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Half way through his second professional campaign, Nikita Jevpalovs has emerged as a vital component to San Jose’s success.
At the end of his rookie season last year, Jevpalovs was assigned to the Allen Americans, San Jose’s ECHL affiliate, and went on to win a Kelly Cup. During the championship run Jevpalovs totaled eight points (2+6=8) in 15 playoff games, 10 penalty minutes and a plus-three rating.
“I learned a lot (in Allen) and being in a winning environment helped my game,” said Jevpalovs.
That winning experience set the stage for Nikita's sophomore campaign. Through 40 games, the second-year pro has played all three forward positions, killed penalties and played on the power play.
The 22-year-old was was signed by San Jose as a free agent in 2015 after three years in the QMJHL with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.
Jevpalovs went into his first offseason as a pro hoping to work on his speed and learn the little details it takes to be a pro.
“I just really wanted to get the system down and do what the coaches asked. I trained to become faster and focused my summer on learning the little details of the pro game.”
The Riga, Latvia, native’s versatility wasn’t on full display until Ryan Carpenter was recalled to the San Jose Sharks on January 17. Head Coach Roy Sommer threw Jevpalovs in between John McCarthy and Barclay Goodrow with the departure of Carpenter, and his game has taken off.
"I’ll tell you what, he’s been a huge part of our little run right now and the success we’ve had this season,” said Barracuda Head Coach Roy Sommer. “He’s come into his second year and filled a ton of roles for us.”
Through 39 games, Jevpalovs has registered 13 points (7+6=13), 28 penalty minutes and a plus-eight rating. In 60 games in 2015-16, the 6-foot-1, 207-pound forward recorded 14 points (5+9=14), 12 penalty minutes and a minus-18 rating.
Jevpalovs development has accelerated since being put between Goodrow and McCarthy, guys who have built their careers around playing the game the right way.
“They’re such good players it’s really hard not to play well with them. I don’t care about what forward position I’m playing, but I’m really enjoying playing center,” said Jevpalovs.
The Barracuda are riding a six-game winning streak and sit at first place in the Pacific Division for the first time in team history. During the stretch, Jevpalovs has three points (1+2=3), plus-one rating, and nine penalty minutes.