The Lake Erie Monsters advanced to the Western Conference final on Monday night for the first time in franchise history.
And forward Kerby Rychel, who had the lone Monsters goal in Saturday’s fifth game of Round 2, was a huge factor.
“He’s been pretty good in the playoffs,” Monsters head coach Jared Bednar told BlueJackets.com. “I like his details. He’s working hard. I loved his goal. He arrives in d-zone coverage, makes a smart play on the breakout and then (it’s like) he was shot out of a cannon straight to their net.”
Saturday’s goal was just Rychel’s first goal of the post season (he also has an assist in this series), but his offensive production was significant in the 37 regular season games he played with the Monsters this year, boding well for his ability to contribute.
Amidst five recalls to the Blue Jackets while with Lake Erie, Rychel scored six goals and 21 assists at the AHL level this season.
Those numbers belie the fact that Rychel, according to ahl.prospect-stats.com, was first among all Monsters players (with 20 games or more) in terms of points per game with .730, and first in primary points per game (goals plus primary assists) with .568.
That means when Rychel was on the ice during the regular season, he created goals both by putting the puck in the net or directly getting it to a teammate who did, and did so at the fastest rate among all Monsters players in all situations.
As for when he’s creating chances for others, Rychel’s primary assist rate per game at even strength was .297 - good enough for first on the Monsters roster and also ranked eighth overall in the AHL for players with 20 games or more.
The challenge is to continue that level of play in the playoffs, starting with the series win against Grand Rapids.
Rychel earned four assists in the five regular season games he played against the Griffins, and the Monsters had a 5-3-3-1 series record in the series overall.
“There are no secrets out there,” Rychel said. “There’s a lot of inter-competition between guys when you play that much and line up against the same guys time after time. You get grudges, but you can’t let that affect the way you play.”
Get complete Monsters playoff coverage on BlueJackets.com!
And for Bednar, who wants to see his team show the same physical, battle-driven style its displayed all season, Rychel’s performance in Game 5 was a good sign; his goal came in a game where his three shots slightly exceeded his regular season average of 2.378 shots per game.
“He’s getting chances,” Bednar said. “When he’s doing those things and taking pucks to the net, he’s going to be a noticeable guy. He’s doing things right coming back in our end, as well, just like he did on the goal.”
Stats courtesy of ahl.prospect-stats.com