Consistent to their ideals, Winnipeg Jets management continued the trend of building the prospect base with big, tough, strong characters who put the team first. The team's top three picks from the 2012 draft all fit that identity and slot in very nicely into the Top 20.
1. (1) Mark Scheifele, C, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 7th overall, 2011
The Jets top prospect played a lot of hockey this past season, suiting up for four different teams. Starting the season with the Jets, Scheifele knocked in his first NHL tally in a nine game cameo before returning to the Barrie Colts to prep for the WJC with Canada. After the World Juniors, Scheifele battled through injury and negative attention from the opposition to lead the Colts through two rounds of playoffs before joining the St. John's IceCaps for 10 AHL playoff games. The upshot of such a diversity of exposure is it gives the Jets' 2011 first round pick a ton of experience. Scheifele is not old enough to play in the AHL, so he will either play with the Jets in the 2012-13 season or return to the OHL.
2. (NR) Jacob Trouba, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 9th overall, 2012
A workhorse on the blue line, Trouba is a big, mobile, tough defender that can play in all situations, the type which all teams covet. Trouba has been at the center of some recent controversy when a Michigan newspaper filed a story alleging the Kitchener Rangers offered big money for Trouba to forgo his University of Michigan commitment and play in the OHL next year. While Trouba has since denied the allegations and reiterated his intent to suit up for the Wolverines, it is no secret the Jets want him to turn pro sooner rather than later and would like him under contract. Whether Kitchener or Ann Arbour, either hockey program will have an apt pupil to work with.
3. (4) Ivan Telegin, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 101st overall, 2010
A breakthrough player for the past season, Telegin switched to the wing and improved the power behind his skating stride to the point where he became a dominant force in the OHL. His 13 goals in 12 games in February made him player of the month and boosted his confidence levels to a new high. Playing on the top line with Mark Scheifele for most of the season, he was also used on the penalty kill unit and became one of the most dangerous shorthanded scorers in the league. Despite injuries and time away while playing with Russia's Junior teams, Telegin tallied 35 goals in 64 games and added 14 points in 15 playoff games. The 6'4 winger needs to prove he can be a game-breaker at the next level, but his combination of size, speed and skill make him an intriguing prospect.
4. (4.) Paul Postma, D, 7.0C
Drafted 7th round, 205th overall, 2007
Signed to a one-year deal in July, Postma now has to earn that contract by winning a spot in the NHL. Steadily improving his defensive game, Postma is still very much a power-play specialist with a big shot that he can get through in the right areas. Still on the lanky side, the 6'3 defender can get caught trying to do too much offensively and needs a stay-at-home partner to cover his mistakes. In his own end, he has improved his coverage and does a better job of keeping things simple, he will never be a player deployed late in games to protect a lead however.
5. (2) Carl Klingberg, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2009
The big Swede got off to a strong start in St. John's and earned a six game recall to the Jets in December, however his second half showed he still needs to adapt to the North American game. Finishing the year with 15 goals in 66 games, his conditioning will need to improve in order to keep up with the heavier workload. The 6'3 winger plays a direct game and uses his speed well on the forecheck, however he still needs to add strength. Dressed for 10 playoff games with the IceCaps, Klingberg scored just the once but got ice time alongside Mark Scheifele and showed great chemistry with the Jet's top prospect.
A nondescript training camp and slow start with the IceCaps had some hockey observers reaching for the bust label, however Cormier recovered with a very strong second half and earned a recall to the NHL. That he didn't score in his nine games in Winnipeg is of no real concern as he is penciled in as a shutdown line specialist. With power play time and top six minutes Cormier was able to produce for the IceCaps, finishing with 18 goals in 56 games and three vital goals in 15 playoff games. With time running out on his prospect status, this former second-rounder needs to elbow out some room for himself on the Jets roster.
7. (6.) Zach Redmond, D, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 184th overall, 2008
A standout in his first season of AHL play, Zach Redmond is slowly overtaking Paul Postma as the Jets' top prospect on the blue line. While conceding prime power-play time to Postma, Redmond still managed eight goals and 31 points in 72 games, third highest amongst IceCaps' blueliners. The former Ferris State Bulldog's captain also showed an appetite for physical play and was reliable in his own zone.
8. (7) Spencer Machacek, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2007
In his final year of prospect status, Machacek faces a do-or-die training camp with the Jets. Finally able to break his scoring duck in the NHL, Machacek went on a spree that finished with nine points in 13 NHL games. The points came at a critical time in the season and Machacek saved his first tally for a game-tying goal against the Washington Capitals in a must-win playoff battle. Returned to St.John's for the AHL playoffs, the former Vancouver Giant's captain played a key role in capping off what was his best AHL season.
9. (NR) Lukas Sutter, C, 6.5 C
Drafted 2nd round, 39th overall, 2012
There was much nodding of heads when Sutter's name was called by the Jets in the second round. The hard-working, physical forward suits the club's drafting philosophy perfectly. Sutter was perhaps the most improved prospect for the 2012 draft, graduating from the Saskatoon bench to center the shutdown line, feature on the power play, and score 28 goals and 59 points in 70 games, a 40 point improvement on the previous season. While improving his game in every other aspect, Sutter has already perfected the role of agitator and led the Blades with 165 penalty minutes including 10 fighting majors.
10 (8) Adam Lowry, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2011
Despite an injury-shortened season, Lowry showed enough to warrant continued top-prospect status. The Swift Current star got off to a flying start, scoring at a point-per-game clip and electrifying WHL fans with big hits and spirited scraps. The 6'4 winger is one of several Jets' prospects who project as grinders who play a tough game. However, Lowry also has some skill in his game, making him one of the more intriguing muckers and grinders in the Jets system.
11. (NR) Ed Pasquale, G, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 117th overall, 2009
A dream season in 2011-12 saw Ed Pasquale shoot up the prospect rankings and become the undisputed top goalie prospect for the Jets. Riding the momentum of a strong preseason, Pasquale won the starting job in St. John's despite stiff competition from veteran pros David Aebischer and Peter Mannino. Pasquale started all 15 playoff games in the IceCaps run to the semi-finals and earned national attention with some spectacular saves at timely moments. The 6'3 netminder will look to carry over that form into training camp and battle offseason signing Mark Dekanich, another AHL veteran, for top goalie status in St. John's.
12. (9) Julian Melchiori, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 87th overall, 2010
The big blueliner ended up back with the OHL team that originally drafted him back in 2007, when he was traded to the Oshawa Generals halfway through the season, and the transition seemed to make for a more comfortable fit. Counted on for top pairing minutes and power play time, Melchiori responded with 17 assists in 25 games. Signed to an entry-level deal in March, Melchiori brings a 6'4 frame and smooth-skating style to St. John's but will need to get more physical and learn to assert himself in the rough and tumble AHL environment.
13. (10) Zachary Yuen, D, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 119th overall, 2011
One of the best defensive blueliners in the WHL, Yuen was amongst the league-leaders for plus-minus rating all season, finishing with a plus-45. Smart and composed, Yuen is a superb skater with a rare dimensional mobility. Although he still prefers to play within himself, Yuen has offensive upside that is untapped. His 12 goals and 38 points in 66 games represent an increase in production over his draft year but a player with his smarts and skills could still do much more.
14. (17) Will O'Neill, D, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 210th overall, 2006
Signed to a pro contract after his senior year at the University of Maine ended, Will O'Neill made a strong first impression in St. John's. O'Neill showcased a heavy shot and smart first pass going forward, scoring his first professional goal and adding two assists in his seven game cameo. Scratched for the playoff run, O'Neill will need to be at his best in training camp as the competition for blue line places in St. John's will be tough.
15. (NR) Scott Kosmachuk, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 70th overall, 2012
In hindsight, it seems inevitable the Jets would take Kosmachuk in the 2012 draft. A big winger who plays a north-south game and drives the net, the Guelph Storm star is a prototype winger in Winnipeg. A 30 goal scorer in his draft year, Kosmachuk has a quick release and good instincts for a scoring chance, qualities that may help to ensure his scoring touch stays with him as he progresses. He is a character guy that teammates love and comes from a family that values hard work, which his coaches love. With some improvements in his agility and skating stride, Kosmachuk could look like a potential steal for the Jets.
A classic "tweener" Maxwell has proven to be too good for the AHL but not quite good enough to win a spot in the big leagues. The smooth skating center had a goal and four assists in just nine games with the Jets but couldn't stick on the roster and was claimed off waivers by Anaheim, where he added another assist and six more games to his NHL total. Reclaimed by Winnipeg he asserted himself in a top-six role with the IceCaps and was a key performer in the playoff run. His three goals in 15 playoff games included two overtime winners and he added four assists while playing some solid two-way hockey. Having turned 24 years old last March, Maxwell will graduate from the prospect ranks even if he never plays another NHL game, but if he does want to stick with the Jets will need to show some fire and feistiness in training camp.
The former Sudbury Wolves star suffered through another injury-shortened season, one year after heart surgery cut his final OHL season in half. O'Dell showed flashes of the deft hands that made him such a force in junior, scoring 12 goals in 39 games, though he needs to add some force to his game in order to move up the prospect ranks. With several roster spots opening up in St. John's over the offseason, the former Anaheim draft pick will need to seize his chance this year.
18. (14) Jason Gregoire, LW, 6.5C
Signed as a free agent, July 8th, 2011
The Winnipeg native had a tough transition to the pro game after quitting college early in order to sign with the Jets. Limited to just 44 games due to injury, Gregoire found himself in the bottom-six with the IceCaps when healthy and managed just six goals. Gregoire is a coachable prospect with soft hands and good speed, however he will need to show more tenacity in his puck pursuit and add some sandpaper to his game if he wants to progress past the AHL ranks this upcoming season.
19. (15) Austen Brassard, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 149th overall, 2011
Brassard scored 27 goals in 62 games with the offensively-starved Belleville Bulls last season and will be a go-to player this coming season. The 6'2 winger plays a scrappy game and projects as another grinder for the third line at the next level. His play on the top line with the Bulls however suggests he has the scoring touch and offensive instincts to produce as a professional after one more year of junior.
20. (NR) Cody Sol, D, 6.0C
Drafted 5th round, 125th overall, 2009
A great example of a player able to exceed his development expectations through hard work, Sol was expected to be little more than a thug a few years ago. Awarded the "Best Defensive Defenseman" recognition by Kitchener Rangers management last year, he was also a nominee for one of the best in the OHL in the shutdown role. A 6'6 behemoth, Sol has also learned to be a weapon offensively and has developed an overpowering shot from the point which netted him 15 goals in 62 games last year. With some roster spots open in St. John's, expect the defender to secure a role on the IceCaps blue line instead of sitting on the bench waiting for a fight.