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Let’s Look Back: Jean Machine

Friday, July 8th
Let’s Look Back: Jean Machine

When the Steelheads were looking for a little more firepower in the goal-scoring department last year, they filled the need with a player who had proven to be a productive forward in the AHL and was at the time trying his hand at the European game. After the Steelheads had acquired his rights, Kyle Jean came back to North America and slid right into the Steelheads top-six forward rotation. After a quiet start, Jean would have the most productive scoring streak of any Steelhead last season.

Jean already had 234 professional regular season and playoff games under his belt when he arrived in Idaho on November 30th. He had scored 11 goals and 29 points in 126 games split between Hartford, Charlotte, and Lake Erie in the AHL and put up much stronger numbers in two seasons in the ECHL in Greenville, one of the reasons Steelheads Head Coach Neil Graham knew Jean could give Idaho’s scoring attack a jolt.

After 19 games at the start of last year in Sweden with Asploven HC, Jean was ready to come back to North America and the Steelheads were going to give him a chance to make an impact immediately.

In his first five games, Jean was held off the scoresheet, getting opportunities but unable to convert as he adjusted to his new surroundings. But it didn’t take much for the Michigan native to catch fire.

“I think it took me some time to adjust to the North American style of play again. And when I scored that first goal, I think it made me feel more relaxed and then the game started to flow for me,” said Jean.

That first goal, scored on December 11th in Tulsa, was an all-encompassing demonstration of the things Jean does well, and what Steelheads fans would see a lot more of in the coming months. Off of a defensive play by Andre Morrissette, Jean took off down the ice and got behind the Oilers’ defense pairing before receiving the stretch pass from Morrissette in stride. Jean put a quick deke on goaltender Kevin Carr before lifting a backhander past him to tie the game.

“When I first got to Idaho, I was playing with and they were great,” said Jean. “They were just two hard working guys who got in on the forecheck. So that helped me out, just digging out pucks and using their speed to gain puck possession.”

That goal was the launching point of an eight-game points streak for Jean, during which he netted five goals and totaled 17 points. Seven of those points, a goal and six assists, came with the man-advantage, an element of the Steelheads’ game that Jean’s arrival was particularly meant to bolster.

“Our power play really started to heat up and that always helps. During the season a player can go through ups and downs and I was trying to ride that scoring wave for as long as I could,” said Jean about a power play that was 14-for-40 during his scoring streak. “The guys on my power play unit were instrumental to our team success.”

That unit most often included Rob Linsmayer, Jefferson Dahl, Emil Molin, and Zach Yuen, with Jean manning one of the point positions with Yuen.

In eight outings, Jean had five multi-point games, two multi-goal games, and one four-point performance. “I think that was my best stretch of scoring in my career to date, but hopefully not the last!” said Jean.

It was indeed Jean’s longest scoring streak, besting a seven-game streak Jean recorded in his first seven professional games in AHL Hartford (then the Connecticut Whale). If this was indeed the best stretch of hockey in Jean’s career, the league certainly took notice. Jean’s torrid scoring pace earned him ECHL Player of the Week honors.

“It obviously feels good in the moment when you’re on a streak like that, and as a player you definitely feel like every night you're going to produce for the team,” said Jean.

Jean’s eight-game streak certainly isn’t the longest Steelheads fans have seen, but it is among the more productive stints with Jean averaging over two points a game during that run. It would kick start a campaign in which Jean totaled 42 points in 52 games, the best statistical season of his pro career.

One of the most successful in-season transactions the Steelheads made last season, Jean and Boise hockey were a perfect match.

“Boise is the best place I’ve played so far in my career,” said Jean. “Everyone kept telling me it’s a ‘hidden gem’ and it really is.”

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