Bill Streicher/Icon SMI)
The Winnipeg Jets are well represented in the 2011-12 post-season, with their AHL affiliate, the St. John IceCaps making the Eastern Conference Finals. The organization also had players make noise in the OHL and WHL playoffs.
The St. John's IceCaps are in the Eastern Conference Finals and are being driven by key contributions from Jets prospects. Goaltender Eddie Pasquale, an AHL rookie, has forced himself into the starter's role for the IceCaps, beating out competition from veterans David Aebischer and Peter Mannino and establishing himself as the Jets' top goalie prospect. Pasquale has been more than steady, coming up with spectacular saves when most needed and is amongst the league leaders in the playoffs with a .932 save percentage and 2.07 goals against average.
Patrice Cormier has been a key role player for the IceCaps, centering the second line and matching up with the top opposition players. Aided and abetted by grinder Spencer Machacek, the two have emerged as key performers in the tough going of the post season. Another unsung hero who has risen to the occasion is fourth line center Johnny Albert, a heart and soul player that has put in the effort to kill penalties and block shots. It was Albert who set up the game winner in game seven of the conference semis after a gutsy play along the boards.
Slick center Ben Maxwell has emerged as an offensive leader, scoring an important overtime winner in the conference semi-finals and pacing the offense along with former Hamilton Bulldogs' teammate Brock Trotter, currently on loan from the Phoenix organization in a swap deal for Mannino. While neither of those are considered top prospects for the Jets, the addition of Mark Schiefele to the lineup gave the Jets' brass a chance to watch a future top line center deal with playoff intensity. While Schiefele has been quietly effective on the third line, he has shown flashes of brilliance and established some good chemistry with the big Swede Carl Klingberg.
The IceCaps have a veteran squad back to front and ice time for prospects has been hard earned. All the more reason to be pleased with Paul Postma taking a regular shift at even strength in the playoffs as well as running the dangerous IceCaps power play with veteran Derek Meech. Postma has been getting his shots through in key moments and, were it not for the width of the posts, would have scored two in game seven of the conference semis. Arturs Kulda was on the ice to protect the one goal lead in that same game seven, underlying the trust coaches haves in his solid play. Kulda will soon be too old for prospect status but a future in the NHL is still within his reach.
Rookie Zach Redmond has not been able to maintain the same level of effectiveness, managing only spot duty in a handful of games, while new signing Will O'Neill has to watch from the press box. Likewise, rookies Jason Gregoire and Eric O'Dell have been healthy scratches for the playoffs. The return of Marco Rosa also pushed Schiefele to the sidelines for the final games of the second round.
The Kitchener Rangers big, bruising blueliner Cody Sol played the most playoff games of any junior aged Jets' prospect this year, stepping up with big minutes to lead the Rangers to the OHL semi-finals. Drafted in the 5th round and projected as an enforcer, Sol has improved his mobility and is able to hold down a top-pairing job while still dropping the mitts to protect teammates when needed. Sol does more damage to the opposition on the ice however, using his booming slapper to good effect on the power play. Sol scored three goals and added 11 assists in the Rangers' 14 playoff games.
The Barrie Colts dynamic duo of Mark Schiefele and Ivan Telegin were counted on for big-game heroics in the Colts' run to the semi-finals. Each scored five goals in 13 playoff games and were counted on to key both special teams. Schiefele scored a dramatic equalizer with seconds left in game seven, and although the Colts lost in the resulting overtime, it is an encouraging sign that the Jets' may have a big-game player on their hands. Telegin used his blazing speed to great effect on the penalty kill and forced opponents to change their game plan when he was on the ice. Both players reported to St. John's after their playoffs ended, however only Schiefele has seen AHL playoff action.
Austen Brassard played only six games in the OHL playoffs, scoring once, as the Belleville Bulls went out in the first round, but his physical play and committed effort did not go unappreciated. Big defender Julian Melchiori continued to be the Oshawa Generals trigger man on the blue line, scoring two goals in six games and underlining his emerging offensive potential. Melchiori may benefit from being squeezed out on the IceCaps blue line next year, as an overage season with the Generals will enable him to grow more comfortable being a power play general.
Defenders Zachary Yuen and Kendall McFaull were both beaten in the WHL semi-finals after strong playoff performances. The underappreciated McFaull gave Moose Jaw a committed shot-blocker and crease-clearer in the playoff wars while Yuen brings a bit more style and finesse to the defensive defenseman's game. Both had identical stats of one goal and four assists but their value to their teams goes far beyond what is recorded on the stats table.