Hextall on Hockey: Appleton finds his lane with Jets

Mason Appleton has accepted a style of play he can excel at.

This comes as the Winnipeg Jets forward has accepted how hard it is to play in the NHL.

When Appleton started his professional career in the American Hockey League with the Manitoba Moose, he worked his way from the fourth line to the AHL Rookie of the Year in one season – producing offence with 22 goals and 66 points in 76 games — through his hockey sense and high compete level.

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Enter the next step into the NHL: Appleton wasn’t about to skate into a top-six role or log major minutes on the Jets like he did with the Moose. His position was occupied by the likes of Blake Wheeler and former Jet Patrik Laine.

Which meant Appleton would have to accept a style of play that wasn’t fancy but that needs elite skill to execute.

He had to learn how to play hard minutes alongside Adam Lowry. Learn to use his size and speed to complement Lowry on a line that consistently goes up against the opposition’s best every night.

To understand that his offence wasn’t going to come through pretty plays but instead by drawing penalties and driving hard to the net.

A type of offence that may not appear on a highlight reel but needs real skill to achieve.

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Paul Maurice has said that no good teams play a fancy game. Skilled players don’t have to make skilled plays all the time.

Appleton has adapted his game to mirror Maurice’s philosophy and is showcasing his star power in a pivotal role that will continue to increase his responsibility and his value with the Jets and in the NHL.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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