Winnipeg Jets organization reaping benefits from 2008 NHL Draft

By Jason Chen

Zach Bogosian - Winnipeg Jets

Photo: Drafted 3rd overall in 2008, Zach Bogosian has gradually developed into a solid top four defenseman in the NHL. (courtesy of Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon SMI)

Because the 2008 draft class produced so many big name stars, the other prospects that have yet to make the big show yet are often held to unrealistic standards, and written off as busts too soon. Zach Bogosian's future with the Jets/Thrashers franchise was in doubt at one point, and only in the 2011-12 season did he really show what the front office saw in him to take him third overall.

Though, it has been five years since the draft, and the futures of players are much clearer. Some, like Daultan Leveille, are inching closer and closer to the NHL. Others, like Danick Paquette (WAS) or Chris Carrozzi, are under a lot of pressure to convince teams to re-sign them as they play out the final years of their entry-level contracts. Then there are the likes of Zach Redmond, the diamonds in the rough, whose status as a last round pick has not deterred the Winnipeg Jets from playing him 20 minutes a night.

Zach Bogosian, D, Peterborough Petes (OHL) – 1st round, 3rd overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 264

Taking the 2008 draft out of the narrative, Bogosian was one of the three Jets defenseman, other than Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien, to play more than 23 minutes a game last year. Together, they form the core of the Jets defense with Bogosian being heavily featured on the penalty kill and powerplay. He is also the best open-ice hitter and shot blocker of the three.

There is an argument to be made that Bogosian was brought in too early by the franchise when it was still in Atlanta, but with 30 points in 65 games last year, many believed he was on the verge of a breakout season. The 2012-13 season was supposed to the be the one where Bogosian lived up to his lottery pick label with a rejuvenated NHL Winnipeg fan base, but he is still rehabbing from off-season wrist surgery. Bogosian did start skating with the team in early January and usually getting up to game speed takes a month. The estimated return date is mid-February.

Early rumblings about Bogosian being injury-prone are premature though the evidence is starting to build up. When healthy, he is a top four defenseman on any team. 

Daultan Leveille, C, St. Catharines Falcons (GHJHL) – 1st round, 29th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The first ever player drafted straight out of Jr. B from the Golden Horseshoe League in Ontario, Daultan Leveille was considered a risky pick, though it was one the franchise could afford, having already taken Bogosian third overall. The speedy center committed to Michigan State where he stayed for four unspectacular years. Though he played in all 38 games as a freshman, a commendable feat in itself, and improved his numbers as a sophomore, Leveille just was not the same player in his final two years. He appeared in 55 games over his junior and senior seasons, missing time due to both a serious knee injury and the death of his brother from illness in January 2011.

He was not tendered an offer by the franchise after the relocation and latched on with the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Montreal Canadiens affiliate, on a two-way, AHLECHL contract. Montreal previously expressed interest in Leveille in 2008. On January 9th, after spending 24 games with the Wheeling Nailers, Leveille made his Hamilton debut and has been with the team ever since. Despite his comeback, Leveille is not expected to be an impact NHL player, though he may get his taste soon enough.

Danick Paquette, RW, Lewiston MAINEiacs (QMJHL) – 3rd round, 64th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

It is hard not to describe Danick Paquette's game without using the "A" words: agitating, antagonizing, aggravating and annoying. A player teams hate to play against, Paquette collected 555 penalty minutes over three seasons with Lewiston despite standing a shade under 6'. He finished his QMJHL career with the Quebec Remparts and signed to an entry-level contract in May 2010. Paquette spent a year in the ECHL with the Gwinnett Gladiators before being dealt with a fourth round pick to the Washington Capitals for Eric Fehr in September 2011.

Paquette is in the final year of his entry-level deal. He has spent the vast majority of his career in the ECHL, though he was just recently called up to the Hershey Bears. Prior to the call-up, Paquette appeared in only 4 AHL games, and only because the MAINEiacs were eliminated from the playoffs early in 2009. Paquette was called up to get more bodies at practice and not expected to play in any games. He is unlikely to earn a second contract from the Capitals after the season.

Vinny Saponari, RW, USNTDP U-18 Team – 4th round, 94th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

A playmaking winger with a lot of raw skill, Vinny Saponari was a silver and bronze medalist with Team USA at the U18 World Championships before playing two years at Boston University. Saponari won the Hockey East and NCAA title in his freshman year with the Terriers but was dismissed from the team after his sophomore year for "conduct unbecoming of a Boston University hockey player."

Saponari spent a year with the USHL's Dubuque Fighting Saints and was ready to join the Boston College Eagles for the 2011-12 season, but was denied by Boston College admissions. Saponari committed to Northeastern University instead and over the past two years with the Huskies he's collected 46 points over 59 games.

The first ever Georgia-born player taken in the draft, Saponari's rights still belong to the Winnipeg Jets and he attended their development camp in July. Labels are hard to shed in sports, and for the most part, the Fighting Saints, Huskies and Jets are willing to overlook Saponari's unceremonious departure from Boston University. Saponari's stock would probably be higher if he ended up with the Eagles playing alongside Johnny Gaudreau (CGY), but he's proving that he can handle the pressures of being the go-to guy at Northeastern.

Nicklas Lasu, LW, Frolunda J20 (SuperElit) – 5th round, 124th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

An energy player with limited offensive ability, Nicklas Lasu has never scored more than seven goals at any level. A captain of Frolunda's under-20 squad, Lasu has Swedish hockey bloodlines. Lasu's father played professionally in Sweden during the 1980s and Lasu's cousin, Magnus Kahnberg, also a Frolunda graduate, was a taken by Carolina in the seventh round of the 2000 draft.

Thus far, Lasu has made no inclinations that he will be leaving Frolunda and come overseas.

Chris Carrozzi, G, Mississauga St. Michael's Majors (OHL) – 6th round, 154th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Signed to an entry-level contract after four years with the Majors, Carrozzi has appeared in four AHL games, allowing 13 goals in the process. Still, that Carrozzi has made it this far as a sixth round pick is quite an accomplishment. He was recently called up by the St. John's IceCaps and played 40 minutes of shutout hockey in relief. It is not that Carrozzi cannot compete in the AHL level, but he simply has not shown enough to unseat anyone on the Jets and IceCaps depth chart.

Carrozzi is in the last year of his entry-level contract and given his current production may not be re-signed by the Jets. However, the Jets do not have much goaltender depth in the system beyond Edward Pasquale, so they could elect to keep Carrozzi a while longer. The Jets have elected to use their lower round picks on goaltenders and would rather wait to see which prospect really distinguishes himself. Carrozzi has a good chance to do so, but he has to work on his mobility and quickness.

Zach Redmond, D, Ferris State (CCHA) 7th round, 184th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 5

The 2008 draft truly was one for defenseman. Of the four players taken in the seventh round who have appeared in the NHL, three are defenseman. An offensive defenseman with a fluid stride and the ability to quarterback powerplays, Zach Redmond was a standout for four years at Ferris State. There were initial concerns about his health after he was just limited to 26 games as a senior with the Bulldogs, but those worries were quickly erased.

After captaining Ferris State in his final year, Redmond posted 31 points in 72 games for the IceCaps and played in the AHL All-Star Game. Through 36 games with St. John's this year, Redmond has lit the lamp eight times, the most among all IceCaps defenseman and tied third for the overall team lead. Redmond was recently called up to the Jets and has not missed a beat, averaging around 20 minutes of ice-time per game and has three points through five games. On a team flush with quality defenseman in the pipeline, Redmond is considered one of the organization's rising stars.