Winnipeger chases his NHL dream with Hershey Bears
WINNIPEG — Finding Jacob Micflikier, other than in the deep slot attempting to deflect a blue-line drive or pouncing on a rebound near the crease, took a little detective work this season.
Last year, the 27-year-old forward spent time with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League (AHL) after stints with the Springfield Falcons, Rochester Americans and Albany River Rats.
It turned out that during the summer, the Jewish Winnipeg-born skater was signed to a one-year, two-way deal with the NHL Washington Capitals and is currently skating with their number 1 farm team, the Hershey Bears, who have captured the Calder Cup in three of the past six seasons.
According to Micflikier’s mother, Riva, Jacob left the North Carolina team after a breakout season last year in which he scored 29 goals and had 32 assists.
As far as hockey matters are concerned, things are indeed looking up for the 5-foot-8, 180-pound skater who, like so many others of his ilk, wants to continue living the dream.
“His goal has always been to get to the NHL, and when the opportunity presented itself this summer with a two-way contract with the Washington Capitals, he took it. It’s the first one he has ever had,” Riva said.
“At least they recognized his ability and what he brings. They were willing to give him a vote of confidence by offering the two-way deal,” Riva said. If he sticks with the Caps, he would get an NHL salary. He receives a lesser amount for playing in the AHL with the Bears.
“The scenario is that he did well at camp and he’s now in the mix to be available for call-up,” Riva said. “Jacob thinks he’ll still get a shot. The Carolina Hurricanes [Charlotte’s parent club] would have re-signed him, but only to a one-way and he wasn’t interested.
“He got to play in his first NHL game. It was a pre-season one against the Blue Jackets and I was there,” she said. “He and I drove the 28 to 30 hours by car to Arlington, Va., where Washington’s training facility is.
“It gave Jacob an extra driver, and he knew I wanted to do the tourist thing. The day that I was going to leave, he was told that he was going to play in Columbus, so I just changed my going-home plans.
“I left him with the car and all of his belongings and flew home. That’s what hockey players do. They’re nomads. They take all their stuff and they go and stay in a hotel until they get the magic letter that tells them where they can go to find themselves accommodations,” Riva stated.
I asked Riva whether, following his four-year stint at the University of New Hampshire, where he notched 58 goals and added 92 assists in 154 NCAA games, if Micflikier was upset when he wasn’t selected by a NHL organization in his draft year.
“Any player would be disappointed if he isn’t drafted. There is a certain difference in perception when you don’t get drafted. If you’re not, you carry that [label] and have to fight your way every time,” explained the hockey-wise mom.
Beginning in 2001-02, Micflikier played two seasons in the United States Hockey League with the Sioux Falls Stampede, followed by four outstanding years at the University of New Hampshire with the Wildcats. He then took his skills to the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) with Stockton Thunder and the Florida Everblades, before moving over to the AHL.
Riva was also very knowledgeable in terms of her son’s style of game, which had obviously been noticed by the powers that be in Washington.
“Last year, Jacob found a home in front of the net, and he was very strong there, and it didn’t matter if he wasn’t one of the taller players,” she said. “He exercised… his right to be there. They call it the ‘greasy’ or ‘dirty area’ and a lot of his goals came by deflections. You always have to be ready to come to camp. He’s solid and very strong for his size. He works out even in the off-season.”
Last season Micflikier’s Checkers ousted Hershey in the first round of the playoffs. His Hershey coach, Mark French, has so far been very impressed with what he has seen of the feisty Micflikier. He likes that the left-handed shooter is versatile and can play either wing or centre, kill penalties and work on the power play.
How well is the former MVP and assistant captain at New Hampshire doing this early in the season playing with Hershey? Sweet, you might say. After 17 games, he has eight goals and 12 assists, good for eighth in league scoring.