While most of their top end prospects are playing in the CHL, the Winnipeg Jets have dedicated their mid- to late round draft picks in years past to amassing a depth of players competing at the NCAA level as well as those playing overseas.
Though these are very much players seen as works in progress, there remains the potential that one of these players will develop and emerge into a bona fide NHLer.
This long-term approach is beginning to yield some significant results, as is the case with Michigan Tech goaltender Jamie Phillips and recently signed Michigan Wolverine player Andrew Copp.
Jamie Phillips, G, Michigan Tech Huskies (WCHA)
Drafted 7th Round, 190th Overall, 2012
Phillips’ superb junior season is another indicator of Winnipeg’s very deep pool of high-end goaltending talent.
The 6’3 goaltender put up elite statistics this year – posting a 28-9-2 record with a 1.74 goals against average and .933 save percentage – and helped lead his team all the way to the NCAA Tournament where they lost to St. Cloud State in the regional semi-finals in heartbreaking fashion.
Phillips’s spectacular play this season earned him a nomination for the Hobey Baker award, awarded annually to college hockey’s most outstanding player in the United States.
Whether Phillips returns to Michigan Tech for his senior season, or decides to try and battle for the starting job with the St. John’s IceCaps next year is not yet known. But his remarkable development in the past year has made it clear he is a prospect to watch in the coming years.
Andrew Copp, C, Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten)
Drafted 4th Round, 104th Overall, 2013
Fresh off signing his first professional contract with the Jets earlier this month, the 6’1 Ann Arbor native had another solid season while captaining his hometown Michigan team to a 20-14 record.
The power forward had 14 goals and 17 assists, good enough for third in points on the team. He also tied for second on the team with six power play goals on the season.
This offensive production is very promising for the former high school quarterback, who has always excelled at the physical aspect of the game but has needed to further develop his offensive skills to ensure his long-term success as a power forward.
In a prospect pool that is headlined by some undersized offensively gifted players, Copp’s rare mixture of fearless and unrelenting compete level alongside a developing offensive game has the potential to make him a standout power forward in the NHL for years to come.
Clinston “C.J.” Franklin, LW, Minnesota State Mankato Mavericks (WCHA)
Drafted 5th Round, 129th Overall, 2014
Another pleasant collegiate surprise for the Jets has been their 5th round draft pick in last year’s draft C.J. Franklin.
Playing for Minnesota State, Franklin put up 28 points in 37 games in his freshman year, helping lead to the Mavericks in their second consecutive WCHA championship – where they defeated fellow Jets prospect Jamie Phillips in the finals.
Still very much a work in progress, Franklin’s strong freshman campaign is definitely earning him some well-deserved attention. He has performed offensively at every level he has played, and his continued development along with his strong work ethic and compete level could be prove to be a very beneficial late round draft pick for the Jets.
Jack Glover, D, Minnesota Golden Gophers (Big Ten)
Drafted 3rd Round, 69th Overall, 2014
Glover just completed his freshman year at the University of Minnesota while competing for minutes amongst a very deep blue line corps. In 22 games he finished with a +1 rating and three assists on the season.
Next season will be the real litmus test for Glover. With a number of upperclassmen moving on he will no doubt see increased minutes and be relied upon heavily to backstop the perennial powerhouse.
His unique mix of size and skating ability definitely make him an attractive prospect moving forward. He possesses the skillset and size to be a potential top-pairing defenseman, but that being said, there is still a lot of work to be done. His performance next year as a sophomore will be the true gauge on how he will be viewed as a prospect moving forward.
Matt Ustaski, LW, Wisconsin Badgers (Big Ten)
Drafted 7th Round, 192nd Overall, 2014
Playing in his freshman year for the Wisconsin Badgers, Matt Ustaksi put up four goals and four assists in 24 games played. It should be noted that Wisconsin struggled in a major way this year: finishing last in their division and having one of the youngest teams in the NCAA.
Standing 6’5, it goes without saying that Ustaksi is an imposing presence on the ice and has shown to posses some offensive upside in previous years while playing junior A with the BCHL’s Langley Rivermen.
Increased minutes as a sophomore will help show what exactly the Jets can expect in the future from the big winger.
Tanner Lane, C, Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (NCHC)
Drafted 6th Round, 160th Overall, 2010
After getting off to a hot start to the campaign Lane cooled off significantly in the latter half of the season, posting only 2 assists in his final 26 games of the season. An offensive force at the high school level, Lane has for the third straight year at the University of Nebraska-Omaha failed to reach ten points on the season.
This definitely does not bode well for the 22 year old’s future hockey career. Lane will need to have a remarkable senior season to make a case for himself moving forward with the Jets organization. Especially amongst a prospect pool that is deep in offensive talent, Lane will be unlikely to receive a contract offer.
However, he does have the chance to put a national title on his resume if Nebraska-Omaha can advance past Providence in the Frozen Four and then defeat the winner of Boston University versus North Dakota.
Brennan Serville, D, Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten)
Drafted 3rd Round, 78th Overall, 2011
Serville’s senior season at the University of Michigan saw him put up seven points – all assists – and a +12 rating in 33 games.
Serville’s collegiate career did not live up to expectations. Once considered to be a strong two-way defenseman, in his four years playing for the Wolverines he failed to surpass the point totals of his freshman year and only scored one goal in over 100 games played.
The odds are significantly against him to be signed to a pro deal. He will almost certainly need to establish himself in the minors if he wishes to prolong his hockey career.
Aaron Harstad, D, Colorado College Tigers (NCHC)
Drafted 7th Round, 187th Overall, 2011
The 6’2 defensive-minded Harstad put up career highs with five goals in his senior year at Colorado College.
Despite the team only winning two games all season, he also managed to match his point production totals from his junior year, despite playing seven fewer games.
His -19 rating on the season can be attributed more to the team’s overall poor performance – no player on the team managed to achieve a plus rating – than to Harstad’s play itself.
He has recently been called up to play with St. John’s IceCaps in the AHL, and through two games has rating of +1. His performance from here on out with the IceCaps will truly show Harstad’s worth moving forward in the organization.
Peter Stoykewych, D, Colorado College Tigers (NCHC)
Drafted 7th Round, 199th Overall, 2010
Another Jets defense prospect playing out of Colorado College, Stoykewych was named team captain before the start of his senior year. The puck-moving defenseman was relied upon to be a leadership presence on the young team that finished last in their division.
In 34 games this year, Stoykewych put up 11 points and a -17 +/- rating, which as was the case with teammate Aaron Harstad, is more indicative of the teams poor play than his skillset.
Stoykewych was also signed to an amateur try-out deal to play with the IceCaps but will be looking to sign a minor league deal at the conclusion of the season and begin his climb up the pro hockey ladder.
Tucker Poolman, D, University of North Dakota (NCHC)
Drafted 5th Round, 127th Overall, 2013
Despite competing for ice time amongst a veteran defense corps, freshman Tucker Poolman had a very strong first season playing at the University of North Dakota. In 39 games this year he put up 17 points and had a +4 rating, while also leading the team in power play goals with six.
He is still very much a work in progress, but Poolman has shown significant development in his game since being drafted in his 3rd year of eligibility by the Jets back in 2013.
He will no doubt play a more prominent role in his sophomore season and if continues to mature and develop, he could be a potential late round steal for the Jets.
Pavel Kraskovsky, C, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
Drafted 6th Round, 164th Overall, 2014
Playing this year for Loko Yarosavl of the MHL (Russia U22 league) the 6’4 Kraskovsky had 30 points in 38 regular season games and was a point a game player during the team’s short playoff run.
He also represented Russia at the World Juniors and in the Subway Series as an 18-year-old where he got three points in six games.
Kraskovsky will more than likely spend another year in Russia battling for a roster spot on Lokomotiv Yaroslav of the KHL before he makes to jump over to North America.
Kraskovsky has proven that he can excel against younger players, and it will be interesting to see if he can replicate this success against older and stronger opponents next year in the KHL.
Ivan Telegin, LW, CSKA Moscow (KHL)
Drafted 4th Round, 101st Overall, 2010
After missing the entire 2013-14 season due to complications after suffering a concussion, Telegin played 31 games in the KHL this year for CSKA Moscow. He spent the season fighting for ice time and playing primarily a bottom-six role for the team. He had three goals and one assist on the season.
Point totals aside, it is a very positive sign that he is back playing again, and appears to have made a full recovery from what could have been a career-ending injury.
Whether he will be back playing in the KHL next season or with the IceCaps in the AHL – where he played in 2012-13 – is unknown at this point. But regardless of where it is, it will be interesting to see if the two-way forward can increase his offensive production and, more importantly, remain healthy.
Marcus Karlstrom, D, Mora (Allsvenskan)
Drafted 7th Round, 194th Overall, 2013
Splitting his time the year primarily between Mora in Sweden’s Allsvenskan league and Visby/Roma in Sweden’s Division 1 league, Karlstrom posted a combined eight points and -9 rating this year with both clubs.
A 7th round draft pick by the Jets back in 2013, Karlstrom has yet to sign a entry level deal with Jets. He possess good height – 6’2 – for an NHL defenseman and the Jets’ hope when they drafted him was no doubt that he would add size and develop into a strong defender.
It is unclear what Jets management will do moving forward in regards to Karlstrom, but it is likely he will again be playing in Sweden next year.
Prospect of the Month
Phillips’s superb play this year at Michigan Tech has created a scenario for the Jets that every organization in the NHL would absolutely love to have: significant young depth in net.
Phillips’s play has put him at the top end of a goaltending prospect pool that already includes Connor Hellebuyck – who has had a phenomenal year in the AHL with St. John’s – and Eric Comrie – who won a gold medal with Canada at this year’s World Junior Championships – not to mention recently graduated prospect Michael Hutchinson who has made a significant impact in his rookie year with the Jets.
Phillips’ future for next year is still up in the air regarding whether he will return to Michigan Tech for his senior year or challenge for a spot in the AHL. Due to the sheer number of young goalies in the Jets system he may have no choice but to return for another year of collegiate hockey. Whatever the scenario, needless to say, it’s a good problem for the Jets to have.
Follow Patrick Allen on Twitter via @HFPatrick