#18 Morgan Klimchuk
Team: Stockton Heat
Drafted: 28th Overall in 2013 (Round 1)
Morgan Klimchuk: the last remnant of the Jarome Iginla trade. With Ben Hanowski and Kenny Agostino being shown the door following their entry-level contracts, the 2013 first rounder the Pittsburgh Penguins traded to the Flames is all that the team has left from the big trade. If you had been told all the Flames would have left three years later after trading Jarome Iginla was a 21-year-old prospect with 3 goals and 6 assists in 55 games, you probably would not have believed it. You also would have not been too excited. However, the sky has not fallen, there are still reasons to believe in the future of Morgan Klimchuk in this organization.
After being drafted 28th overall, Klimchuk had two more solid junior seasons, putting up 74 points in 57 games and 80 points in 60 games. This past year, he made the jump to the professional ranks with Stockton. I think it is fair to say Klimchuk had a bit of difficulty carrying his offensive game over to the AHL. 3 goals in 55 games must be a very tough experience for a player used to being an offensive catalyst in junior. However, Klimchuk has been known since he was drafted for his 2-way game and he continued to develop his defensive game in the AHL, often playing on a shutdown line of sorts. This left Klimchuk with some line mates that were not so gifted offensively, which likely was a contribution to his lack of success finding the back of the net.
I managed to catch a couple of Stockton games live near the end of this past season and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by Klimchuk. While he did not show up on the score sheet, he showed off smooth skating, made strong defensive plays and was regularly deployed on the penalty-kill. It is tough to see at this point whether he will ever be a scorer in the NHL level, but he has a good shot at being a solid 2-way winger on a checking line.
The next step for Klimchuk will be to see if he can bring his offensive game to the AHL. With the mass exodus of players from Stockton this past season, there should be more room for Klimchuk to have offensive opportunities alongside more skilled players. This is where we will see whether Klimchuk can be a scorer in the professional ranks, or if he will need to rely on his defensive game to make it to the next level. Either way, he is still a young prospect and there is a lot of time left for Klimchuk to make an impression.