After many years of turmoil in Atlanta, the franchise had gotten very few results on the ice, yet their prospect system remained extremely thin. Since their relocation to Winnipeg, the Jets have seen much greater success through the draft.
Fast-forward to the 2015-16 season, and the Jets have now compiled one of the deepest pools of young talent in the league. They have seen several rookies make their NHL debuts this season with great success, while others that continue to develop in the juniors are also having impressive campaigns.
A few prospects are in the midst of spectacular seasons, boosting their rankings and becoming the ‘next ones’ in the Jets system. Continued success in the draft has put Winnipeg in an enviable position, and healthy competition is beginning to brew within the depth chart. Recent trades and new developments keep good young players like Erik Foley, Mason Appleton, and Pavel Kraskovsky off the list.
20. (NR) Brenden Kichton, D, 6.5D
Drafted 7th round, 190th overall, 2013
Kichton has always been an offensive defenseman, since his days with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. Drafted to the NHL twice, Kichton put up 240 points in 206 games over his final three WHL seasons. Now in his third AHL season, his offence is once again making him one of the more exciting players on the Manitoba Moose.
As an alternate captain, Kichton has scored five goals and 27 points in 45 games for the Moose. Due to his 5’10 frame, size has always been an issue for Kichton, who is not the typical defender. However, when he uses his skating and vision, he becomes very valuable. At 23 years of age though, he may already have hit his ceiling.
19. (13) Jack Glover, D, 6.5D
Drafted 3rd round, 69th overall, 2014
Glover is currently in his second year at the University of Minnesota. Although his offense has increased a little from his freshman year, it still lacks what was initially expected of him.
At 6’3, Glover has the size to become a solid stay at home defenseman, but his physical game is not yet impressive. He continues to develop his vision and awareness for the game, slowly growing more responsible in decisions regarding positioning and outlet passes. The 19-year-old definitely has some years ahead of him, but critics expected more from him offensively by now.
18. (20) Scott Kosmachuk, RW, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 70th overall, 2012
Kosmachuk’s offense is beginning to take a turn for the better in his second AHL season. His 12 goals rank second on the struggling Manitoba Moose, while his two-way game has become much more reliable.
Accepting that he likely won’t ever rack up the goals in the NHL like he did with the Guelph Storm, Kosmachuk has become a more 200-foot player. As a 22-year-old, his ceiling may be as a third-line winger, but he is still visibly improving as he matures. He looks suited to be a viable option as a call up player in 2016-17.
17. (15) Chase De Leo, C, 7.0D
Drafted 4th round, 99th overall, 2014
Chase De Leo has made a very promising transition into the AHL, leading the Manitoba Moose in both goals (with 15) and points (with 31) as a rookie. However, concerns remain over his strength and ability to play both ends of the ice.
De Leo’s strengths are in his offensive game, where he relies on his quick hands and creativity to create scoring chances. He has a solid understanding of positioning, and is able to see ice opening up and take advantage of it. Continued improvements offensively may still give him a shot as an NHL forward.
16. (11) Jamie Phillips, G, 7.0D
Drafted 7th round, 190th overall, 2012
The 22-year-old is playing in his fourth season for Michigan Tech in the NCAA. He is coming off of a spectacular season in 2014-15, which earned him a nomination for the Hobey Baker Award, awarded to the NCAA’s Most Outstanding Player.
He’s come back down to Earth a little in 2015-16, with a 2.00 goals against average and a .921 save percentage in 29 games, but it still making an interesting case for the Jets to consider. Phillips will hopefully make the jump to the AHL or ECHL next season, giving Winnipeg a boatload of intriguing goaltending prospects.
15. (14) Jan Kostalek, D, 7.0D
Drafted 4th round, 113th overall, 2013
The native of Prague, Czech Republic caught the attention of Jets fans last year in the QMJHL, showing off some impressive offensive upside. In this year, his first in the AHL, that offense seems to have taken a backseat.
Unfortunately, he has had a tough transition into professional hockey, looking nervous on some nights and trying to force plays. He also seems to be shying away from the offense that made him so exciting to watch, with just one goal and seven points in 41 games. It’s hardly unheard of for a player to struggle with the transition from the Q to the AHL, and Kostalek’s skills should be better able to shine next season.
14. (NR) J.C. Lipon, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 91st overall, 2013
Lipon has had a very promising season in terms of his development, including two NHL games along the way. After a disappointing second AHL season, Lipon has turned it around in 2015-16, scoring 11 goals and 28 points in 43 games.
Often criticized for his size, Lipon continues to produce at each level he plays. Not only that, but he engages physically whenever the opportunity presents itself, averaging over 100 penalty minutes each year. He still has promising offensive upside, and should find more NHL experience next season.
13. (10) Jansen Harkins, C, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 47th overall, 2015
Harkins’s production has actually taken a bit of a dip after his draft year, with 19 goals and 47 points in 54 games this year, and his points per game falling 26% from last year.
Harkins’ success relies on his playmaking and his two-way game, along with his tremendous hockey IQ. Despite the Prince George Cougars making improvements as a team this year, Harkins seems to have taken a small step backwards. He looks to be a potential third-line center down the road.
12. (18) Michael Spacek, C, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 108th overall, 2015
Spacek is playing in his first season in North America after being drafted 51st overall in the 2015 CHL Import Draft by the Red Deer Rebels. He has made a smooth transition to the more physical game of the WHL, scoring 15 goals and 44 points in 45 games, which should give some more insurance of his potential NHL future.
Although scouts were worried about Spacek’s lack of size and physicality, he has taken away doubts of his ability to engage in puck battles. Spacek was a standout for the Czech squad at the 2016 World Juniors as well, able to distribute the puck with creativity. The Rebels are Memorial Cup hosts, which will give Spacek an extra chance to showcase his improvements.
11. (7) Jack Roslovic, C, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 25th overall, 2015
Roslovic has made the move from the U.S. National Development Team to the NCAA this season, playing for Miami University (Ohio). The 18-year-old freshman is leading the team in goals, with 10, and points, with 22. He is developing into a low-risk, high-reward player.
The 6’1 center should spend at least two years in the NCAA before coming over to the AHL, where he should continue to improve his production. Roslovic excels at entering the zone with speed and controlling possession of the puck. He sees the well ice and has the intelligence to see plays as they develop.