s fun just to watch.
He even celebrates solo. When Blake Coleman sniped a shortie against the Toronto Maple Leafs, an all-by-his-lonesome Pelletier — serving a bench minor for too many men — was banging on the glass from inside the penalty box.
On another occasion, after the Flames frittered away a two-goal lead during the third period in Vegas, he was spotted trying to rile up his teammates before the overtime session.
“I think he’s getting more comfortable now and he can be more himself, and that shows,” Huberdeau said of Pelletier. “I think we need more guys like him. It’s good to get some energy on the bench. That’s how you are going to stay in these moments that you’re down. Say you’re down a goal or down two goals, you need to be positive on the bench. That’s the type of guy that he is.
“I think if we can all be like him, that’d be great for our team.”
One guy is benefiting from being more like him … the emerging fan-fave in No. 49.
Pelletier will be the first to admit — and Darryl Sutter has mentioned multiple times — he failed to make an impression during training camp, which delayed his NHL debut. He started his second pro campaign with the AHL’s Wranglers before earning a call-up in mid-January. He is now looking like a lock to spend the remainder of the season with the big club.
In fact, Pelletier has become a regular in a top-six role. During Monday’s thriller in Dallas, he skated alongside Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli on what many would consider to be Calgary’s first line. It was expected to stay that way as the Flames pit-stopped in Minnesota for Tuesday’s rematch with the Wild.
As Sutter put it, praising the youngest dude on his roster: “Jakob has played good wherever we’ve put him.”
“I think the big thing for me was at camp, I was not me, you know?” Pelletier said. “I was shy. I was not talking. And I think it showed on the ice, too. I think for me to play well, I have to be comfortable and I have to stay true to myself and keep talking on the bench and everything. When they called me up, I was like, ‘Pelts, be yourself. Be the same player you are in the AHL. Be the same guy.’
“I think those first two or three games, I was kind of shy. But after that, I was thinking the worst thing that could happen is somebody is going to say, ‘Hey, relax.’ And I’ll just be like, ‘Oh, OK.’ ”
‘All great things’: Big ball of enthusiasm on skates
Nobody is telling the kid to relax.
Quite the opposite, actually.
“He’s outgoing, positive, energetic, all great things,” said Flames centre Nazem Kadri. “As a young guy, I think you’re forced to be more positive than negative. But I think it’s genuine and sincere and just the kind of kid he is. He’s a lot of fun to be around and he brings great energy.
“And he’s a great player. He’s a smart player. I think he’s going to be a good one.”
His celebrations are the good stuff. The broadcast crews must be immediately panning for Pelletier whenever the Flames light the lamp. The official team Twitter account nailed it Monday by describing him as the “best hype man.”
“That means he’s unselfish. That means that he wants to go out and wants to win,” Huberdeau said after that memorable on-the-bench moment with Pelletier. “Because sometimes you worry more about yourself and you want to do well, want to stay up here. But he’s that kind of guy that wants everybody to get going. He knows that when we win, that’s what we need.”
As Pelletier told Postmedia this past week: “If we’re all sad and everything, I think it won’t go well.”
Beyond that, he insists there is a simple explanation for his enthusiasm.
“I’m here. I’m playing for the Flames,” he said in Dallas. “So each day, it’s a great day.”
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