Top 20 Winnipeg Jets’ prospects features best organizational depth in the league

By Devin Slawson

JC Lipon - Winnipeg Jets

Photo: JC Lipon has been a bright spot for a Manitoba Moose squad that relied too heavily upon its prospects this season (courtesy of Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)


10. (6) Joel Armia, RW, 7.0C
Acquired via trade with Buffalo, February 2015

Acquired from the Buffalo Sabres via the Kane-Myers trade, Armia became one of the Jets top prospects. However, Armia’s development seems to have run stale, finding little success in both AHL and NHL action. This year, he has scored just three goals and eight points in 18 games with the Manitoba Moose, while also adding two goals and three points in 25 games with the struggling Jets.

At nearly 23 years old, Armia may be running out of time to prove his worth to the Jets lineup. He was drafted for his offensive ability, but has yet to show any consistency with his new team, despite the occasional

9. (8) Andrew Copp, C, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 104th overall, 2013

Copp turned pro when he signed a contract with the Jets at the end of last season and was able to crack a fourth line spot on the team for 2015-16. Through 51 games, Copp has scored a goal and 5 points, only averaging 7:15 minutes a night.

The 21-year-old had hoped to be contributing more in his rookie season, but is earning valuable experience of the NHL lifestyle. He is valued in the Jets organization as one of the only bigger bodies among the forward corps. He continues to look like a future third-line center.

8. (9) Eric Comrie, G, 8.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 59th overall, 2013

Comrie entered the 2015-16 season in the AHL for the first time, expected to split time with Connor Hellebuyck. However, due to the injury to Ondrej Pavelec, Hellebuyck was called up and Comrie took over as the starter for the Moose. In the resulting 36 games, Comrie held a 3.12 GAA and a .907 SV% for a struggling squad.

Comrie has the size and athleticism to become an NHL starter in the future, using his positioning and rebound control to put him at a level ahead of his competition. He will be in a tough, but healthy, competition for NHL ice time with Michael Hutchinson and Hellebuyck in the mix for the foreseeable future as well.

7. (12) Brendan Lemieux, LW, 7.5C
Acquired via trade with Buffalo, February 2015

Lemieux is in his fourth season in the OHL, and was traded from the Barrie Colts to the Windsor Spitfires at the trade deadline. Lemieux has expanded his offensive capabilities this season, scoring 30 goals and 48 points in 35 games.

He continues to play the role of a power forward with excellence, combining his skills of agitation and physicality with a natural goal-scoring ability. Lemieux has perfected walking on the edge, greatly lowering his penalty minutes this year to just 57, while remaining fourth in the league in goals per game, at 0.857.

6. (4) Nic Petan, C, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 43rd overall, 2013

Petan has split time between the NHL and AHL this season, scoring eight goals and 26 points in 35 games with with the Manitoba Moose, and adding one goal in 14 games with the Jets. While he is one of the Moose’s more prolific scorers, he struggled greatly in his time with the Jets, holding a lousy 41.4% Corsi For.

Despite Petan’s struggles in the NHL, one must remember that this is the 20-year-old’s first professional season. There are expected to be bumps and bruises along the way, and his AHL success shows that he still deserves to be an elite prospect in the Jets organization.

5. (2) Josh Morrissey, D, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 13th overall, 2013

After a sensational final two years in the WHL, Morrissey has now moved onto the AHL. Despite playing in a more physically demanding league, Morrissey is standing up to the test, scoring four goals and 18 points in 50 games. Although the offensive numbers may not blow anyone away, Morrissey’s defensive game has been directly enhanced this year.

He has been working hard on perfecting his stick positioning when defending, as well as improving zone exit rates. This year was always going to be used to work on defending well enough to be prepared to transition to the NHL, and Morrissey is making great strides in that aspect.

4. (NR) Marko Dano, LW, 7.5B
Acquired via trade with Chicago, February 2016

At the close of the 2015 season, Marko Dano looked like a player on the cusp of stardom, having scored 21 points in 35 games with Columbus. Since then, he has been traded twice as the primary return in deals for Brandon Saad and now Andrew Ladd. In a different system, Dano might have graduated during the course of this system, but after some playing time with Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks decided to keep Dano in the AHL for the bulk of the season. He had been having a good season for the division-leading Rockford IceHogs, with 23 points in 36 games. Dano’s may end yet becoming only an effective third-liner at the NHL level, a pesky and energetic player with above-average puck ability.

3. (5) Connor Hellebuyck, G, 7.5B
Drafted 5th round, 130th overall, 2012

Hellebuyck entered the 2015-16 season with great confidence following a tremendous 2015 World Championships. Slated to be a starter with the Manitoba Moose, an injury to Pavelec resulted in Hellebuyck being called up to the NHL. In 26 games with the Jets, Hellebuyck allowed 2.35 goals per game with a .918 save percentage.

He had also dominated the AHL in his 12 games this season, posting a 2.34 GAA and a .930 SV%. Given the 22-year-old’s success in just his second professional season, a bump in his probability of success to a B was certainly warranted. Hellebuyck is without a doubt the Jets top goaltending prospect, and should become an elite NHL goalie in a few years.

2. (3) Kyle Connor, C, 8.5C
Drafted 1st round, 17th overall, 2015

Connor is having one of the best seasons among all NHL prospects in 2015-16. As a freshman with the Michigan Wolverines, he is second in the NCAA in goals with 26, and is first overall in points with 53, well on his way to a possible Hobey Bakey Award as the NCAA’s Most Outstanding Player just 29 games into his collegiate career.

Connor is a dynamic two-way center that can burn opponents with his speed and creativity. After such a spectacular freshman season, Connor could very likely turn pro at the end of the year in order to suit up with the Jets in 2016-17. Connor’s exceptional play has made him a top candidate for Prospect of the Year.

1. (1) Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, 8.5C
Drafted 1st round, 9th overall, 2014

Ehlers was able to crack the Jets roster as a 20-year-old, becoming one of the top candidates for the Calder Trophy before the season began. He has had a streaky year, compiling 13 goals and 29 points in 60 games, good for ninth in rookie scoring. After obliterating QMJHL competition in 2014-15, Ehlers has transferred his speed and puck handling skills to the NHL, becoming a reliable winger in Winnipeg.

Ehlers continues to trend up as the season wears on, making persistent strides to further adapt to the NHL game. He remains the Jets top prospect until his graduation from prospect status in a few games and projects to develop into a top-line winger who can score nearly, if not more than, a point per game.

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