SANDRA PRUSINA – 01.30.2023
Next man up.
It’s one of those sports clichés trotted out from time to time. But when it comes to the American Hockey League, it surely could be its motto.
One of the challenges of coaching in the AHL is that you’re at the big club’s mercy. An injury to the blueline? Your phone is ringing. A trade is made? You’re adjusting your lines.
It’s been impressive to watch the Wranglers’ coaching staff adjust to call-ups and injuries while maintaining a successful record and nurturing the development of the players looking to take the next step.
Look no further than Ben Jones. The 23-year-old is flourishing under the tutelage of Mitch Love, with the centre putting up a pro-career-high 0.85 points per game. Last season, in 66 games with Henderson, he had 41 points. At the 42-game mark for Calgary, Jones has 35 points — 10 goals and 25 helpers. He’s also put together nine multi-point performances.
And he’s been able to do it moving up and down the lineup. Early days saw Jones centring Radim Zahorna and Martin Pospisil. He also spent a lengthy period in the middle of Brett Sutter and Walker Duehr. As of late, he’s been skating with Cole Schwindt and Mitch McLain.
Going into the season, I expected Jones to be a defence-first forward. He is that — takes key draws, is a strong penalty-killer and has a high compete level. He’s reliable.
But he’s also evolved into a centre that can put up numbers, regardless of his slotting. And we shouldn’t be surprised. During his junior days, he proudly wore the ‘C’ for the Niagara IceDogs in 2018-19, en route to a triple-point season: 102 points in 68 games.
Odds and Ends:
Best of luck to the Wranglers trio heading to this weekend’s AHL All-Star Classic in Laval: head coach Mitch Love, Dustin Wolf and Matthew Phillips. It’s a testament to the work this group has done this season, emerging as one of the top team’s in the AHL … The Wranglers have one of the best home records in the A at 15-6-1, and will have six straight at the Saddledome in mid to late February. That stretch could definitely put an exclamation point on their regular season … This edition of jersey spotting is a Stockton away red with Froese on the back.
The Wranglers will welcome the former Heat captain and the Henderson Silver Knights for the first time on Feb. 22.