While free agency opened less than one week ago, the Winnipeg Jets haven’t wasted any time strengthening its roster by making a flurry of moves, including re-signing forward Mason Appleton to a two-year, $1.8 million contract. As a result, neither side will be forced to experience the grueling arbitration process.

Entering his third season in the NHL, Appleton is hopeful his hard work over the summer – critiquing his quickness and improving his physicality – will allow him to take his game to the next level in 2021. If he’s successful, the 24-year old believes those areas of his game should assist him in developing into a more complete and polished player.

“I think at this point in my career it’s kind of more so rounding out my game and becoming that complete player that plays a consistent game night in and night out,” Appleton explained. “So I think this summer I focused on a couple of specific things, lateral movement being one, just being quick out of the corner with the puck, and being strong on the puck there because with my frame I think I can play that game below the goal line – we can dominate down there, have a lot of puck possession and not let top lines on the other team touch the puck.

“So I think staying over pucks and being quick in the corners is just something that I’m definitely getting better at.”

Considering Appleton has played a combined 82 games in the NHL over the last two seasons, the 6-foot-2 center has gained some much-needed confidence during that span, which has positioned him in a much better spot to perform effectively when Winnipeg’s training camp opens this winter. Unlike in previous seasons, the right-hander admitted his confidence is extremely high and he can’t wait to return to the ice later this year.

“Confidence is everything in sports and when you’re trying to make an NHL club, you don’t have that confidence right away no matter what type of player you are, you got to go and earn that and that’s through games played and spending time in the league,” Appleton discussed. “So I think heading into this training camp I’m much more comfortable, I feel much better about my game and where it’s headed. So like I said confidence is everything and my confidence is high right now and I’m excited for camp.”

Over his 46 games with the Jets in 2019-20, Appleton averaged a career-high 11:10 minutes of ice time, producing five goals, eight points, 55 shots on net, 20 hits, 12 blocks, 11 takeaways, along with a 38.5% faceoff percentage. If not for a shoulder injury, the former sixth-round pick would’ve been able to make a larger contribution to his team during their brief playoff run but his postseason ended after just one game.

While the Wisconsin native will likely be considered a bottom-six forward heading into next season, he’s extremely excited about the addition of forward Paul Stastny and believes the former Golden Knight can help fill a massive hole on the Jets’ second line and power-play unit.

“It’s really big, I think he [Paul Stastny] fills that second-line center role when he can make the players around him a lot better,” Appleton detailed. “He has a ton of poise and moxie in his game and he can make plays not a lot of guys can see. So I think he’s going to be really good in that role and on the power play he can thrive as well. So I think you’ll see that player that you saw when he was with the Jets a couple of years ago. He’s going to be very effective in that role he’s going to be a big part of our offensive scheme.”