Welcome Jordan, come on in and make yourself comfortable. Hope you didn't hit too much traffic on your way up from Prior Lake. It must really be nice to play in your hometown - you've had a terrific career playing hockey in Minnesota. We've been really happy to have you in the organization even though things may not have gone entirely as expected. But this was a contract year for you, and we'd like to take a look back at what has transpired since you came over and what the future may hold for you in the Wild organization if we find some common ground to make another contract.
Taking a look back through your accomplishments before turning pro, you've made quite the name for yourself amongst Minnesota hockey players. From St. Thomas Academy to the National Team Development program, you had very successful youth years, winning a bronze and silver medal with the development team. You would go on to win the WCHA Rookie of the year honors in 2009 playing for your University of Minnesota Golden Gophers after scoring 45 points in 33 games as the youngest member of that team. You were drafted 22nd overall that year by the Canucks, but would return to play one more season at the U and help the US earn a gold medal at the World Junior Classic in 2010. You were also recently called upon to join team USA for this year's World Championship and are skating on a line with Auston Matthews.
The transition to professional hockey hasn't been quite as smooth as it was from High School into college. Since turning pro in 2011, you've mostly bounced around the AHL as your parent club switched affiliations but you've had a few cups of tea at the NHL level. There were a couple of injuries that impacted your ability to play for the Canucks, and they did not re-sign you after your entry-level contract expired, and that's when you came home. You recognized an organizational opportunity for scoring and we recognized a player that needed a fresh start. You've been a very productive member of our AHL club, but we haven't quite figured out if you are truly an NHL player.
You've got a nice toolset. You're mobile and incredibly speedy. You turned our heads when we first put you in our NHL lineup last year and we saw that you are every bit as fast as Jason Zucker and Erik Haula, which dazzled us. You became a trusted scoring threat for us in Iowa and were near the top of the team for point productivity there. But, the fact still remains that you've never scored more than 9 points in an NHL season. We know that your best looks in the NHL have come when you've drawn into a top-6 role while replacing an injured player, as your speed and offensive instincts click with top players and your speed can be a difference maker on a line like that. However, we haven't been very impressed with your play in a bottom-6 checking type of role and the fact of that matter is that you haven't showed us enough to believe that you will ever be better than a bottom-6 player at the NHL level. The only way you will be given the opportunity to play in the top-6 is if you earn your way to the top by dominating your role in the bottom-6 when the opportunity presents itself.
This past season was a step back for you in the NHL. We were most impressed with you during your first call to Minnesota in 2014-15. You played 25 games and put up 8 points. Last year you quietly snuck in and played 26 games, which yielded just 4 points. Simply put, with your small stature, the only way you are truly valuable to this team is if you are putting points on the board. You don't give us much of a physical presence and aren't yet an NHL-caliber penalty killer. However, we still see a bunch of upside if you can continue to put your tools together and truly buy into our system.
Expectations For Next Year
Jordan, let's be honest. We can't offer you a guaranteed spot in Minnesota. But you're a strong contributor in Iowa and we like the experience and flexibility you can bring when forwards are hurt. We love having you be available as a first call-up. You haven't earned the biggest contract in the universe, so we will definitely be able to work out a deal for you if you can accept this role and use that as motivation to take your game to the next level. We'd love to have your leadership in Iowa and have you available when the inevitable injuries pop up. You're a Minnesota guy, and it makes a lot of sense for you to continue your career in the State of Hockey, but we would understand if you left to pursue a full-time NHL job.
1. Show us who you really are as a player at the World Championship. You're skating with phenom Auston Matthews and should be able to put up a bunch of points. Don't be invisible on the score sheet.
2. Get close with the new coaching staff. If you can learn the systems faster than everyone else, there might be room for you as the 13th forward in Minnesota.
3. Go see Diane Ness and keep focusing on your skating. It's your biggest strength, don't stop cultivating it.