NEWARK, N.J. – This is Kael Mouillierat’s best chance.
After leading the St. John’s IceCaps to the Calder Cup Final last season – a run in which he scored in four straight games against the eventual champion Texas Stars – the 27-year-old left winger finally attracted the attention of NHL teams after four seasons in the minors.
The New York Islanders signed him to a one-year, two-way contract that will pay him a reported $175,000 in the AHL and $675,000 in the NHL, a level he has a chance to reach for the first time in his career after a strong performance in the preseason culminated with him scoring the Islanders only goal in a 2-1 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.
“I don’t think I’m too far off,” Mouillierat told ECHL.com after the game.
“You have to be a realist, and I realize that there are a lot of guys ahead of me in the pecking order right now with contracts and deals, but what you can do in training camp is just try to make a good impression. You try to leave it in the coaches minds that they can trust you if and when they do call you up, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Mouillierat played in parts of four seasons for the Idaho Steelheads and was a point-per-game player, racking up 129 points in 127 contests between the 2009-10 and 2012-13 campaigns.
“It’s a great development league,” he said. “It gives guys a chance that don’t get a deal right out of college or juniors to develop for another year or two. It took me two years to get out of there and get my way up to the next level, so it just gives you a good chance to develop your game a little bit more and gives you some time to get to that next level.”
Despite his success in the ECHL, Mouillierat enjoyed arguably his finest season as a pro in 2013-14, scoring 20 goals and adding 33 assists for the IceCaps in his first full year at the highest level of the minors.
“(Last year) was huge, it was the first year that I’d started a season in the AHL, so it was nice to know where I was at for the whole year,” he said. “With our team having so much success last year, it was great for all of us individually. It was a lot of fun and a great year.”
Mouillierat also added 13 points in the Calder Cup Playoffs, and feels like that stretch of hockey may have done the most for his chances of reaching the NHL. “There’s not too many guys that get their first NHL contracts at 26, so I think that that run had a lot to do with it,” he said. “It was a special time for us, and we had a lot of fun, but we came up a little short in the end. But it definitely helped us all out individually.”
The 6-foot, 200 pounder is likely to be assigned to the Islanders’ AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. But with moments like he had on Thursday night – his goal also came while having the smallest amount of ice time for the team – he’s hopeful he made enough of an impression to be called up soon.
“You’ve got to earn every exhibition game, they’re not just given to you,” he said. “You’ve got to take advantage when you do get the call. All you really try to do up there is work as hard as you can, and that’s all I tried to do out there.”