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2016-17 IceCaps Season Review: Jacob de la Rose’s offence came alive

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After a roller-coaster development path, de la Rose finally came into his own this season.

St. John’s IceCaps/Colin Peddle

Jacob de la Rose has seen many ups and downs in his career since he was drafted. A former second-round selection, he was universally well received when he was drafted, even if he didn’t put up a ton of points while playing for Leksands of the Swedish Hockey League. However, playing in a top-tier European league as a teenager isn’t easy, and de la Rose wasn’t drafted to be an offensive force.

He is widely regarded for his great defensive play and versatility on the ice. His rookie season in the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs was going well offensively, then he was called up to Montreal where Michel Therrien fed him to the wolves defensively. As a result, the young Swede struggled to adjust to the NHL game and it stalled his development.

Rinse and repeat for the doomed season of 2015-16 as well. The moment he heated up in the AHL, he got called up and was tossed into a tough deployment that he couldn’t possibly have thrived in.

This year, however, was different, as de la Rose spent the majority of the year in St. John’s playing for the IceCaps, and as a result had his best season at the professional level. Patience was the key with de la Rose, and allowing him to develop his full game brought out a showing of what his true ceiling might be.

In 62 games this season, he posted 14 goals and 17 assists, which was good enough for fourth on the team behind the top line trio of Charles Hudon, Chris Terry, and Nikita Scherbak. Not to take anything away from the aforementioned players, but de la Rose, alongside Max Friberg, played the toughest minutes night in and night out. Not only did he centre the line taking the heavy assignments at even strength, he also was a penalty-killing staple, and also received power-play minutes. De la Rose was a major force for the IceCaps all season long, and that continued into the playoffs.

Defence is still the main aspect of de la Rose’s game. He uses his large frame to win puck battles along the boards, and he can use his speed to beat opponents on the forecheck. On the penalty kill he can put all of his skills together, turning an outmanned situation into a short-handed breakaway when he turns on the jets.

The biggest concerns about de la Rose have never about his talent level, or an ability to play at the highest level. It was more that he was thrown into the gauntlet with the typical fourth-liners of the world and asked to be a difference-maker in the NHL while deployed nearly exclusively in the defensive zone.

It’s a new day in Montreal now, with Claude Julien now at helm bringing a new system that emphasizes possession play. With a purge of the pending unrestricted free agents who occupied lineup spots at the end of the seaosn, there could be a spot for de la Rose to step into in the coming season. A potential fourth line of de la Rose, Torrey Mitchell and Michael McCarron is one that has the ability to play sound defence, and chip in on offence as well.

The expansion draft looms, and the young Swede is one of the attractive options for the Vegas Golden Kinghts. Is de la Rose a better option for the fledgling team as opposed to Hudon or Tomas Plekanec? It’s unclear what George McPhee has planned, but de la Rose may be high on his list from Montreal when the draft rolls around.

It took a little while longer than expected, but Jacob de la Rose finally seems to have come into his own in North America. It’s not his fault that in previous NHL stints he was utterly misused by the coaching staff. Thankfully the patience to let him develop in the minors paid off this year and we saw what his peak may be. He has more than earned an extension to stay in Montreal, and assuming he is passed over in expansion, there’s a good chance that de la Rose could find a home in the NHL in the coming year.