Manitoba Moose Rolling as Central Division Race Heats Up

The Manitoba Moose have hit their stride as of late, extending their point streak to seven games and have won four of their last five games. They are in third place in the Central Division with a 27-16-3-3 record and sit four points back of the Texas Stars and Milwaukee Admirals for the division lead.

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The Moose have been able to leverage their forward and defensive depth for solid results at even strength, but in their most recent two-game set against the Grand Rapids Griffins, their special teams stole the show.

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby Provides a Scoring Boost

The Winnipeg Jets placed Axel Jonsson-Fjallby on waivers on Feb 14, and when he cleared, he joined the Moose before their eight-game home stand. He has scored three goals with one assist in just four games in the American Hockey League (AHL).

His coaches and teammates have given him a vote of approval since joining the lineup. Starting with head coach Mark Morrison, who praised Jonsson-Fjallby by saying, “He is very reliable in his own zone and the neutral zone, and yet has some skill.”

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby Winnipeg Jets
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

His linemate, Wyatt Bongiovanni, said, “He’s super fast, and he is effective out there on the ice.” Assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner reflected on Jonsson-Fjallby’s previous work in the AHL by saying, “Last time he was in the American League, he scored 16 goals, so hopefully, he can do that for us.”

He was an effective penalty-killer for the Jetsa and provided energy to the bottom six. In the AHL, he will be tasked with a top-six role as well as playing on the power play.

Moose’s Special Teams Dominance Continues

The Moose have put together dominant power-play and penalty-kill units. Over the weekend, the penalty kill held the Griffins to one goal through nine attempts, and they showed exactly why they hold the fourth-best penalty kill in the AHL at 84.3 percent.

Related: Manitoba Moose Give Blueprint for Second-Half Success

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When asked about what is working so well for that unit, Morrison said, “The penalty kill just battles. They battle hard, they block shots, there is always fresh bodies on the ice, and they take pride in it.” Ville Heinola jokingly added, “We take a lot of penalties, too, so that’s not really fun, but the PK has been good, and we’ve been focusing on that a lot.”

Ville Heinola Manitoba Moose
Ville Heinola, Manitoba Moose (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Heinola has been on fire recently, with one goal and eight assists in his last seven games. The former first-round pick is playing like one of the best defenders in the AHL and is a huge reason for the team’s recent success. He is also a big factor in the Moose having the second-best power play in the league at 24.2 percent. Along with Declan Chisholm and Leon Gawanke, the Moose have built one of the most dynamic defensive groups in the league.

Young Moose Players Developing Well

Henri Nikkanen finished the game on Feb. 20 with three assists, giving him 15 points this season. His teammate, Jeff Malott, highlighted his defensive abilities, saying, “Henri has developed so much in terms of becoming a solid, 200-foot centre for us. He takes up so much responsibility on the penalty kill and when we are looking to shut it down.”

Jets 2020 second-round pick, Daniel Torgersson, put forward an outstanding performance on Feb. 20, with a goal and a highlight-reel assist. He stepped around 2021 sixth-overall pick Simon Edvinsson before passing it to teammate Tyler Boland for the back-door tap-in.

Both players are 21 years old and crucial to the team’s success down the stretch. The Moose are at their best when they are rolling four forward lines and playing a good defensive game for 60 minutes. As both prospects seem to get better by the game, it is an extremely positive development for the Moose as they look to chase down the division title.

The Moose have a huge two-game set on the horizon, welcoming the Central Division-leading Admirals to Canada Life Centre. Admirals goaltender Yaroslav Askarov was named AHL player of the week ending on Feb. 19, so the Moose will have their hands full trying to beat a hot goaltender.

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