Jonathan Huberdeau helping rookie Jakob Pelletier feel right at home with Flames

Jonathan Huberdeau helping rookie Jakob Pelletier feel right at home with Flames


Jonathan Huberdeau has consistently continued his encouragement.

In his chats with rookie teammate Jakob Pelletier, the message is always the same.

“I just tell him every day, ‘Keep working hard.'”

Actually more like: “Continuer de travailler fort.”

Huberdeau and Pelletier are both from the province of Quebec. Despite an eight-year age difference, the Calgary Flames forwards formed an instant bond.

“The boys laughed – ‘Oh, another Frenchman.’ I said, ‘Finally, it’s about time we got a Frenchman again!’” Huberdeau beamed. “It feels good to speak a little French. He’s a great kid and of course I want to take care of him, come in and make sure he’s comfortable here. And the games he’s played, he’s playing well.”

In fact, Pelletier makes a positive impression.

The 21-year-old left winger was one of the few bright spots in Thursday’s embarrassing loss to the Chicago Blackhawks when he scored a midgame promotion to skate on the third and then second row. The recent call-up spent a stretch with Mikael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane. By the end of the night, he was working with Huberdeau and All-Star center Nazem Kadri.

“We also talk a lot on the bench. He’s always like, ‘Hey, Pelts, keep it up. You’re playing well,'” Pelletier said of Huberdeau, providing an example of Monday’s emotional win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. “I remember we had a bad shift on the second shift and when I got to the bank he was like, ‘Hey man, you don’t have to worry.'”

Pelletier, of course, tried to tell himself the same thing. As a newcomer to the NHL, it takes convincing.

“But from him it’s like, ‘Oh, ok man. You’re right, man, you’re right’” he grinned. “It’s good for a young man like me to have someone to look out for.”

Huberdeau, 29, insists this is nothing out of the ordinary.

It can be intimidating for an aspiring player to stroll into a major league locker room. They were all there. Huberdeau is quick to point out that he’s far from the only mainstay of the Flames – “the big boys,” as Pelletier respectfully calls them – and is keen to make every newcomer feel welcome.

“It’s not an obligation,” protested Huberdeau, now in his first campaign in Calgary after a decade with the Florida Panthers. “As a young man, you always have a man trying to help you. I think every veteran does that. And you kind of pick a guy. Suppose a new Swede came along, Backs took him under his wing, and you try to do the same.

“When I was young, (Roberto) Luongo was there for me. guys try to help you. You come here with a lot of pressure on you, so I think it’s just about keeping you calm. I said to Jakob: “Keep playing your game. You must do that. That’s why you got drafted and that’s why you played well.’”

There is a lot of excitement in the C of Red about Pelletier, a first-round pick in 2019 and a prospect who has produced a point-a-game clip in the minors.

It seems that the boss is also intrigued. While Darryl Sutter’s comments — or lack thereof — were a shut-up after Pelletier’s debut spin, the hard-to-please head coach offered quite a few praises earlier this week.

“I know Pelts is 21 and it’s a tough thing, but this kid has a lot of things to add (to the team),” Sutter said. “He has the pace. He’s got the IQ. He’s got a good puck game, things like that. He’s going to go to another level, this boy.”

Huberdeau hopes for tutoring.

Ahead of Friday’s away game with the Seattle Kraken, the Flames’ last game before their break, you can bet the ace playmaker would remind his rookie pal, “Continuer de travailler fort.”

Pelletier, as enthusiastic as they come, is still in pinch-me mode for that kind of endorsement from a bonafide superstar. While it wouldn’t come as a shock if he was transferred to the Farm Club during the farewell, he proves why he’s a big part of the Saddledome plans. With Huberdeau already inking a cap extension, these Quebecers could be pals for years to come.

That was probably beyond Pelletier’s wildest dreams when he first caught sight of Huberdeau as a popcorn-munching tot during a major-junior promotion in Quebec City.

“He played at the Q with the Saint John Sea Dogs and he was amazing. He was the best player,” Pelletier recalled. “And then he also went to the Memorial Cup. I was like, ‘Man, this guy is so good.’ And then I watched him with the Panthers and just the passes he makes well, sometimes I’m not sure how he sees a guy there. It’s just crazy.

“Just being on the same team as him is incredible. It’s nice to talk to him. The fact that he’s kind of helping me and not reassuring me but saying, ‘It’s part of the process’ was pretty awesome.”

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