WINNIPEG - Andrew Copp is a different player now than he was just one month ago.
After being re-assigned to the Jets' American Hockey League affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, back on Oct. 10, he was told it was to help round out his game, to re-discover some of that offensive flair that helped him flourish with the University of Michigan before turning pro.
As upsetting as it might have been after skipping the farm out of college and playing his entire rookie year in the NHL, Copp didn't pout. Instead, he took advantage of the opportunity in front of him, like he always has, and put his work boots on to ensure he came out on the other end a more well-rounded centreman.
The 22-year-old was off to a strong start with the Moose, recording five assists in his first eight games, and was recalled Wednesday after it was announced fellow forward Shawn Matthias would be out "some time" with a lower-body injury.
"Just the fact that I was up all year last year," Copp said of the mental challenge he faced after being sent down late in training camp. "I had to find a way to understand that it wasn't a step backwards, that it was a step to the side to take a different route to where I want to go. It wasn't a step back, I didn't get worse. Finding that comfort, I guess, with the decision, was probably the hardest part, but after the first few days, you have to refresh your mind and refresh your take. I played a lot of minutes down there and had a leadership role as well, so I had to focus on that."
Video: PRACTICE | Andrew Copp
There's no doubt he was disappointed, if not a little heartbroken, with the initial decision by the coaching staff, but having learned what he has over the past month and now getting the payoff to all the work he's been putting in down on the farm, he couldn't help but smile after a month of intense on-the-job training.
And the cherry: He's joining the team just in time for a quick trip back home to Michigan.
Copp finished the 2015-16 campaign with seven goals and 14 points - respectable numbers in a primarily fourth-line role - but eight of those (six of them goals) came in the final 21 games. The purpose of sending him down to the Moose was to help tap into that offensive game even more, a role he thrived in at the college level before turning pro.
Copp himself is a believer, and wants to prove he not only belongs at this level, but can more of an offensive threat moving forward.
"Going down will definitely help long term," he said. "You definitely have to look at it as an investment and find the positives. … I want to show that I can be more than a fourth-line centre.
"I've been playing power play, penalty kill, and being out there for important faceoffs, and that's been good for me, to get that time in. I've been pretty happy with how things went down there. I didn't score a goal but had a bunch of assists, but that flow and rhythm of the game was important for me to get into, so hopefully I can transition that to here."
Head Coach Paul Maurice, who was pleased with the player's progression on the defensive side of the puck last year, is excited to see what he's taken away from the experience over the past month.
Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice
"We're really happy with what he's done with the Moose, with the role and the ice time he's had. We're trying to put him back in the position he was in when he came out of college, which was an important two-way player that can handle the puck and make some plays and do more than just check.
"The entire year (last year) you wouldn't have had 10 clips of him making a mistake defensively. We just wanted to have more video of him making some plays (offensively)."
Matthias left last night's game late in the first period and did not return. The update today was not a positive one, as the winger will be out long term - possibly months - after being hauled down by Capitals defenceman Dmitry Orlov.
Tyler Myers, who has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury, could play on the upcoming three-game road swing, while fellow defenceman Mark Stuart (lower body) could be re-inserted as soon as tomorrow.
Julian Melchiori filled in for Stuart after being recalled yesterday, and will remain with the team as the trip kicks off tomorrow in D.C.
Forward Drew Stafford has missed the past four games with an upper-body injury and will not be available for at least the next three games, according to Maurice. He is currently on injured reserve, but is eligible to come off at any time.
With Bryan Little (lower body) out until the end of the month, the Jets will have as many as five regulars out of the lineup tomorrow against the Capitals.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com