Moments after being selected third overall by the rebuilding Moncton Wildcats in the 2017 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Entry Draft, Jakob Pelletier looked straight into the Rogers TV cameras and said.
“I’m a winner, and that’s what I’m going to bring to Moncton and we are going to win!”
The spotlight has never intimidated Jakob Pelletier, it’s followed him throughout his entire career.
The diminutive exceptionally intelligent and gifted scoring forward has not only carried the Moncton Wildcats back to respectability, but he’s also become one of the most complete players and leaders in the entire QMJHL.
In the biggest year of his life, Jakob Pelletier had a career year.
In three short weeks, Jakob Pelletier will be in front of the camera yet again this time under the bright lights of the NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver.
Jakob Pelletier wasn’t supposed to be a Moncton Wildcat.
The organization had every intention of selecting hockey’s next phenom Alexis Lafreniere with the first pick overall in the 2017 QMJHL Entry Draft.
The blueprint of the Cats rebuild took a massive hit when they subsequently lost the draft lottery and fell all the way to the third selection or did it?
There were also rumblings at the time that the restructuring Wildcats were also shopping the pick to acquire young roster players to expedite the rebuild process.
Questions surrounding Jakob Pelletier’s size and physicality were being thrown around like a Major League baseball batting practice session.
All the critics were slugging away. ‘He’s too small.’ ‘He’s not fast enough.’ ‘He can’t handle the physicality at the next level.’
The highest drafted player chosen by the Wildcats in almost a decade, proved all the critics wrong.
At 5”8, 154 pounds the then 16-year-old shouldered the load and established himself as a solid two-way presence instantly gaining the trust of then Wildcats Head Coach Darren Rumble.
Pelletier’s unwavering enthusiasm, character and pride was infectious. The young highly skilled forward not only engaged in one on one battles, he welcomed them. Pelletier’s unique offensive instincts, defensive accountability and high hockey IQ propelled him into a Top 6 role, which saw him play in every situation.
In 60 regular season games Pelletier scored 23 goals and added 38 assists. His outstanding rookie season continued where the small highly skilled winger added 2 goals in 3 assists in 10 games.
Two years into his Q career, Pelletier continues to show no fear when it comes to the dirty areas of the ice, embracing the nightly challenge of facing bigger and stronger opponents.
Pelletier boasts breakaway speed and an explosive first step, which in turn makes him very elusive in open ice. He will have to continue to work hard on his strength and conditioning in hopes of improving his speed, edge control and balance especially in one on one battles at the next level.
Pelletier’s proficiency to read the play as it develops and the uncanny ability to judge time and space while controlling the puck in traffic at top speed are all indicators that he can become a solid pro.
In his sophomore season and arguably the biggest of his career, the diminutive forward lite the lamp 39 times while adding 50 assists for 89 points in 65 games.
So did the kid from Quebec City, ever imagine that he would have this big of an impact on the organization?
“No, not at all,” confessed Pelletier.
“I just came to Moncton and tried to play every game the hardest I could, that was my focus.”
“I tried to stick to the player I am and everything as gone well,” explained Pelletier.
The star winger was limited to only seven playoffs due to injury this season.
“I have no regrets at all,” Pelletier said.
“We had a good year and a good playoff run.”
“Obviously it wasn’t the result we wanted, but it’s part of life. We are going to come back stronger next season.”
Pelletier is trying to learn as much as he can during his time with the Wildcats.
“I learned this year that if I stick to the simple things and stay the person and player I am, everything we be alright.”
New Coach, Same Reliable Player
When former NHL bench boss John Torchetti arrived in the Hub City, he inherited a team with no identity, lacking fitness, consistency and pace to their game.
Torchettil had his work cut out for him, there’s no question about that.
The one player he didn’t have to worry about was Jakob Pelletier.
Under Darren Rumble the Cats forward group were often thrown into a blender and expected to work it and find chemistry.
The blender was operational quite frequently when the team struggled or certain players were going. The one constant during that time period was Rumble’s top line of Mika Cyr, Jakob Pelletier and Jermey McKenna.
That trio have amazing chemistry and are one the best lines in the QMJHL when firing on all cylinders. Nevertheless, as soon as Torchetti took over he broke the line up in hopes of balancing out the line up and getting the most out of Russian import star Alexander Khovanov.
Torchetti’s plan worked, but really it wouldn’t matter who you put Pelletier with he’s going to make everyone better.
“I adapted really well,” Pelletier said of the coaching change.
“John is a really good coach and we are really lucky to have him.”
“His experience is going to help us for the future.”
Pelletier has the ability to morph his style of play and adapt to any linemate.
So what impression did Pelletier have on the Wildcats new bench and Director of Hockey Operations.
“Jakob is very mature for his age, takes direction very well and had the team prepared for practice every day,” Torchetti said of his Assistant Captain.
“He has an incredible personality and was a sponge in individual and team meetings and brought what he learned onto the ice,” Torchetti added.
“Jakob comes to work everyday wanting to get better on and off the ice. He trains very hard on his conditioning. His biggest strengths are his work ethic, leadership and compete level,” explained Torchetti.
“He’s captain material on and off the ice.”
Pelletier is hands down one of the most complete two-way forwards in the QMJHL.
Nonetheless, Torchetti continued to refine Pelletier’s game and wanted his star winger to be more consistent shift in, shift out.
“The last twenty-five games Jakob was more consistent every shift and was very efficient for our team.”
There’s not a lot of weaknesses in Pelletier’s game, however Torchetti would like to see the skilled winger continue to work on and improve his decision making when at top speed especially when entering the offensive zone.
When it comes to NHL comparisons, Torchetti compares his first liner to Tampa Bay Lightning forwards Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli.
It’s clear that the highly skilled gritty wingers skill set can definitely translate into the pro game.
“Pretty cool and really exciting.”
That’s how Jakob Pelletier describes meeting NHL Scouts and team representatives this season.
Other players in that situation may not describe the experience that way, but for Jakob Pelletier that’s just the way he confronts, copes and handles pressure.
“I can’t believe I am already there,” admitted Pelletier of being in his draft year.
“I feel like I am still in Pee-Wee.”
Pelletier put up career highs in every statically category, grew as a leader, represented his country in two international events, represented the league at the QMJHL vs Russia Series and attended the CHL/NHL Top Prospects game.
One would say that’s a pretty successful season.
What do the NHL Scouts think?
“Jakob is a smart hockey player he has a high hockey IQ which offsets a lack of high end pace often necessary for a smaller player,” said one NHL Scout.
“However, he is quick in short races partly through his high intellect and partly because when he is on his game he plays on his toes. He readily competes in the high traffic areas and his quick stick, quick hands make him dangerous in those areas,” they added.
“He has strong character, Captain like material and a team first, all in player.”
“He’s a Top 9 player at the next level, he can kill penalties, has enough skill and grit to play PP and has good enough details in his game to play late in games with the coaches trust. Pelletier is a good pick at the right spot.”
“I think Jakob will go in the 25-35 range,” another NHL Scout said.
“His best assets are his hockey sense and work ethic.”
“He has grit and goes into dirty areas to score.”
“Jakob drives the play from the wing which is not so common, he’s a player that wins a lot of one on one battles for his size.”
“Pelletier’s leadership and energy will be a valuable asset for the team that drafts him.”
“Jakob’s high hockey IQ makes him an interesting prospect,” said another NHL Scout.
“His compete level overcomes his size questions. Don’t see him making it past second round and has a chance to go late first round.”
“Jakob checks all of the boxes as far as his skill, character and compete.”
“I believe that his speed and compete will be true difference makers for him and allow him to play at the NHL level,” said one Eastern Conference based team’s scout said.
“Obviously, size is a concern, but his other attributes make you less concerned, I see him going early to mid second round,” he added.
Clearly Pelletier didn’t feel any added pressure by the magnitude of his draft year and if he did the highly skilled cerebral forward didn’t show it.
“I think I handled it well.” Pelletier said.
“I didn’t put pressure on myself to try to do more or be a player I am not.”
“I worked hard all year long and I didn’t really think about the fact that was my draft year.”
“I wanted to be the same type of player that I always have been.”
Pelletier isn’t downplaying the importance of the moment or year especially what it will mean to him and his family to be drafted into the NHL.
“My family have been a big part of my career, they always supported me and I am thankful for that.”
“We are very humble and we always worked hard for everything in life,” confessed Pelletier.
The bright lights of the NHL will soon be shining Jakob Pelletier, he’s used to the spotlight, he’s played his in entire career in it!