With seven victories in their first 25 games, the Steelheads were badly in need of a boost this holiday season.
The late-November arrival of Kyle Jean was just what the doctor ordered. The veteran forward has breathed life into first-year coach Neil Graham’s team, tallying 14 points in 12 games while helping fuel a current seven-game point streak (6-0-1).
In a three-game stretch before Christmas, Jean racked up nine points — a performance that earned him ECHL player of the week honors. His production has helped Idaho climb to within three points of first-place Utah in the tightly-packed West Division standings.
“I think even before I got here, the team was doing a lot of good things,” Jean said. “But lately, the puck has started going in the net for us. Any time you’re contributing and helping the team win games, it’s a great feeling and you want to keep it going.”
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Jean, a fourth-year pro, has played more than 200 minor-league games, including 126 at the AHL level. In the ECHL, his size (6-foot-4, 2003 pounds) and speed stand out at the forward position.
“Kyle’s a big body who can skate, and you don’t find a lot of those guys with his skillset,” Graham said. “It’s been a full team effort, but he’s been a big part of our recent success, for sure.”
Originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Jean played collegiately at Lake Superior State University before signing an NHL contract with the New York Rangers in 2012. His pro career has seen seven stops, including an overseas stint in Sweden before joining Idaho this fall.
Jean has filled different roles throughout his career, depending on the needs of the team. In Idaho, he believes he can continue to provide playmaking and scoring punch.
“At (the ECHL) level, I really feel I have an opportunity to contribute and be productive player every single night,” Jean said.
That certainly has been true in recent weeks. Jean has registered points in seven consecutive games, including a four-point night Dec. 16 as Idaho erupted for an 8-5 win over Utah.
That win seemed to jumpstart the offense — the Steelheads have continued to score in bunches since, adding nine more goals while sweeping a home-and-home set with Utah this past weekend.
“There were times earlier in the season where we were outshooting and outworking teams, but we weren’t scoring enough goals,” Graham said. “It’s great to see the guys finally getting rewarded for their hard work, and it’s definitely sparked us to see so many pucks go in the net here of late.”
Jean’s contributions go beyond the scoresheet, too. According to Idaho captain Carson McMillan, Jean has brought veteran poise, locker room leadership and solid two-way play to the team.
“He’s been a great center, winning draws, and he’s been good defensively, too,” McMillan said. “Scoring points is great, but I really think he’s been a good all-around fit for our club.”
The Steelheads have acquired forward Torin Snydeman from the Missouri Mavericks (ECHL) in exchange for backup goaltender Chris Rawlings, the team announced Tuesday.
Snydeman, 25, has played 15 games during his first professional season, spending 11 games with the Utah Grizzlies before being dealt to the Mavericks in mid-December. Snydeman posted two goals and six points with Utah and then registered one assist in four games with the Mavericks.
The rookie began the season with the Orlando Solar Bears, but did not play a game.
The Massachusetts native played for two seasons at Sacred Heart and two seasons at Northeastern, collecting 19 goals and 47 points in 137 college games.
Homestand starts Wednesday
▪ Wednesday: vs. Colorado Eagles
▪ Friday-Saturday: vs. Colorado Eagles
▪ Where/when: All three games start at 7:10 p.m. at CenturyLink Arena