by Scott Stuccio || AHL On The Beat Archive
It is rare to have a number of players on a club roster possess multiple roles in their games. After watching one of his newest offseason additions go through the first few days of training camp in September, Hershey Bears head coach Mark French was asked what kind of role he expected forward Jacob Micflikier to assume.
“We won’t see too many players with multiple roles, especially on special teams, doing both power play and penalty kill,” French said in a pre-season interview. “I’m just surmising what our lineup might end up looking like. I see him more as a power play player than a PK guy. But again, we’re still learning what he can do.”
French’s prognostication was about as spot-on as you can get, and there wasn’t much more learning to do after seeing Micflikier as an opponent.
After finishing second in goal scoring (29) on the 2010-11 Charlotte Checkers and after a 61-point regular season, the Winnipeg native and his teammates went on a wild postseason ride, beginning with dismissing some of his current Bears teammates in six games in the 2011 East Division Semifinals.
The Checkers then eliminated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the division finals with a thrilling 4-3 Game Six win, one in which the team erased a 3-0 deficit early in the third period. The ride ended with an overtime loss to the eventual champion Binghamton Senators, who completed a four-game sweep on May 18.
With high-powered forwards Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk, Zac Dalpe, Brett Sutter and Chris Terry taking up a large portion of the Checkers’ top scoring lines, Micflikier actually ended up being scratched for the Checkers’ East Division Finals clincher in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Now he has found himself on the top two lines of French’s game plans, and he has not disappointed.
Fans that were at Giant Center for the Bears’ pre-season finale against Binghamton on Oct. 3 got a first glance at Micflikier’s signature goal celebration, after he scored 1:37 into overtime to cap off a very late three-goal comeback.
They’ve seen it eight times already this year, either at home or on video. He has added 12 assists for a total of 20 points entering the weekend, and is well on pace to bypass his production from last season.
“You look at the dynamic of the team before the season started and those were guys that were really going to be counted on,” Micflikier said. “Any time you lose big guns like that who have a history in this league of being productive and doing well, it’s tough to lose them early in the year and lose that rhythm that we would have had. We’re looking forward to getting them back but in the meantime we’ve got guys that are stepping up. For me, it’s helped out in determining more of a role for myself, but those are big shoes to fill.”
Micflikier has filled those shoes admirably. He has climbed to the top of the American Hockey League in power-play points (4-8-12), acknowledging French’s early-season prediction and showing the value he has to a Bears club that has been without power-play specialist Potulny since the second game of the season.
He also comes into this weekend’s play tied for eighth in the AHL scoring race.
The 5-foot-8, 180-pound forward also has registered three separate three-point games over his first 17, after registering three all of last season. Helping the cause was his time spent on a variety of lines during the first two months of 2011-12. Micflikier has been paired with rookie Cody Eakin, with forward Christian Hanson, and with steady veteran Graham Mink.
But the one teammate who has been a steady part of Micflikier’s success is no surprise -– team captain Boyd Kane.
“It’s an interesting dynamic we have going,” Micflikier related. “Kaner has some really good experience and some real grit about him. He always fights through plays and battles, and gets the puck loose all the time. It makes it easy for me to follow plays up and finish them.”
Micflikier has definitely won fans over in Chocoloatetown, and it isn’t hard to do when you’re finishing as many plays as he has. While he can occasionally be found standing over a teammate trying to distract him during a locker room interview, or hamming it up as one of the Bears’ “Movember” advocates, he is a genuinely super human being who is still getting better.
And he felt at ease the moment he stepped into Giant Center as one of Hershey’s own, after seasons of being the opponent.
“It was a little different knowing that your team is the one that ended last season for some of these guys,” he recalled from earlier in the season. “It was kind of a tough thing to think that you might have to walk into, but it’s been great so far, and I’ve been comfortable.”