Jets Off-Season Player Profile Mason Appleton

Since the Winnipeg Jets have prided themselves on featuring plenty of forward depth over the last several seasons, forward Mason Appleton struggled to earn regular playing time during the 2019-20 campaign, however, he didn’t endure those same issues this past season as he forced his way into a full-time job on the club’s third line.

After bouncing in and out of the lineup last season, the 25-year-old was determined to showcase his talents consistently in 2020-21 and that’s exactly what he did throughout the shortened schedule, which saw him play an important role alongside teammates Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp. Shifting the narrative about himself, the young winger has now transitioned from just a part-time skater to an extremely valuable bottom-six forward in just one season.

Here are some positives and negatives from Appleton’s third season in the league:

What Went Right

With Appleton becoming a regular in the Jets’ lineup this past season, his outstanding work ethic and conditioning were on full display throughout the entire regular season, which ultimately allowed him to participate in all 56 games.

Thanks to those two traits, the right-hander was able to enjoy the top statistical performance of his young career, resulting in new career highs in total goals (12), five-on-five goals (10), total points (25), five-on-five points (21), points per game (0.45), shots on goal (88), hits (61), blocks (22), takeaways (13), faceoff percentage (53.8%) and his average ice time per game (14:25 minutes).

As for where Appleton’s impressive showing ranks among his teammates, he finished with the third-most five-on-five goals, the fifth-most total goals, tied for the fifth-most five-on-five points, recorded the seventh-most total points and the ninth-most shots on goal among all Winnipeg skaters, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.

Though the 6′ 2″ forward may never develop into an elite sniper, he certainly makes up for that by consistently driving hard to the net and creating tons of havoc around the blue paint each game, which helped him generate career highs in high-danger scoring chances (32) and rebounds created (nine) during five-on-five situations in 2020-21.

Carrying his breakout performance over into the playoffs, Appleton played in all eight games and averaged 16:31 minutes per game, creating one goal, three points (tied for fourth-most on the team), 13 shots on goal, eight high-danger chances, 14 hits, four takeaways and one rebound.

What Went Wrong 

Considering the amount things that went right for Appleton in 2020-21, there isn’t much to complain about regarding his third campaign in the league, although he did endure an extended scoring slump that resulted in just two assists from Apr. 10 to May 5.

Digging deeper into his troubling stretch, the former sixth-round selection was limited to just one high-danger chance or fewer in 10 of those 12 contests and also couldn’t produce more than one rebound throughout the entire 12-game slump. But luckily, he closed out the regular season strong by scoring three goals through the final four games.

Along with Appleton’s brief scoring woes, he also struggled at times with maintaining possession of the puck, particularly during five-on-five situations. While an increase in turnovers was to be expected given the number of times he drove hard to the net, still, that doesn’t make up for the fact he registered a career-worst 21 giveaways with 19 of them coming during five-on-five.

If there’s one specific area to focus on over the off-season, it might be improving his defense and preventing opposing teams from creating plenty of pressure in high-danger areas. While the Wisconsin native wasn’t one of the worst defenders on his team, he was still on the ice for numerous quality scoring chances against, which wasn’t nearly as big of a concern last season.

Through 46 games in 2019-20, Appleton was on the ice for 22 goals against during five-on-five play, but only allowed 89 high-danger chances and a 17.2 xGA rate.

As for this past season, the promising young winger allowed 22 goals for a second straight campaign, however, he also surrendered 129 high-danger chances and a 27.2 xGA rate – that’s a concerning year-to-year development.

But all in all, this past season definitely should be considered a major success for Appleton.

2021-22 Outlook

Following his breakout performance, Appleton will be entering the final season of his two-year, $1.8 million bridge contract. With that in mind, it’ll be extremely important for him to build off this showing next season, especially since he’s slated to become a restricted free agent who’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career.

Having said that, there’s a very strong chance the former Michigan State product will be suiting up for the Seattle Kraken in 2021-22, as the Jets will likely be forced to expose the right-hander this summer and could very well lose him in the upcoming expansion draft.

Yan Kuznetsov selected by Saint John in CHL Import Draft

A Calgary Flames prospect was selected in the Canadian Hockey League’s Import Draft. Russian-born defensive prospect Yan Kuznetsov was selected by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Saint John Sea Dogs.

Kuznetsov, 19, was a second round pick (50th overall) in the 2020 NHL Draft by the Flames. He played two seasons with the University of Connecticut, then signed his entry level deal with the Flames this past March and played a handful of games with the AHL’s Stockton Heat.

The selection of Kuznetsov by Saint John gives the Flames a lot of flexibility in terms of his development for the 2021-22 season. Since he signed a pro contract, he cannot go back to the NCAA. But as a 2002-born player who signed after March 1, 2021, Kuznetsov’s entry level deal slides in 2021-22 as long as he doesn’t play 10 NHL games.

Kuznetsov is eligible to play in the AHL or the QMJHL in 2021-22, but once he plays a game in the QMJHL he becomes subject to the CHL transfer rules and wouldn’t be able to go back to the AHL until the QMJHL season ends.

If Kuznetsov is pro-ready, he has that option. If he’s not, he can go to a Saint John squad that will have fellow 2020 Flames draft pick Jeremie Poirier and potentially another 2020 pick in Ryan Francis – Francis is eligible to play in the AHL or return to the Sea Dogs as an overage player.

Saint John potentially gets a really promising player for their team, and the Flames and the player get a lot of flexibility in terms of how to manage his development for the upcoming season.

WWYDW How would you use the Canucks 9th overall pick

Welcome back to WWYDW, aka WDYTT, the only hockey column on the internet that kind of looks like it says “WYATT” if you’re squinting.

By the time you read these words, the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals could be halfway through and we’ll be on the very cusp of the offseason. And, yeah, we know we’ve been saying that for a while, but it’s seriously getting close!

As holders of the 9th overall selection, the Canucks and their fans are obviously going to be primarily concerned with the 2021 Entry Draft, scheduled for about three weeks from now. But that’s only an important date if they plan to actually make said selection.

If, instead, they’re looking to offload the 9th pick in exchange for some NHL-ready talent, they’ll probably want to do so before the July 21 Expansion Draft — or, to be more accurate, before the July 17 roster freeze, at which point protection lists are due.

That means two weeks to decide what to do with the pick.

Do they deal it, or do they use it on one of the “Nice Nine” prospects at the top of the 2021 draft class?

It’s a big decision, and as with all big decisions, we want to consult with our loyal readers.

This week, we’re asking:

How would you use the Canucks’ 9th overall pick?

(If you’d select someone, tell us who! If you’d trade it, tell us who for!) 

Last week, we asked:

What is your Vancouver Canucks protected list for the 2021 Expansion Draft?

Your lists are below!

DogBreath:

Easy…Lind and Gadjovich should be exposed. With growth, Lind may become an NHL player. He isn’t yet. Gadjovich will be in Abbotsford next year. A loss of either will have almost no negative impact to the organization.

wjohn33:

The better question may be, “Who is worth protecting moving forward?” After the top handful of players, there isn’t much that is not replaceable. That’s why I’m hoping to use a few available spots to do some upgrades from teams that have an overabundance of talent. It’s not the Canucks.

4check:

We are cap-strapped this year. The team has a handshake deal with Pearson, so he gets one of those three spots. We can’t fix all our problems this year, and no matter how desperate our GM is to try and save his job, he can’t be allowed to jeopardize the future. For me this is easy. Of Tanner Pearson, Tyler Motte, Zack MacEwen, Kole Lind, and Jonah Gadjovich, you protect:

Pearson, Lind, and Gadjovich.

The amount of growth Lind and Gadjovich showed this year makes this a lock for me. MacEwen is going to be no better than a 4th liner. He adds toughness, sure, and I like his work ethic, but what else does he really bring? Not too much. Losing him has little impact. Motte has been a solid player for us and a good deal at $1.2MM. However, he is at his ceiling, and while he’s a good player, at best he’s a part-time 3rd liner. He’s four years older than Lind, who, again, has grown leaps and bounds this year. Why pull the plug on him as he’s ascending? He could legitimately be the 3rd line RW this year. If not, how much of a step down is he from Motte for this year, and how much higher a ceiling does he have? Seattle would most certainly take Motte if exposed and that’s ok. He’s a free agent after next year and he may walk anyway. If he could be an option at center, maybe I’d look at it differently, but he has a poor faceoff record. In the same breath, Gadjovich improved tons this year, and though I would say Green treated him unfairly at then end of the year, he could easily replace what MacEwen brings at the same price and a younger age.

Seattle won’t take Holtby, I fully expect them to go cheap in the expansion draft unless they get major sweeteners, and we should not allow Benning to make those kinds of moves right now. So, this is a litmus test for the team. Would we rather lose Motte, a maxed-out bottom-six player, or Lind, an ascending player who may also max out in the bottom-six but is younger, with more potential. Given Benning has screwed us on the cap, this is going to be another difficult year. Losing a good-looking prospect over for a bottom-six player would be stupid. I guess what I’m saying is, that’s what Benning is going to do, but I don’t have to like it.

Bud Poile:

The goal is to keep getting better, so protect Motte and work on Gadj’s skating.

Lind and MacEwen get exposed.

Putty:

It seems a waste to use Expansion protection slots on middling (or worse) players that can be replaced through the UFA bargain bin/trade. I would go so far as to expose either Myers or Schmidt to free up cap space and pursue some options that spill out during the Expansion prelims that we can protect. I would target middle-six forwards and middle-pairing D-men. Good ones that are younger and can play up the lineup in a pinch. Mason Appleton would be a good example and a player we should covet if he becomes available.

Ragnarok Ouroboros:

Protect Tanner Pearson, Tyler Motte, and Kole Lind.

Even though I like Zack MacEwen, he is still an AHL tweener. If he gets taken in the Expansion Draft, then he is easily replaceable by all the other AHL tweeners Canucks were playing at the end of the season.

As for Gadjovich, he was on a tear in the AHL, but he is still very much in doubt as an NHL player because of his lack of NHL speed. At this point, it is still a gamble whether he will be an NHL player or not. Perhaps Seattle may take him, but I suspect they would take Zack MacEwEn over Gadjovich and I won’t lose any sleep over it.

Obviously, the Canucks should expose Virtanen, Holtby, and Eriksson., with the hope that maybe Seattle would take Virtanen or Holtby. They may have to throw in a sweetener but I expect Seattle will stay away from them.

Sami Ohlund:

I think Benning should look at acquiring a RD pre-Expansion Draft from a team with real protection issues – Minnesota and Matt Dumba would be an example. Then, exposing Myers and hope Seattle will take him. I’d like to keep MacEwen and hope he bounces back, but there is more hope for Lind to be a player, so expose MacEwen and Gadjovich.

Sandpaper:

I would protect 8 and 1.

Horvat, Elias, Brock, Miller, Pearson, Motte, Lind, Gadjovich, and Demko.

North Van Halen:

Honestly, is there a right answer? If the goal as JB states is the playoffs next year, you protect Motte and MacEwen as they have the best chance for immediate impact. If the goal is long-term success, the answer is Lind and Gadj, as they still have a small chance of being top-nine contributors when this team is ready to compete for a Cup. You could convince me Motte is more valuable long-term than either Lind or Gadj, as he is an excellent bottom-six piece but you have to know you can re-sign him. MacEwen is what he is, he’s almost 25 and I don’t think there’s any more growth there. Last season he proved he’s a 13th forward on a really bad team. Like the guy and the size, he just doesn’t process the game at a high enough level to be more than a spare part.

I can almost guarantee that if nothing changes, Lind gets protected, as losing him for nothing would make JB look bad and that’s not going to happen. My guess is they protect he and Motte and Gadj is selected but whoever it is, it will impact us as much as losing Luca Sbisa the last time: not at all.

tyhee:

The fact that we’re wondering which very flawed prospect to protect suggests it isn’t terribly important.

Goalie: Obviously Demko. The Canucks would probably be happy if Holtby is selected.

Defence: Obviously…hmmm, there’s nothing obvious here. Nate Schmidt would be protected on behalf of the Canucks by almost everyone, though there would be a few dissenters. After that, it hardly seems to matter. Myers is able to play, but it would be nice to be rid of his contract before it gets worse than it already is. Juolevi still hasn’t proven he’s able to defend a rushing forward at an NHL level. Bowey was acquired for the purpose of meeting the minimum exposure requirements.

Forward: Obviously EP40, BB, Bo, & JTM get protected. After that? There are rumours that Pearson has been promised protection and let’s assume he will be.

I would protect Motte, partly for the sake of the room and partly because if they decide later to get rid of him, he probably will have at least a little trade value at the Trade Deadline. There would be no reason to consider protecting LE, Roussel, or Beagle, all of whom are effectively exempt by virtue of their low upside and horrid contracts.

Virtanen is somewhat unlikely to be welcomed, so he’s very likely to be exposed. Highmore had the coach’s confidence but it seems to me his upside isn’t high enough to bother protecting. From MacEwen, Lind, and Gadjovich the team would protect whoever their staff thinks is most likely to provide something of value in the future. I’d go with MacEwen’s toughness, but with some reticence worrying that if Gadjovich can improve his skating to an NHL level he could develop into a regular.

Killer Marmot:

Expose Virtanen, MacEwen, and Gadjovich. I’d be delighted if Seattle picks Holtby, but I can’t see why they would.

james:

Since Van has protection spots open, they could protect a player for another team in one of the open spots and get a pick back when the player is returned. They could do it for a second round pick and to force Van to give the player back by having a clause where they pay more then the player is worth if not returned.

(Author’s note: While a creative idea, this sort of move is forbidden by league rules)

Kanuckhotep:

Yes, Bo, Brock, Petey, and JT for sure upfront. Can’t see Pearson not being protected, but I’m surprised that it is not more universally accepted that Motte would be among the protected players. Many complain that the bottom-six is not that great, but Tyler Motte is by far their most effective player in that group. Aside from Demko, of course, the remainder is all guess work for the plethora of armchair GMs on this site, including me. The D is a total mystery, but Schmidt and Myers will probably be protected. Can’t guess what Benning is going to do here to tell you the truth.

Defenceman Factory:

(Winner of the author’s weekly award for eloquence)

Before people can agree on a protection list you must first agree on the criteria used to determine the list. Lots of options. I’ve selected two: the team should not have a net loss of talent, and management of the cap now and for the foreseeable future. These criteria prioritize player value and consider the cost of replacing a player lost to expansion.

Demko, Pettersson, Miller, Boeser and Horvat get protected, leaving three forward and three D spots to decide. Motte provides a value beyond his cost and will for a few years. His effectiveness can’t be replaced for less, protect him. It would be difficult to replace Pearson with a UFA for a comparable cost. Unless certain you could land a UFA replacement, protect him. MacEwen brings some attributes, but not difficult to replace and maybe upgrade with a UFA for a comparable cost. Expose. Both Lind and Gadjovich will be cheap for at least the next few years. Protect the one most likely to become an NHL player. I think that is Lind.

Myers and Schmidt are expensive long-term. The difficulty with exposing them is they are difficult to replace with a UFA. In the absence of acquiring an alternative these two need to be protected. If exposed, there is a very high probability they will be selected. There are options for the Canucks to trade for alternatives, but there are few UFA options that won’t be worse value. Ideally, the Canucks find a more defensively-effective alternative and expose Myers. Juolevi’s contribution to date is easily replaced with a UFA. He is inexpensive, however, and will stay that way for a few years. He still has untapped upside and could prove to be very good value. Protect him.

I believe Seattle will select an NHL-proven player. There are dozens around the league in that $3-5 mil range which cannot be protected. They will also try and lever extra draft picks from teams with expansion problems, although they will have less success that Vegas in that regard.


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