Though most of the Jets’ top-end prospects played elsewhere in 2013-14, two names highlight the Jets’ stable of collegiate talent.
Connor Hellebuyck posted terrific numbers for the second straight season, and had a wheelbarrow full of trophies and honors by the end of the season, his final year of collegiate hockey. Andrew Copp did not enjoy the team or personal success of Hellebuyck, but impressed many with his leadership and on ice play. He will return to the Wolverines for his junior season in 2014-15 as their captain.
Elsewhere, Jordan Samuels-Thomas offers size and intrigue, while several lower end prospects round out the group. The Winnipeg Jets have a minimal footprint on the European scene, with young virtual unknown Marcus Karlstrom working his way up the Swedish ranks and enigmatic former Barrie Colt Ivan Telegin in the KHL and still at odds with the organization over his future.
Connor Hellebuyck, G, UMass-Lowell River Hawks (Hockey East)
Drafted 5th Round, 130th Overall, 2012
Hellebuyck put together another stellar season in what was his first full season as the RiverHawks’ starter. In 29 games, he posted a 1.79 goals against average and a .941 save percentage, while leading Lowell back to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season. Despite falling short of the Frozen Four, Hellebuyck was showered with awards after the season, earning first team All-Hockey East Honors as well as being named an All-American. He also beat out a loaded field for the inaugural Mike Richter Award, given to the nation’s best goaltender.
The 2013-14 season proved to be Hellebuyck’s last as a collegian, as he signed with the Jets upon season’s end. He will join a crowded field of goaltenders in training camp next season. He also spent time in Minsk, Belarus with team USA, serving as the backup to Tim Thomas for the 2014 World Championships, providing another stellar experience for a goaltender whose stock is rapidly rising.
Jamie Phillips, G, Michigan Tech Huskies (WCHA)
Drafted 7th Round, 190th Overall, 2013
Phillips served as the Huskies’ backup goaltender for the second straight season, as he was unable to beat out fellow sophomore Pheonix Copley (WAS) for the number one job. In 13 games, Phillips put up a 2.82 goals against average and a .892 save percentage to go with a 4-6-1 record as the Huskies finished fifth in the reformed WCHA.
Most of Phillips’ appearances came in January, when he briefly assumed the starters’ role for six consecutive games, winning two. With the crowded nature of the Jets’ goaltending prospect pool at the moment, combined with Phillips’ inability to assume a number one role for Tech, his status with the organization is somewhat of a long shot at present.
Jason Kasdorf, G, RPI Engineers (ECAC )
Drafted 6th Round, 157th Overall, 2011
Kasdorf entered his sophomore season backed by the promise of his 2012-13 ECAC Rookie of the Year showing but saw his 2013-14 season derailed by a recurring dislocated shoulder injury suffered in November that required surgery and shelved him for the year. Kasdorf applied for a medical redshirt to gain back the year on eligibility, based on the fact that he played only two games.
Kasdorf should be one-hundred percent by the start of the 2014-15 season, in which he will try to get his career back on track. If he can build on the promise of his freshman season, his progress is certainly worth watching.
Jordan Samuels-Thomas, RW, Quinnipiac Bobcats (ECAC)
Drafted 7th Round, 203rd Overall, 2009
Samuels-Thomas was again one of the leading lights for the Bobcats, finishing fifth on the team in scoring with 13 goals and 16 assists despite missing six games in late January with an arm injury. Though the Bobcats were unable to make it back to the Frozen Four (losing to Providence in the NCAA East Regional), Samuels-Thomas goes out as one of the schools most decorated group of players, despite only two seasons at Quinnipiac.
To date, Samuels-Thomas has yet to sign with the Winnipeg Jets, though the club has until August 15th to do so. If and when that happens, the power forward instantly becomes a contender for the NHL roster next fall, if not top-six AHL duty. Stay tuned.
Andrew Copp, C, Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten)
Drafted 4th Round, 104th Overall, 2013
Copp’s stock continues to rise as he moves further away from his football career and focuses on hockey full time. His sophomore campaign saw him finish second behind J.T. Compher (BUF) in scoring for the Wolverines, as he posted 15 goals and 14 assists in 33 games. In addition, Copp added five assists for Team USA at the 2014 World Junior Championships, tied with Nicolas Kerdiles (ANH) of Wisconsin in that category. Copp will return to Michigan for his junior season, and once again in a leadership role, as he has been elevated from alternate to captain for the Wolverines for the 2014-15 season. Leading the proud program back into the NCAA tournament for the first time in three seasons will be a welcome addition to the already burgeoning resume for a player that looks more and more like a mid-round draft steal every day.
Tanner Lane, C, University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (NCHC)
Drafted 6th Round, 160th Overall, 2010
Lane finished his second season for the Mavericks, and he is still waiting for his offense to come around at the collegiate level. He began the season as a healthy scratch for three of the first six games, but returned to the lineup shortly thereafter and became a regular as a penalty killer and a bottom-six forward. Though Lane has shown limited offense through his first two seasons, he does have a propensity for big goals; three of his seven career goals for the Mavericks to date have been game-winners. Still, with his offense is somewhat of a missing ingredient. To up his status as a prospect, he will have to find a way to add new dimensions to his game when he return for his junior season in 2014-15.
Peter Stoykewych, D, Colorado College Tigers (NCHC)
Drafted 7th Round, 199th Overall, 2010
Stoykewych, along with the rest of the Tigers, endured a miserable season in 2013-14, one in which the team won just seven games and saw their well-respected coach, Scott Owens, resign after 15 seasons behind the bench. Stoykewych finished with one goal and eight assists for an offensively starved team, a slight personal drop off in production for a player who projects as an offensive defenseman due to his skating and puck moving abilities.
The Winnipeg native will have one more season with the Tigers to try and up his game once again. The only member of the Colorado College leadership returning, he was afforded the opportunity to serve on the search committee that selected Mike Haviland to be the Tigers’ new coach. Stoykewych will likely serve as Haviland’s first captain as well.
Brennan Serville, D, Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten)
Drafted 3rd Round, 78th Overall, 2011
Serville is a big-framed defenseman who, at 20, is still growing into his body despite having three full seasons of college hockey under his belt. Serville offered up a repeat of his freshman and sophomore campaigns in 2013-14, which is to say very limited offense and a stay-at-home presence on the ice. He has just one career goal in three seasons, and had just three assists in his junior campaign. Despite the lack of offense, Serville has posted a plus rating in each season with the Wolverines, and he is an adept shot blocker. He will return for his senior campaign next year, teaming with fellow Winnipeg draftee Andrew Copp to try and return Michigan to the NCAA elite.
Aaron Harstad, D, Colorado College Tigers (NCHC)
Drafted 7th Round, 187th Overall, 2011
Like his teammate Peter Stoykewych, Harstad suffered through the 2013-14 season in Colorado Springs. The good news for Harstad is that he was finally able to stay healthy, playing in all 37 games for the Tigers in his junior season after battling various ailments and questions about his commitment in his first two seasons. He posted two goals and seven assists, matching Stoykewych’s offensive output, but the 6’2”, 199-pound defenseman projects much more as a stay-at-home defenseman moving forward, and was the Tigers’ leader in blocked shots this season. He is a long way down the organizational prospect chart, and will have one more season at CC to prove himself.
Marcus Karlstrom, D, AIK J20 (Swedish SuperElit)
Drafted 7th Round, 194th Overall, 2013
Karlstrom adjusted well to his first full season with AIK’s top youth team in the SuperElit league, posting 10 goals and 17 assists in 44 games. He also suited up in one game for AIK’s senior team. With such a long way to go for Karlstrom, he is difficult to read at this point. He will continue a steady progression in 2014-15, when he is slated to join Mora of the second-tier Allsvenskan on loan from AIK. Despite being a lower level of Swedish hockey, it will still be a chance for Karlstrom to test his mettle against grown men, providing another benchmark for the defenseman who will not turn 20 until next January.
Ivan Telegin, LW, CSKA Moscow (KHL)
Drafted 4th Round, 101st Overall, 2010
Telegin made waves when he decided not to accept a demotion to St. John’s at the end of preseason camp last fall, leading the team to suspend him indefinitely among rumors that he would head back to his native Russia. Telegin did just that, and signed with CSKA Moscow, and very little emerged from either camp until the Jets lifted the suspension in January and “assigned” Telegin to CSKA, which was largely a ceremonial gesture.
In any case, Telegin did not play at all in 2013-14 as he recovers from the effects of a head injury that shortened his AHL campaign in 2012-13, so updating his on-ice progress is a moot point. His status as a Jets’ prospect remains largely up in the air, as history would suggest. Something Jets’ fans know all too well, thanks to former first round pick Alexander Burmistrov, is that Russian players who bolt the NHL for their homeland rarely return.