The Winnipeg Jets stuck with their established drafting trends in 2012, staying in North America and looking for size, strength, and strong character. They added a stud defenseman from the US National Development Team with their first rounder, and some additional size and sandpaper to their forward group in the later rounds. The search for additional goalie depth took them to unfamiliar territory however, with a fifth rounder from the NAHL and a seventh rounder from the OJHL.
Big, mobile, and tough, Trouba will give the Jets a killer one-two punch with Zach Bogosian once he makes it to the NHL. Scheduled to attend the University of Michigan next year, Trouba is also property of the OHL's Kitchener Rangers and may be nudged in that direction by Jet's management, especially after Winnipeg defense prospects Cody Sol and Julian Melchiori showed solid improvement in that program recently. Playing with the USNTDP last season, Trouba showed great tools and an improved offensive game, making a timely first pass and bombing in a very heavy shot from the blue line, however his powerplay ice time was limited. Trouba was second only to teenage phenom Seth Jones in total ice time but often given the tougher defensive assignments and penalty kill time as a priority.
Trouba was one of the best Americans on an underwhelming team at the WJC, catching the eye with some devastating hits and moving the puck with authority. He followed up that solid performance in a losing cause with a key role on the gold-medal squad at the U-18 tournament, taking a lot of credit for the USA's record-setting goals against tally. A safe bet to be a very good NHL player, Trouba has yet to tap into an offensive upside that could make him a great one for the Jets. At worst, he is a solid shutdown defender who will be very difficult to play against. At best, he can become a workhorse who can play in all situations, similar to a Shea Weber. Either way, Jets brass must feel they have added a keystone element to their building of a perennial contender.
The latest of the clan to join the family business, Lukas Sutter embodies all the qualities that make the Sutter's such a famous hockey name: hard-work, determination, toughness, and integrity. The oldest son of the youngest Sutter, Lukas may be the safest pick in the draft in terms of reaching his upside, but he also may bring more than what is expected in terms of offense. Coming out of the draft, Jets management can write his name at center on their future third line and know that he's going to do everything he must to get there. However there have been flashes of something more this year. After being typecast as a defensive forward and agitator, Sutter stepped on to the second line and showed an improved skating stride, some creativity, and a surprisingly good scoring touch in close that netted him 28 goals and 59 points in 70 games. With the Blades hosting the Memorial Cup next year, Sutter will have his chance to help lead his team to glory, an experience that can only him serve him well in terms of development and progress.
Scott Kosmachuk, RW – Guelph Storm (OHL)
Third round, 70th overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 185 lbs
In the third round, the Jets were able to snag a prospect that perfectly fits their ideal profile in hard-hitting winger Scott Kosmachuk. The Guelph Storm winger had a breakout 30 goal campaign this year and was ranked as a high-second to low-first round pick by many scouting services. Kosmachuk skates well and has goal-scoring ability, but he has made his reputation with hard-work in the corners, big hits, and fearless defense of teammates. A frequent fighter in the OHL, "Kos" can hold his own with nearly anyone and will not hesitate to take on those outside his weight class if the occasion calls for it. With the premium the Jets brass places on hard-working players with toughness, Kosmachuk seems to have taken a fortuitous slide to an organization that may value his type of game more than others.
Connor Hellebuyck, G – Odessa Jackalopes (NAHL)
Fifth round, 130th overall
Height: 6'4 Weight: 185 lbs
The second goalie taken out of the NAHL this year, Hellebuyck hails from Michigan and is committed to the UMass-Lowell River Hawks for next season. A raw project, Hellebuyck has the size NHL teams look for in their goalies, catches the eye with quick reflexes, and is a fierce competitor. Hellebuyck played more minutes and made more saves than any other goalie in the NAHL this past season and was rewarded with the Goalie of the Year and Rookie of the Year hardware, finishing with a .930 save percentage. A long-term goalie project for the Jets, this long-legged Jackalope could turn out to be a great pick by the Jets, despite being unranked by Central Scouting.
Ryan Olsen, C – Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Sixth round, 160th overall
Height: 6'1 Weight: 187 lbs
Playing third-line minutes in Saskatoon last season, Olsen was recently traded to the Kelowna Rockets in a deal for Shane McColgan (NYR) and Jessey Astles as the Blades ramp up for hosting the Memorial Cup. The right-handed center was utilized mainly in a defensive role, matching against the opposition's best lines, and was able to chip in 15 goals and 32 points in 67 games. A native of North Vancouver, Olsen will likely get more ice-time with the rebuilding Rockets and should see an increase in his production next season. A smooth-skater with good hockey sense, Olsen has the size and smarts to become a high value pick for the Jets in the sixth round.
Jamie Phillips, G – Toronto Jr. Canadiens (OJHL)
Seventh round, 190th overall
Height: 6'1 Weight: 170 lbs
Ranked 26th amongst North American goaltenders by Central Scouting, Phillips made his name in the CCHL last season when he was the top goalie for the National Champion Pembroke Lumber Kings. Named the top prospect and top goalie for the OHA this season, Phillips was traded mid-season from the Powell River-Kings of the BCHL, where he had stolen the starting job from Penguins' 2012 fifth-rounder Sean Maguire. Phillips left the BCHL with a league-leading 2.01 goals against average and .921 save percentage, remarkable stats considering the BCHL is such a high-scoring league. After a few rough starts with his new team, Phillips rallied the Jr. Canadiens to the playoffs and battled through a first-round upset before bowing out with some heroic displays against the top-ranked St. Mike's program.
Recruited by Michigan Tech University, an ambitious smaller school in the CCHA, Phillips will enjoy the challenge of winning the starter's job next season and taking on the bigger names in that conference. A one time fourth-round pick of the Sarnia Sting of the OHL, Phillips seems to thrive in underdog situations and needs no second invitation to accept a challenge.