Winnipeg Jets inherited large group of NCAA prospects from former Thrashers

By Kyle West
Photo: Defenseman Will O’Neill has recently joined the Jets AHL affiliate after a stellar four-year career with Maine. (Photo courtesy of

Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)


The Jets have inherited a prospect pool of NCAA players selected in the late rounds, a policy they continued with the selection of Aaron Harstad in the seventh round last year. The Jets’ had eight prospects in the NCAA this past season, four of whom were taken in the seventh round.

In Europe, only goaltender Frederik Petterson-Wentzel can be considered a true prospect. Two other Swedes and a Russian make the list but only for the time being, as all three are under contract in Europe and unlikely to come over to North America.


NCAA

Vinny Saponari, RW, Northeastern Huskies (Hockey East)
Drafted in the 4th round, 94th overall, 2008


The 21-year-old winger was one of the top playmakers on one of the lowest scoring teams in the NCAA. The pass-first winger laid on 16 helpers in 34 games, tied for second on the team, and his 7 goals made him fourth in team scoring. Asked to carry the load for a struggling team, Saponari showed leadership and character, two qualities left somewhat in doubt after he was ejected from the Boston University program two years ago.


Will O’Neill, D, Maine Black Bears (Hockey East)
Drafted in the 7th round, 210th overall, 2006

The Black Bears captain saw his college career come to an end with a first-round loss to the University of Minnesota-Duluth in the Frozen Four tournament. The Boston native stepped up his game this season with a career best 33 points in 40 games and was a vocal and commanding defender who played in all situations. A combative defender with good positioning, O’Neill makes a good first pass and has a hard shot. His mobility has improved since being drafted, but it remains an area that needs progress.


Daultan Leveille, C, Michigan State Spartans (CCHA)
Drafted in the 1st round, 29th overall, 2008

Playing for a contract offer from the Jets, Leveille had the worst season of his college career. Hampered by injuries, the slight yet quick center scored only three goals and nine points in 21 games for the Spartans. He will likely be remembered as the player picked by Atlanta with the selection acquired from Pittsburgh in the Marion Hossa deal.


Brennan Serville, D, Michigan Wolverines (CCHA)
Drafted in the 3rd round, 78th overall, 2011

The lanky blueliner made a promising debut for the powerhouse Wolverines, top team in the CCHA, despite limited ice time. Used as a seventh defenseman after the return of Jon Merrill (NJ) from suspension, Serville acquitted himself well and earned a regular shift. His eight assists in 34 games will be sure to improve next season as the former OJHL star steps up after the graduation of several key seniors from the blue line. Serville was on the third pairing for the Wolverines when they crashed out of the Frozen Four to Cornell in the first round and, with four defenders expected to leave for the pros next year, could see himself in the top four as a sophomore.


Aaron Harstad, D, Colorado College Tigers (WCHA)
Drafted in the 7th round, 187th overall, 2011

The final pick in the Jets’ first entry draft, Harstad had an auspicious debut season with the Colorado College Tigers. The Wisconsin native and former star of the Green Bay Gamblers was able to carve out regular ice time on a crowded blue line and has put down a strong marker for next season. The 6’2 blueliner has shown strong offensive instincts in the USHL and although he recorded only six assists in 29 games as a freshman, indications are that he will be someone asked to take on a more offensive role next year.


Yasin Cisse, RW, Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
Drafted in the 5th round, 150th overall, 2010

Just glad to be on the ice again, Cisse lost the better part of his last two seasons through ankle injuries. Showing signs of hesitation and somewhat tentative play, the 6’3 winger from Montreal needs to become more implicated in the physical stuff in order to raise his game to the next level.

Receiving more ice time after Charlie Coyle (MIN) and Corey Trivino (NYI) left the Terriers program, the erstwhile freshman scored just twice in 25 games and needs to do more as a sophomore.


Peter Stoykewych, D, Colorado College Tigers (WCHA)
Drafted in the 7th round, 199th overall, 2010

The final pick by the Atlanta Thrashers Organization, Stoykewych found himself a prospect of his hometown team just a year later. Drafted out of the Winnipeg South Blues of the MJHL, Stoykewych played a year with Des Moines in the USHL before his college debut for the Tigers last season. A lanky blueliner with good puck-moving instincts, Stoykewych found ice time hard to come by as a freshman, playing in only 26 games.


Jordan Samuels-Thomas, LW, Quinnipiac Bobcats (ECAC)
Drafted in the 7th round, 203rd overall, 2009

Unable to play for the Bobcats this season due to having switched programs after two seasons at Bowling Green University, the big winger known as JST will look to bring his power game back to the ice next season.


Europe

Frederik Pettersson-Wentzel, G, Farjestads (SEL)
Drafted in the 5th round, 128th overall, 2010

The number two in Farjestads, Petterson-Wentzel has performed ably as the backup in 16 games. His has posted solid numbers, with a 2.39 goals against average, .902 save percentage, and one shutout. Playing on a strong team with limited minutes may not be the best thing for his development, however the Jets can take their time with this technically strong goalie and let him grow up slowly in his native country before they push him to come over and play in the AHL.


Fredrik Pettersson, RW, Frolunda (SEL)
Signed as a free agent in June, 2010

Back in his native country after a disappointing stint in the AHL, Petterson has been top 15 in SEL scoring all season long and finished with 16 goals and 24 assists in 54 games. The Jets retain the rights to this quicksilver winger, but being that he is one year into a four-year deal with Frolunda, Petterson likely won’t be coming back over to North America anytime soon.


Nicklas Lasu, LW, Frolunda (SEL)
Drafted in the 5th round, 124th overall, 2008

Known for his physical play, Lasu combines good speed with a willingness to lay on the big hits and be something of an agitator. Signed with Frolunda until the end of next season Lasu remains an intriguing prospect, however until he seems willing to test his game in the AHL, he is a prospect in theory only.