Over 33 games, the young forward has been seeing his ice time diminish to the point of being discernible only with the use of sophisticated optics. In his last 13 games, he’s been on the ice at least 10 minutes three times. Last night, against Montreal, he saw what might have been his low point as an NHL player. He was on the ice for two shifts and was apparently benched for the night after taking a hooking penalty at the 7:50 mark of the first period. Only a single takeaway otherwise contributed to his scoresheet line for the evening.
It isn’t as if he’s played especially badly in the last month – one in which his ice time has decreased precipitously – but he hasn’t really asserted himself in a manner commensurate with his skill. From the stands, it’s hard to tell if he’s coasting or becoming timid. But, he is largely a transparent figure on the ice. A player of his offensive upside should be making more than an impact than having more than one shot on goal only three times since Thanksgiving. And, he seems to have a propensity for taking the lazy penalty. If you look at his PIMs, they are not of a high volume on their own (24 minutes overall), but of the 12 minors he’s taken this year in his 33 games, seven are for hooking (as was last night’s apparent “here’s your wake up call, kid” penalty). Three have been for holding and the other two for interference.
Enough time has passed in the new scheme of things in the league where persistently drawing these kinds infractions should have come to an end. That they haven’t is unfortunate, because the young man’s whole game right now just looks like a mess, and he’s a better player than that.
Is there a trip to Hershey in his near future? Well, it wouldn’t be the worst thing for him, similar to sending a young hitting prospect down to the minors so he can find his swing and get his head screwed back on.
But something has to give. Klepis has too much to contribute in the long term to this club for this to continue much longer.