by Jesse Eisenberg || AHL On The Beat Archive
Following an impressive showing at Albany River Rats training camp earlier this season, undrafted winger Jacob Micflikier was given news that had become all too familiar during his previous three professional campaigns.
“He played well in training camp, but at the beginning of the year we got caught in a numbers situation where we had some other guys here that needed to play,” explained River Rats head coach and general manager Jeff Daniels.
Micflikier had signed a one-year deal with his third franchise in as many years, and was once again among the final players to be loaned to the ECHL before opening night.
“The numbers game is part of hockey, and that’s something I’ve had to deal with,” said Micflikier. “Not being a draft pick, I’ve had to come in and work my way into every organization I’ve played for.”
What followed this disappointing, but by now routine start to the season was equally familiar for the Winnipeg, Man., native. After a dominant stint with the Florida Everblades, in which he earned the ECHL’s Player of the Month award with a staggering 32 points (nine goals, 23 assists) in 16 October games, Micflikier rejoined his AHL club and quickly became a regular in the lineup.
“Each of the last three years I’ve started out in the Coast and worked my way back up, and each time I’ve gotten more comfortable in the AHL,” said Micflikier. “I’ve been a little bit more confident and more assured of myself this year. I’ve got the confidence of my teammates and the coaching staff behind me to know that I can stick here and that I’ll be here for the rest of the year.”
Micflikier hasn’t yet equaled his gaudy ECHL stat-line with the River Rats, but his 14 points (six goals, eight assists) through 19 games with Albany mark the team’s third highest points per game average (0.74) this year.
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“He’s shown that he can play at this level and that he can produce at this level,” said Daniels. “He puts points on the board and he’s a worker. He knows that he can’t afford to take a day off or a shift off. He’s in a situation where he always has to prove somebody wrong and he’s definitely doing that now.”
The burden of having to prove himself is familiar territory for Micflikier, who has always had to substantiate his worth on the ice.
“I thought about juniors where I had some opportunities to play in the WHL, but I knew my size was going to be a factor and I didn’t know what kind of career hockey would hold for me, so I figured I’d play it safe and take the collegiate route to get my education first and have something to fall back on. I was fortunate enough to finish school and have the chance to play professionally.”
His decision to “play it safe” may have actually helped the University of New Hampshire graduate’s pro hockey career.
“I thought that growth spurt was going to come at a later age, but it never showed up,” said the 25-year-old with a laugh. “I’ve managed to somehow stay smaller than everybody else out there.”
“I came into professional hockey a little bit older than most of the guys coming out of juniors, so I had a little more experience in that sense,” said Micflikier. “At the same time, I think it gave me a different perspective on life. It helped pave the way for who I am today.”
Now three years out of college, the undersized spark plug has finally seen the numbers game work in his favor.
“We’ve got a lot of guys up in Carolina or hurt (in Albany) and we need guys to be flexible and be able to move from line to line or switch from position to position, and he’s done that seamlessly, while continuing to produce for us.” said Daniels.
“I’ve played with a lot of different guys here, so it’s a matter of every game, finding a little bit of chemistry with each guy,” Micflikier added. “There are enough good players around here that chemistry is going to happen sooner or later. You just try to feed off of each other and know where each other are going to be. It’s been working out well and we’ve been producing.”
Another season, another team that has been won-over for the diminutive winger, who doesn’t bother guessing whether next season will be another case of déjà vu.
“I wake up every day and try to figure out what that day’s going to hold for me, and then go from there. I never know what’s going to happen, so I’m just enjoying it as it comes right now and having fun with it.”
In the mean time, Micflikier is content to continue improving Albany’s chances of another winning season.