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Appleton signs contract extension with Jets

By Rich Palzewic
Sports Editor

GREEN BAY – Mason Appleton, a 2014 Notre Dame Academy graduate, recently signed a two-year contract extension with the Winnipeg Jets of the National Hockey League (NHL).

The deal has a reported annual average value of $900,000.

The 24-year-old Appleton played in 46 games for the Jets during the 2019-20 season and had eight points (5 goals, 3 assists).

“It’s an exciting time for me,” said Appleton. “I’m happy with the deal and the terms. It fits in with what comparable guys around the league are making. I’ve always been a risk-taker, so with the deal, that will hopefully set me up to sign a nice contract two years from now. I didn’t want to deal with a long-term contract for now, so hopefully, my play does the talking. I’m only 24, so a two-year deal was right for me.”

Winnipeg’s sixth-round pick (168th overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft, Appleton first played in an NHL game Dec. 1, 2018.

He scored his first goal 11 games into his rookie season on Dec. 20.

“This last year was basically my first full year in the league, and there were ups and downs,” Appleton said. “I grew lots as a player and as a person.”

Because of the COVID-19 situation, the NHL paused its season March 12, about three weeks before the end of the regular season.

In early August, 24 teams began again, with games played in Toronto and Edmonton, Canada.

With the season only recently ending in late September, Appleton is in Green Bay for the time being.

“I’ve been training here in town in preparation for next season,” he said. “We’re not too sure on the start date, but it’s looking like it might be around Jan. 1. I’ve been skating, shooting pucks, lifting and doing yoga.”

Appleton said this past season was “very unusual.”

“Seeing our regular season come to an end with about 10 games remaining in March was something else, and we didn’t expect it,” he said. “It happened quickly, but the NHL did a terrific job using all its resources and expertise to put together an effective bubble for us, which resulted in zero people getting COVID – hats off to the league.”

Jon Cooper, who used to coach the Green Bay Gamblers in the United States Hockey League (USHL), led his Tampa Bay Lightning squad to the Stanley Cup title.

“It’s incredible,” Appleton said of Cooper. “He’s had a great team the last three or four seasons, so I knew it was only a matter of time before he won it all. I don’t know him personally, but I used to watch the Gamblers a ton when he was their coach.”

Appleton, who played one year at Ashwaubenon before transferring to Notre Dame for his final three years of high school, ended his prep career with 66 goals and 110 assists.

He helped lead the Tritons to the 2012 WIAA Division 1 hockey championship by scoring the game-winner in overtime.

“Playing at Notre Dame for three seasons helped me become successful at the next level,” he said. “(Notre Dame Head) Coach (Cory) McCracken does a great job and is detail-oriented. He works great with the young players and was influential in jump-starting my career.”

Following one year playing in the USHL for the Tri-City Storm in Nebraska, Appleton attended Michigan State University for two years before turning pro and signing with the Jets.

Playing in the American Hockey League for the Manitoba Moose during his first pro season in 2017-18, Appleton amassed 22 goals and 44 assists on his way to earning the AHL Rookie of the Year award.

During the 2018-19 season, he had 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) in 36 games for the Jets.

Winnipeg, in the Canadian Province of Manitoba, is about a 90-minute drive from the northern border of North Dakota and about 11 hours from Green Bay.

“For those that don’t know what Winnipeg is like, it’s similar to the Dakotas with its flat land,” Appleton said. “It gets cold and windy in the winter and is a similar size to Milwaukee. It’s a great city full of hockey fans. Honestly, I compare the fans of Winnipeg to Packer fans. They keep up with stats and are always in the know. It reminds me lots of Green Bay. They have a CFL (Canadian Football League) team, but I think the Jets rank a little higher up.”

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