He’s not going to bring the offensive firepower that a Mark Scheifele or Nikolaj Ehlers brings on a game-by-game basis, but there’s no denying that Mason Appleton is developing into a very important piece of the Jets’ offensive puzzle.
Look no further than Tuesday’s 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
While Appleton’s stat line reads one goal on two shots in 15:28 of ice time,—21 seconds of that coming shorthanded— he provided the Jets with so much more. Mostly the type of stuff you won’t find in a box score.
It was a night where when in the offensive zone, Appleton spent most of his time in the dirty areas, driving to the net and making things happen.
His first period goal was a prime example of that.
“I think that was the story of the game for us. We came out strong, we went to the net, got pucks to the net, we played a really simple, fast, effective game,” said Appleton. “It was a great win for us.”
As important as his goal to open the game was, the penalty he drew on Canucks defenseman Jordie Benn in the second period was just as important. The penalty led to Kyle Connor’s power play goal which served as the game winner.
“Tonight was a perfect example [of his style]. Drive the net twice, once for a goal, once for drawing a penalty that leads to a goal and that’s real offense,” said head coach Paul Maurice.
“That’s not a less-skilled offensive game. As a matter of fact, as you move closer and closer to the playoffs and then into the playoffs, that’s the style of game that is played and he should be able to excel from that.”
Appleton checks a lot of boxes when it comes to his overall game, helping provide the Jets with a third line that can confidently be sent out against the other team’s top lines and chip in with some offense when needed.
In the 11:52 of five-on-five ice time the Andrew Copp, Adam Lowry and Mason Appleton trio saw together on Tuesday the Jets held the advantage in shot attempts 10-5 and shots on goal 5-3.
“Depending on what coach is feeling that night, sometimes we have more d-zone shifts, or start of shifts. You got to take care of your own end first and you build that trust and from there you go and sustain offensive zone time and make simple plays down there and score easy goals,” said Appleton.
“That’s a product of the goal we scored, it started in our own end, we got a rush and took advantage of it. For us as a line we proud ourselves on being responsible defensively, but at the same time we all think we can score goals.”
Playing key minutes against other team’s top lines hasn’t been too big of a task for Appleton as he continues to develop into a valuable two-way player.
In 271 minutes of five-on-five ice time with Appleton on the ice, the Jets have held the advantage in shot attempts 235-225, shots on goal 133-104 and goals scored 11-7. His 51.09 corsi for percentage ranks fourth among forwards, while his 56.12% shots for percentage ranks first on the team.
“He’s really developed into accepting that style of play that he can excel it. It’s different than the Nikolaj Ehlers, or Kyle Connors, right? It’s a different style of game,” said Maurice. “He’s killing penalties and playing with Adam (Lowry), they play against the other team’s best an awful lot. And then there’s offense there, it’s just going to look different, it’s going to be a different style.”
Through 22 games Appleton already has a career high in goals with six and points with 12. His shooting percentage is currently up from 9.1% to 17.1%.
Analytically, Appleton has really taken massive steps forward improving his goals/60 from .58 to 1.18, total points/60 from .93 to 2.36, shots/60 from 6.43 to 8.89, and his individual expected goals for/60 from 0.58 to 0.97.
“You go into every season and you want more, you always want more. I’m still a young player in this league and my opportunity, it’s here and I’m trying to take advantage of it every night. I’m playing more minutes and that’s giving me more confidence and lets my game evolve,” said Appleton.
“You don’t get bigger, stronger, faster overnight, it’s a product of years and a product of opportunity. I’ve really liked my development path and I’m going to keep my foot on the gas and keep trying to get better every single day.”
The Jets are already a deep offensive group as is. The more and more Appleton can develop, and the more comfortable he gets in his role, the deeper the Jets offensive depth grows.