Scheifele top prospect for newly reinstated Winnipeg Jets

By Kyle West
Photo: 2011 draft pick Brennan Serville debuts as the Jets 17th ranked prospect. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

With everything else new about the Jets orgnization, their prospect pool has also seen plenty of new faces. Mark Scheifele takes the top spot on the summer rankings and fellow 2011 draftees Adam Lowry, Brennan Serville, and Zachary Yuen make their appearance on the Top 20. Free agent Jason Gregoire and recently acquired Ben Maxwell are new, while Fredrik Petterson-Wentzel is the new top goalie on the depth chart.

1. (NR) Mark Scheifele, C, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 7th overall, 2011

With the much-more hyped Sean Couturier (PHI) still available for the Jets to select, many fans were left saying "Mark who?" when the selection of Mark Scheifele was made seventh overall at the 2011 Entry Draft. With the trajectory of development taking the two prospects in different directions however, Jets fans may one day be asking "Sean Who?" Scheifele came from nowhere this year to establish himself as a top prospect for the draft. Slated to go to Cornell University, he was convinced by former Jets great Dale Hawerchuck to go the CHL route after his rights were traded to the Barrie Colts. Hawerchuck would also play a pivotal role in helping the Jets staff realize that his protégé was the real deal and the guy they should target at seventh overall.

The 6’3 Scheifele brings size and skill to the center position for the Jets, something they sorely lack in the prospect pool. He is also a five tool prospect, blessed with size, speed, smarts, skill, and vision. Playing against the best centers in the OHL every game, Scheifele stood out thanks to his work rate and ability to make the best of a poor situation, playing on the worst team in the league. Given better linemates to work with at the U-18 World Championships, Scheifele took his game to another level and sealed his status as a blue-chip prospect. Despite the immediate need for a playmaker on the Jets roster, he is unlikely to turn pro right away. Another year of bulking up and strengthening is in order. The Jets will also likely see him in a starring role with Team Canada at the WJCs. With early reports from Canada’s summer training camp raving about the dynamic Scheifele, Jets fans are starting to have confidence that their new management team made the right choice.

2. (2) Carl Klingberg, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2009

Signed to a three year contract last June, Klingberg made his North American debut at the tail end of last season, skating in eight games for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL and getting a few minutes of game time in a Thrashers uniform. His one goal for the Wolves did little to set hopes and hearts aflutter but any Jets fan who caught him playing for Sweden at the WJC will recall his style of game with fondness. A big winger who plays a straight up and down style, the 6’3 Klingberg loves to hit and hits to hurt. His excellent mobility and acceleration are what truly sets him apart from others in that category however, as his speed allows him to be a menace on the forecheck without getting caught out of position. Although his numbers in the pro leagues of Sweden have not been impressive thus far, Klingberg will likely get at least half a season in the AHL to show that the scoring touch he displayed at the WJCs can carry over to the North American pro leagues.

3. (3) Patrice Cormier, C, 6.5B
Acquired via trade with New Jersey, March 2010

Cormier did not have an easy adjustment to the pros last season. His 21 games with Atlanta saw the defensive specialist post a minus-five rating with just two points, albeit in very limited ice time that averaged less than eight minutes per game. He failed to set the AHL on fire as well, with two goals and three assists in 11 games after recovering from a pre-season injury when he blocked a shot in an exhibition game. An intense competitor he is infamous for crossing the line when it comes to dangerous play, although the near fatal injury he dealt out to an opponent in the QMJHL two years ago seems to have set that line a little more clearly for him.

A second rounder of the New Jersey Devils in 2008, Cormier was acquired by the Thrashers in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade as a potential future captain who would give them some much-needed steel down the center. While he has potentially no more than third-line upside his defensive awareness and commitment to doing whatever it takes to help the team makes him a valued prospect.

4. (5.) Paul Postma, D, 7.0C
Drafted 7th round, 205th overall, 2007

Postma enters his third year in the pros with the objective of completing his transformation from hard-shooting power play specialist to all-around defender with offensive upside. Postma made remarkable progress in that area last season, playing a regular shift with increased defensive responsibility while quarterbacking the man advantage. His 12 goals and 33 assists in 69 games led the team in scoring by a blueliner and his dedication to improving his lateral movement and awareness resulted in his first NHL callup. The one game with the Thrashers was uneventful but represents a significant development milestone for the former seventh rounder who was a gangly 6’4 kid with an awkward skating stride when he was drafted. The 22-year-old has developed into an offensive dynamo with superior shooting and passing skills and as long as he can prove reliable in his own end then he will see more NHL ice time in the near future.

5. (NR) Jason Gregoire, LW, 7.0C
Signed as a free agent, July 2011

The first of what is hoped to be many home-grown talents to declare his love for the Jets, Gregoire is a local boy who left from the Islanders organization in order to fulfill a dream of playing NHL hockey in his hometown. Taking full advantage of a contract loophole, the third-round pick of the Islanders declared himself a free agent after a stellar junior year at the University of North Dakota and signed a two-year deal with the Jets. A skilled and smart winger with decent size, Gregoire plays a responsible two-way game that coaches love. A former Turnbull Cup winner with the Winnipeg South Blues, Gregoire is likely to be one of the first call-ups from the St.John’s IceCaps this year.

6. (7.) Ivan Telegin, C, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 101st overall, 2010

After a more consistent and effective sophomore season in the OHL, the big Russian winger Telegin was signed to an entry-level deal by the Jets. Whether he starts the season in St. John’s or the OHL will depend on his training camp but the 6’3 forward, who prefers to play on the wing, was just traded to Barrie and could end up playing alongside Jets top prospect Mark Schiefele. If those two can establish some good chemistry playing together it would certainly benefit the Jets in the future.

A physical player who has learned to use his size and strength to good effect at the junior level, the 19-year-old Telegin is tough to move from in front of the net and has the quick hands and anticipation to be dangerous once there. His performance this year, with 20 goals and 61 points in 59 games, was an improvement over his OHL rookie season when he burst out of the gates but then tailed off. Telegin will be one of the key players to watch in training camp this year as his performance could go a long way in determining his future prospect rating.

7. (8.) Eric O’Dell, C, 6.5C
Acquired via trade with Anaheim, March 2009

Last fall O’Dell was preparing to undergo heart surgery after discovering he was having palpitations during off-season training. A full year later, he is preparing for his first full season in the pros. O’Dell made a triumphant return to the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL halfway through the season and proved to be better than ever. A slick playmaker, he has learned to fight through checks and establish position, which has resulted in greater goal totals. He was on a near 40 goal pace to finish the year and the Ottawa native scored seven goals in eight playoff games as the underdog Wolves knocked off his hometown 67’s in the first round. A second round selection of Anaheim in 2008, O’Dell has proven to be resilient and adaptable in the junior ranks, qualities that should continue to serve him well as a professional.

8. (NR) Ben Maxwell, C, 6.5C
Acquired via trade with Montreal, March 2011

The return in the Brent Sopel deadline deal, Maxwell is a gifted offensive player who has yet to step forward and make the most of his chances. A smooth skater with quick hands capable of sublime passes, Maxwell has dazzled at times with his ability to make nifty plays at high speed. Unfortunately, Montreal’s second rounder from the 2006 draft has never fully recovered his confidence after two serious knee injuries in junior. Tentative at times, Maxwell has frustrated with his reluctance to initiate contact. He did score his first NHL goal during his 12 games with Atlanta late last season and, perhaps more importantly, showed some appetite for the rough stuff with his first NHL fight. There is reason to hope that this gifted playmaker could yet step into his talent and make an impact at the next level before his status as a prospect expires forever.

9. (4) Spencer Machacek, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2007

Machacek was given a golden opportunity at the NHL level last season but failed to take advantage. Called up due to injuries, the straightforward winger was given 10 games to make a statement but failed to register a point and was largely insignificant during his stay. The former Vancouver Giants captain remains a valued prospect for his strong character and determined work ethic, however without the ability to generate chances or the speed to keep up with the play, he will continue to struggle to win a spot on the NHL roster. Fans of the St. John’s IceCaps will appreciate this no-nonsense grinder and should probably get used to seeing him around.

10. (6.) Arturs Kulda, D, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 200th overall, 2006

Entering his fourth year as a pro, the stocky Latvian remains on the fringes of the depth chart. Solid and reliable, Kulda featured in just two NHL games and has seen his stock drop somewhat after a sub-par year in the minors. Kulda led the AHL in plus/minus rating two years ago when he was Chris Chelios’ regular defense partner, but without the savvy Chelly beside him he was a minus-one last season. Combative and edgy, Kulda also served far too many minor penalties last year. A serviceable call-up, Kulda will need a much more effective performance in St. John’s this year in order to break out of the minor league system and claim a place in the big leagues.

11. (12.) Zach Redmond, D, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 184th overall, 2008

Having rejected contract offers at last year training camp, the 2nd team All-American defender now comes into the fall with a renewed purpose. A rock-solid defender for the Ferris State Bulldogs, Redmond served as captain and played in all situations. A crisp passer with a powerful shot, he should feature on the St. John’s Ice Caps in a top four pairing this year. A solidly built 6’2, Redmond has the mobility and strength to make the next level in a shut-down pairing, however his offensive instincts are so strong he will soon find himself on an AHL power-play.

12. (11) Vinny Saponari, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 94th overall, 2008

One of the more anticipated recruits to the Hockey East conference, Saponari’s first game against his former coach at Boston University could provide some fireworks. The gifted winger played two solid seasons with the Terriers before being ejected from the program. Having bided his time in the USHL last year, Saponari returns to the college battlegrounds of Boston with something to prove. Having been denied admission by Boston College, Saponari will suit up for Northeastern University, a program in transition. With a new coach and their four top scorers having graduated, the Huskies will look to Saponari for leadership. Having been a key performer for USHL powerhouse Dubuque last year, the 6’1 winger should thrive on this new challenge.

13. (10.) Julian Melchiori, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 87th overall, 2010

Having adapted reasonably well to the OHL, Melchiori enters his sophomore season with the Kitchener Rangers having heightened expectations. Drafted out of the OJHL, Melchiori was thought to have more offensive upside than what he showed in 63 games with the Rangers; one goal and 18 assists. Although he won praise from his coach and teammates for a safety-first approach, the smooth skater does have a powerful shot and showed flashes of offensive prowess at times. The 6’4 blueliner invites comparisons to Chris Pronger with his effortless movement and excellent awareness, however he needs to become more implicated in the game. With more confidence and experience, Melchiori may yet show Jets fans a more exciting upside.

14. (NR) Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel, G, 7.0D
Drafted 5th round, 128th overall, 2010

Signed by Frajestad, a powerhouse team in the Swedish Elitserien, the 20-year-old Pettersson-Wentzel has emerged as one of the best young goalies in Sweden. A technically sound butterfly goalie, his quickness has been described as explosive. Although second choice at the recent World Junior Championships, Pettersson-Wentzel was given the start in the bronze medal game against the Americans and drew gasps of amazement from those in attendance for his reflexes. Mentally strong and focused, he is now the top goalie prospect in the organization and seems to be on a sharp upward development curve.

15. (11) Daultan Leveille, C 7.0D
Drafted 1st round, 29th overall, 2008

Entering his senior year at Michigan State, the highly skilled center is being counted on to take an offensive leadership role on a young Spartans side. Increased awareness and a dedication to the defensive side of the game have made Leveille an increasingly important player on special teams, yet he hasn’t been able to fulfill the high expectations set from his fast start as a freshman. Last season, he again missed portions of the season through injury and was also absent on personal leave. Leveille’s speed and smarts make him an intriguing prospect, yet his inability to bulk up and gain much-needed strength leaves him on the periphery of the play and makes it unlikely he will reach his full potential. Playing for a contract, Leveille will need a stellar season in order to win an entry-level deal from the Jets.

16. (NR) Adam Lowry, LW, 6.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2011

A raw project winger at the moment, the 6’4 son of former Calgary Flame Dave Lowry has shown flashes of an exciting offensive upside. Having shot up two inches in his draft year, Lowry has looked a little awkward as he adjusts to his larger frame. He plays a strong north-south game and crashes the net hard, however he has also shown that there is a latent goal-scorers talent in his two years in the WHL. Projecting as a third line grinder, he may yet adjust to his growth spurt and exceed those limited ambitions to become an offensive force.

17. (NR) Brennan Serville, D, 6.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 78th overall, 2011

An All-Star in the OJHL, Serville is headed for the University of Michigan in the fall where he will come under the tutelage of legendary coach Red Berenson. Playing for one of the top NCAA hockey programs will undoubtedly bring out the best of the 6’3 defender and allow the Jets to see what true upside he has. An all-action player with the Stouffville Spirit, Serville contributed regular offence and played in all situations. A lanky figure at the moment, he will need to spend considerable time in the weight room to fill out his frame.

18. (13.) Jordan Samuels-Thomas, LW, 6.0C
Drafted 7th round, 203rd overall, 2009

Finishing his junior season with Bowling Green State on another losing note, Samuels-Thomas has transferred to Quinnipiac College for the upcoming season. A star player on one of the weaker programs in the NCAA the 6’2 winger will now have to adapt to hard-fisted coach Rand Pecknold, a tough disciplinarian who has coached the Bobcats to eight straight winning seasons. Used to being the star player on a weak program and having the freedom to play his game without restraint, Samuels-Thomas will now have to adapt to system play and increase his defensive awareness. The Falcon’s top scorer last season with 21 points in 36 games, the man they call JST was a former 30 goal scorer in the USHL. If he can round out his game, the 21-year-old Samuels-Thomas may become a riser on the Jets prospect charts this season.

19. (18) John Albert C, 6.0C
Drafted 6th round, 175th overall, 2007

The rink rat from Cleveland, Ohio closed the book on his four-year college career with another solid season for Ohio State. The Buckeyes captain finished with 124 points in 159 NCAA games, 91 of those points being assists. A playmaker with deft hands and excellent vision, Albert’s pass-first mentality is just one of the things that make him popular with teammates. A selfless all-rounder, Albert is an adept penalty killer and is the first player over the boards when a key faceoff win is needed. Recently signed to an entry-level deal, fans of the St. John’s IceCaps AHL team will no doubt make the hard-working center with the big smile and the hockey hair an instant fan favorite.

20. (NR) Zachary Yuen, D, 6.0C
Drafted 4th round, 119th overall, 2011

The calm and composed defender plays a solid all-around game. A compact 6’0 blueliner, the Vancouver raised product is a health and fitness fanatic who takes his training very seriously. Yuen grew up figure-skating and playing the piano as well as knocking the puck around and credits those activities with his enhanced concentration, supple wrists and agile skating stride. One of the best skaters available in the 2011 draft, Yuen can cut and accelerate at an elite level. Due to take on an expanded role for the Tri-City Americans this coming season, the Jets will get a look at what he can do with increased offensive responsibility.