Now entering their second season in Manitoba, the Winnipeg Jets are continuing the franchise rebuild that started in Atlanta. The Jets have focused on adding size and grit to through the last two drafts. Top prospect Mark Scheifele, along with a limited number of other prospects would have had an opportunity to makes the Jets out of training camp, but the NHL lockout put those plans on hold. Instead, these prospects will have the chance to dominate their respective leagues while their veteran brethren find colder pastures to ply their trade.
Below is a look at some prospects to keep an eye on for the 2012-13 season:
Paul Postma remains the top professional prospect for the Winnipeg Jets, looking to improve upon his 13 goals and 44 points in 56 games for the IceCaps last season. He added another 10 points in 15 games in the playoffs, as the IceCaps were swept by the Norfolk Admirals in the Eastern Conference Finals. That point total was good for second on the team during the regular season, behind only right winger Spencer Machacek.
That Postma, a defenseman, was able to contribute so much to the IceCaps offense speaks to the skill he possesses. An AHL All-Star in the 2011-12 season, Postma has a heavy shot and great offensive awareness. However, he must focus on improving his first pass out of the zone and defensive positioning if he wants to become a regular at the NHL level. Postma scored the first goal in the first game back in Winnipeg, and the opportunity exists for him to add more soon.
Postma has been nagged by a leg injury since training camp and has yet to play in any games this season. He is expected to return to the IceCaps' lineup anytime though.
Patrice Cormier, C, St. John's IceCaps (AHL)
Patrice Cormier is a player who has struggled to play at the NHL level, and must make strides in his game in the 2012-13 season to avoid being overlooked for the future. Cormier is a gritty, two-way forward that currently projects to be the Jets' future shutdown centerman. He was originally draft by the New Jersey Devils in 2008 to fill this role, but was traded to Atlanta as part of the Ilya Kovalchuk deal.
As the NHL lockout continues, Cormier will be tested against some of the best young talent the AHL has to offer. He will need to show some improvement on both sides of the puck to maintain his standing in the organization.
First Year Pro to Watch
Ivan Telegin, LW, St. John's IceCaps (AHL)
Ivan Telegin will begin his professional career with St. John's in the AHL with the hope of making Winnipeg's opening day roster once the 2012-13 season begins. The 20-year-old Russian is beginning to fill out his 6'3 frame, and is willing to use that body to get to the slot and other difficult areas of the ice. Telegin has shown some offensive proficiency, putting up 35 goals and 64 points in 46 games for the Barrie Colts last year. He was also a former teammate of Jets top prospect Mark Scheifele.
Top Junior Prospect
Mark Scheifele, C, Barrie Colts (OHL)
The first round draft choice of the new Winnipeg Jets remains the team's best prospect entering the 2012-13 season. Scheifele made the opening night roster of the Jets last season, but was sent back to his junior team after one goal in seven games. Back in the OHL, Scheifele averaged 1.34 points per game before joining the St. John's IceCaps for 10 games in the AHL playoffs.
Scheifele currently projects to be a future top line center for Winnipeg, but to reach that level he will need to add muscle to be able to consistently compete. The lanky native of Kitchener, Ontario has the height of a top center, but currently can be overpowered both on faceoffs and battling in front of the net. Scheifele is now at the point in his career where he needs to dominate the OHL, and early results suggest that is the case. The NHL should not be far off in his future.
After suffering a severe hand injury that involved broken bones and torn ligaments, Swift Current's Adam Lowry is looking to make up for lost time. The son of NHL veteran Dave Lowry, Adam is a hulking 6'5 left winger who has shown continual improvement season after season for the Broncos. Lowry is also an assistant captain for the Broncos.
Lowry possesses the requisite size and attitude to be a power forward in the NHL, provided he continues to fill out his frame. He added over 10 pounds over the summer, and the 2011 third-rounder still has time to add more.
Unsigned for 2013-14
Zachary Yuen, D, Tri-City Americans (WHL)
Entering his fourth season with the Tri-City Americans, defenseman Zachary Yuen is playing for his first professional contract. Yuen has managed to grow his point total in each season with the Americans, including 12 goals and 38 points in 66 games in the 2011-12 season. However, Yuen will not be expected to provide offense from the blue line. Instead, he will be depended upon for his stalwart defensive zone coverage. A strong season will give him an advantage over an increasingly crowded prospect pool for the Jets.
Top Amateur Prospect
Jacob Trouba, D, Michigan Wolverines (CCHA)
The ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Jacob Trouba is entering his freshman year with the Wolverines after a stellar two years with the USNDTP. While defensemen usually take longer to develop into NHL regulars and are therefore more difficult to project, Trouba has the potential to be a top pairing defenseman for the Jets.
The native of Rochester, Michigan was selected as high as he was because of the physical attributes he brings to the rink. Strong play in the defensive zone makes him highly coveted, and he fits into the Jets plan of becoming a meaner, grittier team. Beyond his defensive skill set, Trouba also has a heavy shot and decent passing ability. He is also playing in an excellent program in Michigan, which has a good record for developing NHL players.
Freshman to Watch
Tanner Lane, C, Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (WCHA)
Tanner Lane is a 20-year-old center playing his first year at the college level after playing two years in the USHL, split between the Fargo Force and the Omaha Lancers. Lane was traded after 12 games with the Force in the 2011-12 season, and eventually tallied 41 points in 60 games. He will need to prove himself now at the college level, where he joins a Nebraska-Omaha team projected to finish in the middle of the pack of the WCHA. Lane will not be heavily relied on this year, and he will be best served to use this season to build the foundation that will serve as the springboard for his future growth, both on the ice and in the weight room.
Jordan Samuels-Thomas, LW, Quinnipiac Bobcats (ECAC)
Jordan Samuels-Thomas will begin his first season with the Quinnipiac Bobcats after not playing last season to comply with NCAA transfer rules. Prior to his transfer, Samuels-Thomas led Bowling Green in scoring in his freshman and sophomore years. Now at Quinnipiac, Samuels-Thomas will be exposed to higher level of competition, and will need to raise his level of play accordingly. He faces strong competition from within the Jets organization at his position, and needs to take the opportunity at the collegiate level to round out his two-way play.
Top European Prospect
Nicklas Lasu, LW, Vastra Frolunda HC (SEL)
The lone Winnipeg Jets prospect currently playing in Europe is Nicklas Lasu. Now entering his third season with Frolunda, Lasu is not counted on to provide an offensive punch. Rather, Lasu is a prototypical grinder, willing to use his size and tenacity in the difficult areas of the ice. He excels on the defensive side of the puck, and his team depends on this with his fearlessness in blocking shots and during the penalty kill. Lasu attended Atlanta's prospect camp, but has yet to appear at the same camp for the Jets. At this point, it is unclear if he will make the jump to North America.