Calgary Flames rookie forward Jakob Pelletier is out indefinitely after sustaining a left shoulder injury during a preseason game Monday against the Seattle Kraken, according to a team announcement. The 22-year-old will undergo shoulder surgery next week.
Pelletier sustained the injury late in the first period on a hit from behind from Kraken winger Marian Studenic, who received a boarding major and game misconduct on the play. He was able to skate off under his own power but was favoring his upper body.
Calgary’s 26th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, Pelletier made his NHL debut last season after earning AHL All-Rookie Team honors in 2021-22. Skating in 24 contests with the Flames, the Québec City-born winger notched three goals and four assists for seven points. He fell two games short of losing his Calder Trophy eligibility for 2023-24.
Pelletier’s minor-league play since turning pro in 2021 has been simply outstanding, recording 43 goals and 56 points for 99 points in 101 games. That production, plus a decent NHL showing despite clashing with head coach Darryl Sutter last season, was expected to earn him a spot in Calgary’s new-look opening-night lineup under rookie NHL head coach Ryan Huska. Now, unfortunately, it seems that won’t be the case.
His absence from the opening night lineup could open up a spot for journeyman Dryden Hunt on the fourth line. Hunt, 27, had quite the whirlwind season last year, spending time under contract with four NHL organizations (New York Rangers, Colorado Avalanche, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Calgary). He didn’t dress in any NHL action for the Flames, reporting to the AHL’s Wranglers after acquiring him via trade from Toronto, but he did impress in the minors with 15 points in 17 games. He has 202 games of NHL experience to his name and plays with some speed and tenacity that could make him an attractive fourth-line fit, presumably alongside Kevin Rooney and Walker Duehr.
Given Pelletier’s unique status as a rookie but having logged significant NHL action last season, his cap hit will not be zeroed out should Calgary place him on season-opening injured reserve as would be the case with many other rookie players on two-way deals. Instead, because he played less than 50 games last season, his cap hit if placed on SOIR will be reduced from $863K to $406K, per PuckPedia. $406K would also be the amount of cap relief given if Calgary instead placed him on long-term injured reserve, assuming they determine Pelletier will miss the ten games and 24 days required for such a move. That could be impactful savings early on for a team without the salary cap flexibility to carry a full 23-man roster.