Fuel Performance Review: Michael Neal
Fuel Captain led team in point scoring while earning All-Star bidJun 6, 2018
2017-18 FUEL PERFORMANCE REVIEW: MICHAEL NEAL
#21 | FORWARD | OSHAWA, ONT.
2017-18 STATS: 66 GP, 20 G, 32 A, 52 PTS, 48 PIM, 6 PPG, 5 GWG
After suffering a season-ending knee injury in March of 2017, it might have been reasonable to expect Michael Neal to ease back into things the following season. Instead, the veteran forward was named the Fuel's captain and skated to the best offensive season in his nine-year professional career.
Despite missing the first six games of the campaign, Neal finished the year as Indy's leading point scorer, tallying 20 goals and 32 assists – both career bests. The power forward tied a Fuel franchise record with five game-winning goals, while chipping in 16 points on the power play.
Starting the season with just two points in his first eight games, Neal found a hot stick in late November, stringing together nine goals and 13 points over a 12 game span from Nov. 24 to Dec. 23. The spike in production got the league's attention, and the forward was selected to represent the Central Division in the 2018 CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic in Indianapolis on Jan. 15.
Neal was instrumental in helping the Fuel rise up the division standings down the stretch en route to the club's first-ever trip to the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Over the final month of the regular season, the veteran logged four multi-point games, including a pair of four-point outings on March 11 and March 30.
"Nealer was good for us. He obviously started on fire and kind of slowed down a little bit, but then he got going again down the stretch. He was a good leader in the room, our guys looked up to him and listened to him." - Head Coach Bernie John