The Winnipeg Jets broke the mold this month, making the team’s first major trade in their short history – a massive seven-player deal that saw franchise top-five picks Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian head to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, prospects Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux, and a first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Already considered one of the deeper prospect pools in the NHL, the additions of Armia and Lemieux add two more dimensions to the already strong group of prospects that Kevin Cheveldayoff and his staff have assembled since the team’s move to Winnipeg.
1. (1) Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, 8.0C
Drafted 1st Round, 9th overall 2014
From leading Team Denmark to its first ever quarterfinals appearance in last month’s World Junior tournament, to amassing an eye-opening 80 points in only 40 games so far this year for the Halifax Mooseheads, Nikolaj Ehlers once again stands atop the Jets’ prospect pool, and rightfully so.
His elite offensive abilities make him a can’t-miss prospect who will be given every chance to make the big club out of next year’s training camp. The Jets have historically been patient with nurturing their high-end prospects before they make the jump to the NHL – case in point Mark Scheifele – but Ehlers’s energetic offensively-driven skill set is something that may prove to be too enticing to pass up on.
2. (2) Josh Morrissey, D, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 13th Overall 2013
From his All-Star defensive honors and gold medal at this year World Juniors, to his dominant play in the WHL for both the Prince Albert Raiders and Kelowna Rockets, Josh Morrissey has more than solidified himself as the Jets’ top defensive prospect.
His remarkable offensive instincts and smooth skating make him dangerous on the power play but he can also be relied upon to play a strong defensive-minded game. It will be interesting to see how the second half of the season transpires for Morrissey. Kelowna looks positioned to make a serious run at the Memorial Cup and if they do Morrissey will definitely be relied upon greatly to contribute both offensively and defensively.
Though he may be battling for a spot on the Jets’ blueline next fall, it is more likely that Morrissey will spend the majority of his time developing and playing big minutes with St. John’s in the AHL.
3. (3) Nicolas Petan, C, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 43rd overall 2013
The final cut of Jets training camp this year, Nicolas Petan has had a strong season as captain for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. Though his goal totals have fallen off in comparison to years past, his performance at this years World Junior Championships – where he tied for the tournament lead in points – made clear that there’s no debating his elite offensive talent.
Questions surrounding his size and whether he will be able to replicate his success at the NHL level will no doubt continue to surround Petan on his road to the NHL but his recent success has proven that he will at least be given a serious chance to prove that he belongs. Look for him to once again be battling for a roster spot with the Jets next fall.
4. (NR) Joel Armia, RW, 7.0 B
Acquired via trade with Buffalo, February 2015
One of the key pieces Winnipeg acquired in the Evander Kane trade, Armia put up 25 points in 33 games while playing with the Rochester Americans this year in the AHL, good for sixth on that squad.
Standing 6’3 the Finnish winger is a rare combination of size and goal-scoring ability. Though he will need to put in some work on improving his skating and defensive play, he is a power forward with above-average shooting ability. Possessing greater offensive upside, but less physical presence, than fellow Jets prospect Adam Lowry, the two may be battling for a depth power forward role in next year’s training camp.
5. (4) Adam Lowry, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall 2011
Lowry has played 59 games in his rookie year with the Jets, putting him on track to graduate as a prospect this season. Though statistically his 15 points may be on the low side – especially for a player that put up 45 goals during his last year in junior – the 6’5 winger is making his presence known through a strong 200-foot game. Lowry is already a reliable bottom-six forward with size and, given the opportunities, one should see his point totals rise as he gets more accustomed to the NHL game.
6. (5) Connor Hellebuyck, G, 7.5D
Drafted 5th round, 130th overall 2012
Playing in his first year in the AHL, Hellebuyck has put up very impressive numbers: posting a .925 save percentage and 2.39 goals against average in 44 starts, which are more than any other goalie in the top ten for save percentage.
If he can maintain this strong play for the remainder of the season he will make the goaltending discussion very interesting for Jets management this summer. With the current duo of rookie Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec splitting the goaltending duties this year, management may have to make a decision on which goaltender to go with moving forward. If they decide to part ways with one of their starters, Hellebuyck has made a strong case for the backup job in next year’s training camp.
7. (6) Eric Comrie, G, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 59th overall 2013
Comrie has posted decent numbers this year playing for a below average Tri-City Americans team. In 32 games he has posted a .912 save percentage and 2.91 goals against average. He also won a gold medal with Canada at the World Juniors and in two games had a 2-0 record – highlighted by a shutout against Germany.
Long-term, Comrie will be likely playing for St. John’s in the AHL next year, probably in a back-up role, depending on the future of Connor Hellebuyck.
8. (NR) Brendan Lemieux, LW, 7.0 C
Acquired via trade with Buffalo, February 2015
Another prospect the Jets received in the Evander Kane deal, Lemieux is a big power winger who has a rare blend of scoring ability and strong physical play. His 39 goals and 58 points in 51 games with 132 penalty minutes for the Barrie Colts display his ability to play the dual role of scorer and agitator. He is more than likely a few years away from playing with the big club, with management likely preferring he spend a year or two in the minors developing before he gets his shot at the NHL.
9. (9) Andrew Copp, C, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 104th overall 2013
Copp is playing in his junior year as captain of the resurgent University of Michigan Wolverines. Copp has put up impressive numbers even with taking on less of a scoring role, and for the second straight year is in the top five in team scoring with 24 points in 27 games. It will be interesting to see if Copp forgoes his senior year at Michigan to play in the AHL next year, but whatever path he chooses, his continued development is encouraging.
10. (7) Scott Kosmachuk, RW, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 70th overall 2012
Kosmachuk’s first stint in the AHL after making the jump from junior has definitely not been a seamless transition. In 50 games this year, he has a -18 plus-minus rating and only 18 points after putting up 101 points as an overage player in the OHL. These totals at the AHL level definitely warrant some cause for concern in regard to his long-term future. The team has struggled to put up points as a group however, and next season could see a bounceback on the offensive side for Kosmachuk.
11. (12) Chase De Leo, C, 7.0D
Drafted 4th round, 99th overall 2014
Despite an underwhelming performance with Team USA at this year’s World Juniors, De Leo has put up strong numbers in his fourth season as a member of the Portland Winterhawks with 64 points in 51 games. Similar to his Portland teammate Nic Petan, questions surrounding his size will continue to cloud his future upside as a NHL player. De Leo will more than likely be playing in the AHL next year, and he will need to bulk up this offseason, specifically adding strength and weight to compete with the older and stronger players he will be facing off against.
12. (NR) Ben Chiarot, D, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 120th overall 2009
Chiarot has performed well when called up this year to help aid the team with multiple injuries on their back end. Averaging around 15 minutes a night, he does not look out of place in the slightest in a sheltered role. He has displayed that he can be a reliable bottom-pairing defensemen in the NHL and there is still some room for him to grow moving forward.
13. (NR) Jan Kostalek, D, 7.0D
Drafted 4th round, 114th overall 2013
Kostalek had a solid World Juniors tournament this year playing for the Czech Republic, including a Player of the Game nod in his team’s win over Denmark. He is producing top of the line offensive numbers in his third season with Rimouski. His 34 points in 43 games showcase his offensive upside but he does possess some good size and strength as well. Questions remain in regard to his consistency but his development on a year-to-year basis has been very promising.
14. (16) Eric O’Dell, C, 6.5C
Acquired via trade with Anaheim, March 2009
O’Dell is 24 years old now and playing in his fourth year in the minors. He is definitely beginning to run the risk of being a labeled a perennial AHLer. That being said, he has produced at nearly a point a game pace in all four years he has been in the minors and was rewarded last year with a call up and played 30 games with the big club. His consistent production definitely will get him a fair look moving forward, but he needs to make the jump soon because he is running out of time.
15. (NR) Jamie Phillips, G, 7.0D
Drafted 7th round, 190th overall 2012
Phillips’s play this season at Michigan Tech has been nothing short of spectacular. The Huskies have been one of the nation’s best teams behind the play of their junior netminder. In 32 games he has gone 23-6-1 with a 1.76 goals against average and 0.934 save percentage, by far the best season of his college career. It will be interesting to see if Phillips returns for his senior year at Tech or gets the chance to challenge for a starting job in St. John’s. He joins a long list of up and coming goaltenders for the Jets.
16. (8) Jack Glover, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 69th overall 2014
Glover is playing his freshman year on a deep squad at the University of Minnesota. The 18-year-old, smooth-skating defenseman has posted just 3 asssists in 14 games in a limited role with the Gophers this year. This is far too small a sample size to draw any real conclusions in regards to Glover’s future development: he is a young defender with good tools and a long timeline for a possible impact with the Jets. One can expect an increase in point production during his sophomore season as some of the upperclassmen, such as Mike Reilly (CBJ), Ben Marshall (DET), or Brady Skjei (NYR) move on in their careers.
17. (15) Pavel Kraskovsky, C, 7.0D
Drafted 6th round, 164th overall 2014
Playing this year in the MHL (Russian U-22 league) Kraskovsky has put up 22 points in 29 games. He has also represented Russia internationally, including this season’s Subway Series where he got 3 points in 6 games. It will be very interesting to see what management decides to do with him moving forward: keeping him in Russia, where he is under contract to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and could get pro experience in the KHL, or trying to get him in the AHL for next year. He has shown with his play this year that he can produce when playing against older players, but his development will definitely be a multiple year project moving forward.
18. (10) Jimmy Lodge, C, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 84th overall 2013
Playing in his 4th year of junior, Pennsylvania native Lodge has put up 56 points in 50 games in time split between struggling squads in the Saginaw Spirit and the Mississauga Steelheads. One might expect a little more production from an overage player with the size and offensive abilities that Lodge possesses but the fourth-year junior player has managed pretty well. Still unsigned by the Jets, Lodge’s future with the organization is uncertain if they do not agree on an entry-level contract by June 2015.
19. (13) Brenden Kichton, D, 6.5D
Drafted 7th round, 190th overall 2013
Kichton has taken a step back in both point production and plus-minus in his second year of AHL experience. His -12 plus-minus rating and 19 points this year, after huge junior production with the Spokane Chiefs and an impressive 48 points in 76 games last season in St. John’s, are areas of concern with regard to the 22-year-old’s development. That said, it may be a temporary struggle related to a tougher role this season.
20. (NR) C.J. Franklin, LW, 6.5D
Drafted 5th round, 129th overall 2014
With 23 points in 29 games while playing as a 20-year-old freshman for Minnesota State-Mankato, Franklin has helped his team to the top of the WCHA standings. Franklin has impressed the hockey community and emerged as intriguing late bloomer. Still very much a work in progress, his success to date has shown his upside and his continued development may result in a great late round steal for the Jets.
Article written by Patrick Allen
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