Defenceman Brenden Kitchon’s end of season exit interview began with a ceremony that presented him with the award for most points (11 goals and 30 assists for 41 points in 68 games) on Manitoba. It wasn’t handed out at the Moose home finale as both he and rookie forward Chase De Leo were in the running with two games left to close out the 2015-16 campaign. The Spruce Grove, Alberta native held on for a one point win over De Leo. While he was happy to win it was tempered by the reality of his team finishing 28th overall in the AHL.
Brenden Kitchon, at 23 years of age, is the self described “old man” in the Manitoba Moose dressing room. Originally drafted by the Islanders (5th round, 127th overall) in 2011 and then selected by the Jets in 2013 (7th round, 190th overall) he has had to overcome many doubters throughout his journey to the pros “I know nothing has come easy to me in my life, whether it was play in the AHL, they said I couldn’t play in the NHL, said I couldn’t play in the WHL. I proved those guys wrong. I will prove them wrong again!”. Kitchton spent five seasons with the Spokane Chiefs in the WHL before he joined the St. John’s IceCaps for the 2013-14 season. He has now played three years of AHL hockey for this organization.
Kitchton will be an RFA heading into the 2016-17 season and did acknowledge that “its still not confirmed what is going on next year” but spoke about getting his shot “I know I can play in the NHL. It’s just about getting that opportunity, everybody gets an opportunity somewhere, I just want an opportunity.”.
There was some thought that he would get into the first NHL game of his career when Jacob Trouba got hurt prior to the California road trip at the end of March. Kitchton wound up being insurance for the big club and it was clear when he was returned to the Moose that it was difficult to have been that close to realizing his dream and not achieving it. “I didn’t want to get too optimistic but I was obviously disappointed” he told us following the Moose home finale. Coach McCambridge was asked what a game in the NHL may have done for Kitchton’s confidence “for him to get the call and put himself on the radar that’s a credit to him but its up to him whenever he gets up to the Winnipeg Jets whether he is the guy going into the lineup.”
Pretty clear from the exit interview that he is gonna take what the coaching staff told him needs improvement (his defensive game) and work on that aspect of his game this summer. Perhaps then he may finally get his opportunity to display his talents in the NHL.