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THE HEAT REPORT - 30.01.17

There's more to Morgan Klimchuk's development than offensive stats

by DUSTIN COWELL @dustin_cowell /

The word 'process' gets thrown around a lot in hockey.

However, in the case of Stockton Heat forward Morgan Klimchuk, the cliché rings true.

There is simply no term that better describes the 21-year-old's 97-game stint in the AHL thus far.

While his 2015-16 rookie season stat line may appear bleak to someone that never watched the 2013 first-round selection in Stockton - especially when you consider his elite scoring numbers in the WHL - it was what Klimchuk was doing away from the scoresheet that earned him trust in the locker-room with both coaches and players alike.

Klimchuk became arguably the most reliable penalty-killer in Stockton during his rookie year and by the end of the season was an integral part of the Heat's defensive zone coverage during the playoff push. 

That defensive reliability has clearly transferred into his sophomore campaign, but with one eye-popping difference - his offensive numbers.

Klimchuk has racked up 26 points in 38 games this season, putting him just behind AHL all-star Mark Jankowski for the team lead in points.

"I think it's just a mindset combined with good opportunity," Klimchuk said. "Right from the get-go this year I wanted to be a guy that produced offensively like I did in the WHL, along with being a responsible player like I was last year.

"I'm fortunate that I've been put in situations to succeed and I've played with a lot of good players here."

Certainly his extended minutes on both the penalty-kill and powerplay this season have helped in his development as a solid two-way player, but more than that Klimchuk has become the guy that coach Ryan Huska can move up and down the lineup with any combination of players to get other guys going in one way or another.

Klimchuk's progression as a player has not been lost on his teammates either, especially those that went toe-to-toe with him in junior such as Austin Carroll.

"In juniors he was always a player you had to be aware of when he was on the ice," Carroll explained. "Last year, he put in the effort and the work - he did everything right.

"He was a good pro and maybe things didn't fall into place exactly how he wanted it, but that hard work really has contributed to his success this year."

It was truly a process for Klimchuk to learn how to play at the pro level and, in his own words, he feels as if he's done that. The numbers and the proverbial 'eye-test' on him this season prove as much.

And while the goal is always to get that ticket to Calgary and pull on the flaming 'C' for the first time in his career, Klimchuk is staying focused on developing his game each day and the task at hand in Stockton.

"That's my next goal is to try to get a game in Calgary and show what I can do at that level, but for now, I'm sticking to the process and not thinking too far ahead," Klimchuk stated. "There's still a lot of hockey left and we need to get back to winning games.

"I truly believe that if you do the right things every day - come to the rink, work hard every day, get better every day - the opportunities will be there."

LAST WEEK'S HEAT: Record: 0-3-0-0; Overall: 19-16-3-1…The Heat hit the road for their first and only trip to the Midwest this past weekend for a double-header against the Milwaukee Admirals and the Grand Rapids Griffins, respectively … F Austin Carroll broke Stockton's scoreless streak at 204:12 with his third period tally against the Griffins Saturday night…G Jon Gillies stopped 37 shots in a losing effort Saturday; it was his most saves in a game since 12/20 at SJ (38 saves)…F Mark Jankowski will represent the Heat at the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic, beginning Sunday at 5:30 p.m./MT with the Skills Competition and concluding Monday at 5:00 p.m./MT with the All-Star Challenge.


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