Recent draftees well-represented in Winnipeg Jets Top 20

By Charlie Beattie
Jacob Trouba - Winnipeg Jets

Photo: Defenseman Jacob Trouba scored one goal, one assist, and led the Jets with over 25 minutes of ice time in his NHL debut (courtesy of Terrence Lee/Icon SMI)

The Winnipeg Jets have built steadily through the draft since relocating from Atlanta. The team hit well in the early rounds of 2011 and 2012 and went for volume in 2013 with ten overall picks, including five in the first three rounds.

The result is a prospect list stocked with players grown at home since the team’s relocation. Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg’s first round pick in 2012, ranks ahead of Mark Scheifele, the first player picked after the team moved out of Atlanta. Both players appear poised to graduate into an impact role at the NHL level in 2013-14.

1. (1) Jacob Trouba, D, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 9th overall, 2012

Trouba wandered across Ann Arbor, MI from the U.S. National Development Program to the University of Michigan in 2012-13 and lit up the CCHA in his one collegiate season. The defenseman was third in scoring on an admittedly down Wolverines team, tallying 12 goals and 29 points. He took time off from Michigan in December to join the U.S. World Junior team, forming half of the team’s top defensive pair, partnering with Seth Jones (NAS), and picking up four goals and five assists in seven games, winning a gold medal to boot.

Despite the numbers, Trouba is not projected as a true offensive defenseman; however he does possess a big shot which could lead to a future as a powerplay blue-line bomber. A strong player listed at 6‘2 and 187 pounds and still only 19, Trouba’s game relies on a physical element and many see him as an ideal future partner for 2013 first round draft pick Josh Morrissey due to their contrasting styles.

While Mark Scheifele, who has been among Winnipeg’s top prospect seemingly since he was drafted, is the safer pick to reach his potential, Trouba gets the nod here, as his ceiling is higher.

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

Scheifele was drafted as a question mark, taken one place ahead of the more highly regarded Sean Couturier (PHI) in the 2011 draft, and the center was always seen as a longer term project for a top ten pick. Fast forward two years, and Scheifele enters camp as a potential answer for Winnipeg’s hole on the second line.

Scheifele received short-term exposure to the NHL in both 2011-12 and 2012-13 totaling one goal in 11 career games. In both years he returned to the OHL with Barrie, leading the Colts in goals in 2012-13 and leading them to the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. In the 2012-13 postseason, Scheifele poured in 15 goals and an OHL-best 41 points in 21 total games while guiding the team to a seven game loss to eventual OHL champion London in the league finals.

Scheifele spent the summer bulking up his 6’3 frame at former NHL star Gary Roberts’ BioSteel strength and conditioning camp, working out with NHL stars Steven Stamkos, P.K. Subban, and James Neal, among others.

Scheifele plays an all-around, two-way game, with his best individual attribute being his heavy wrist shot. While not guaranteed a spot on the 2013-14 Jets’ roster, he is being given every opportunity to not only make the team, but in a key role. If the jersey he dons on opening night is anything other than the Jets road blue on October 1 it will be a disappointing outcome for not only Scheifele but the Jets’ organization. Do not expect that to happen.

3. (NR) Josh Morrissey, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 13th overall, 2013

Morrissey had 47 points (15 goals, 32 assists) for Prince Albert in 2012-13, helping them get back to the WHL playoffs for just the second time in five seasons with their first winning record in nearly a decade. He also had a successful spell as an alternate captain of Canada’s U18 WJC team, with seven points in as many games, sporting a gaudy plus-10 in the tournament. Many considered Morrissey a reach with the 13th pick due to his size, but the Jets jumped on him due to his skating and offensive instincts.

Morrissey is headed back to Prince Albert after spending some time with the Jets in training camp. Morrissey is a top-level offensive defenseman with a track record of powerplay success. Morrissey will have to work to manage his gambler’s instinct to further his progression towards the NHL. He will have time to do so as, like Scheifele, he will not be rushed by the Jets.

4. (NR) Nicolas Petan, C, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd Round, 43rd overall, 2013

Petan led the Western Hockey League in assists in 2013 with 74 and was a plus-68 for a free-scoring Portland team that lost the Memorial Cup finals to the Halifax Mooseheads.

Petan is considered an elite offensive talent, however his 5’9, 166-pound frame gave scouts pause leading up to the draft, dropping him into the second round. At the junior level his size did not hold back from playing a complete offensive game, but he will need to add muscle to be able to compete inside at the professional level.

A boom-or-bust prospect, if Petan makes an impact at the NHL level, it will be in a top-six forward role. He has little or no value on lower lines, making him a risky proposition.

5. (7) Adam Lowry, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd Round, 67th overall, 2011

Lowry, the son of longtime NHL player Dave Lowry, took home the WHL player of the year award in 2012-13, tallying 45 goals and 88 points for the Swift Current Broncos. An excellent two-way player, Lowry added six shorthanded goals to his tally with the Broncos and entered Jets’ camp with an entry-level contract and a far outside chance of making the final roster.

Another big winger, Lowry has considerable upside due to his versatility, and could have a solid future as a bottom six forward with some seasoning at St. John, which is his certain destination in 2013.

6. (5) Connor Hellebuyck, G, 7.5D
Drafted 5th Round, 130th overall, 2012

Hellebuyck was playing for the Odessa Jackalopes of the NAHL two years ago, and found himself at the center of the college hockey universe one year later, leading his UMass-Lowell team to an unlikely berth in the Frozen Four. There, Hellebuyck found himself under siege by eventual champions Yale, stopping 44 of 47 shots, including 22 combined in the third period and overtime of a 3-2 loss. His season totals at UMass-Lowell were other-worldly, posting a 1.37 goals against average, a .952 save percentage, and six shutouts after taking over for senior Doug Carr in midseason for the Riverhawks.

At 6’4 and 200 pounds, Hellebuyck is a massive goaltender who has good anticipation and gobbles up first opportunities. Like all young goaltenders, he can struggle at times to control rebounds. He will spend the 2013-14 season as UMass-Lowell’s unquestioned starter. Duplicating last year’s numbers is an impossible task for any goaltender. If Hellebuyck can even approach them, he could pass Comrie on the Jets’ goaltending chart.

7. (NR) Jimmy Lodge, C, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd Round, 84th overall, 2013

Lodge ranked ahead of Josh Morrissey in the final Central Scouting Service rankings prior to the draft, but plummeted into the third round despite a solid second season with the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL. The self-described playmaker posted 28 goals and 67 points for the Spirit, despite bouncing up and down the team’s depth chart at the beginning of the season.

A skilled forward with a projectable 6’0, 166-pound frame, Lodge will return to Saginaw this season and look to build on a campaign that included an appearance in the OHL playoffs. He is a potential steal for the Jets, but they will have to wait a few years to find out.

8. (NR) Eric Comrie, G 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 59th overall, 2013

The youngest and most talented of a deep goaltending prospect corps, Comrie was one of three second round picks the Jets had in the 2013 NHL Draft and the fourth goalie taken overall.

The half-brother of former NHL players Mike and Paul Comrie, Eric saw his 2012-13 season in Tri-Cities cut short due to a hip injury in January that required season-ending surgery after 37 games. He posted a save percentage of .915 and a goals against average of 2.62 in his shortened season.

Comrie is a hybrid-style goaltender who moves well laterally but can struggle at times to control rebounds and limit second chance opportunities. At his ceiling he projects as an NHL starter, but that is some years away for a player who was just 17 when he was drafted. He will return to Tri-Cities this season.

9. (4) Zach Redmond, D, 7.5D
Drafted 7th Round, 184th overall, 2008

Redmond would likely have skated in more NHL games had a freak accident not cut short his 2012-13 season. After tallying four points in eight NHL games, the then-24-year-old rookie had his femoral artery slashed by teammate Antti Miettinen’s skate in a February practice and missed the rest of the season. His recovery was considered miraculous, and he signed a one-year deal in the summer to remain with the Jets.

A good puck-mover with some offensive game, Redmond needs to get more physicality out of his 6‘2, 200-pound frame to truly compete at the NHL level. He was in the mix for the Jets defensive corps this year but will begin the 2013-14 season in St. John. At 25, his prospect clock is quickly ticking away.

10. (6) Ed Pasquale, G, 7.0D
Drafted 4th Round, 117th overall, 2009

The oldest of the three goaltenders on this list, Pasquale has been kicking around the Thrashers/Jets minor league ranks since 2010, but has yet to find consistency in the professional game.

A big goaltender Pasquale plays to his size both for better and worse. He fills the crease, but can sometimes struggle with lateral movement. The mental aspects of his game have been questioned as well.

Pasquale will have to work hard to unseat incumbents Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya for a spot on the Jets roster, with a third season in St. John looking far more likely. His future ceiling is likely that as an NHL backup, and with a crowded goaltending situation developing in the Jets’ organization, he will have to fight hard for that.

11. (16) Scott Kosmachuk, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd Round, 70th overall, 2012

Kosmachuk led the Guelph Storm with 35 goals in 2012-13, his third in the OHL. A short, stout winger, Kosmachuk plays a gritty style and is unafraid of the physical side of the game amassing over 100 penalty minutes in each of the last two seasons.

Another player with a bottom-six forward potential, Kosmachuk has been given a brief look in Jets’ training camp, even scoring on Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals in the Jets first exhibition game. He was sent back to Guelph early in camp however, and there he will continue his OHL career, for which he has one remaining eligible season. For Kosmachuk to succeed, he will have to make the difficult transition from junior league scorer to a professional who can succeed in all three zones.

12. (NR) J.C. Lipon, C, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd Round, 91st overall, 2013

Lipon has seen a meteoric rise in his goal-scoring totals over the past three seasons with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL, from three to 19 to 36. He also added 23 points in 15 playoff games for Kamloops in 2012-13, while posting a plus-34 rating during the regular season.

A player lauded for his brain as much as his skill set, Lipon has the opportunity to be a very good complimentary scoring piece if he can find a way around his less-than-ideal NHL size. Cutting back on his aggressiveness may be the first step in holding up his body at the pro ranks. He will likely get a chance to adjust at the AHL level this season, as he will be overage for the WHL.

13. (NR) Jordan Samuels-Thomas, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 7th Round, 203rd overall, 2009

Samuels-Thomas busted out nationally in the Frozen Four after a solid first season with Quinnipiac (he spent his first two collegiate seasons at Bowling Green). After scoring two goals in regional play, the winger was everywhere in the Bobcats semi-final victory over St. Cloud State, notching the opening goal and assisting on the game winner, while spending seemingly the entire game in the Huskies’ crease. Even in the National Championship shutout loss to Yale, Samuels-Thomas accrued five shots on goal.

A strong-bodied forward who could still add size to his already large frame, the Hartford native looks the part of an NHL player, and his combative spirit combined with good puck skills down low could see this former late-round flier of a draft pick turn into a steal. He will spend one more season at Quinnipiac and will be close to 24 years old when he eventually signs a professional contract. His situation will certainly be worth monitoring once the collegiate season ends.

14. (8) Ivan Telegin, LW, 7.0D
Drafted 4th Round, 101st overall, 2010

Telegin would rank higher on this list, but his decision not to report to St. John on September 30th, and his subsequent suspension by the team,  has thrown the winger’s future with the Jets into serious question.

Telegin’s first professional season was 2012-13, and though it came with some disappointment, the Jets still believed this holdover from the Atlanta era still had enough upside to contribute.

Limited to just 34 games due to various injuries that included a concussion, Telegin posted just three goals and 10 points with St. John. His symptoms finally cleared over the summer, and the 6’3 forward with excellent speed will restart his career this season hoping to get back the form that made him an effective offensive player at the junior ranks, where he posted 81 goals and 88 assists in three OHL seasons between Saginaw and Barrie. He’s told teammates he is headed to the KHL, whether he ever returns is something the Jets will have to sort out before Telegin can be considered a serious prospect again.

15. (NR) Andrew Copp, C, 6.5C
Drafted 4th Round, 104th overall, 2013

Like Jacob Trouba, Copp went straight from the U.S. National Development squad into the University of Michigan lineup in 2012-13. While Trouba has signed a professional contract, Copp will return to Ann Arbor for his sophomore season after a promising first campaign.

Copp scored on his debut for the Wolverines, and contributed 11 goals and 10 assists in 38 games while finishing the season as the team’s top line center. A former elite high school quarterback, Copp was passed over in the 2012 NHL draft after a shoulder injury suffered during his senior football season caused him to miss much of the following hockey campaign and limited his effectiveness when he did return, playing fourth line minutes.

With a deep stable of centers in the mix, the Jets have no reason to rush Copp, who may get two more seasons at Michigan to grow into his game.

16. (17) Julian Melchiori, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd Round, 87th overall, 2010

Melchiori spent five days with the Jets in 2013, but never appeared in a game. He spent the rest of the 2012-13 season, his first as a professional with AHL affiliate St. John, posting one goal and seven assists in 52 contests for the IceCaps.

While Melchiori’s offensive game is virtually non-existent (one professional goal, three in two OHL seasons), he is a smooth skater who can move the puck and play physical, defensive hockey. At 6‘3 and 186 pounds he still has room to fill out and is only 21 years old. He will likely return to the AHL this season, and the Jets can hope he develops into a bottom pairing/seventh defenseman in time.

17. (19) Lukas Sutter, C, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd Round, 39th overall, 2012

The latest Sutter to don a hockey uniform is the son of Rich, and will play for his uncle Brent with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL after getting a brief look at Jets’ camp.

Sutter’s move to Red Deer for his final season of junior eligibility will come after three seasons in Saskatoon, where his scoring dipped from 59 points in 2011-12 to just 24 last season. Always a physical player, Sutter has racked up over 160 plus penalty minutes in each of the last three seasons with the Blades. If his offense never resurfaces, Sutter can be an effective NHL fourth liner, but the Jets will likely be hoping for more from a player drafted early in the second round in 2012.

18. (NR) Brenden Kichton, D, 7.0D
Drafted 7th Round, 190th overall, 2013

Kichton can draw inspiration from current Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon. Like Spurgeon, Kichton was originally drafted by the New York Islanders (in 2010) but never signed with the club. Both players also plied their junior trade for the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL for the maximum of five seasons. They are also both undersized (Spurgeon is 5‘9 and 185 pounds, Kichton 5’11, 174) defensemen who excel at moving the puck and playing an offensive game. The Jets will gladly take another Spurgeon in Kichton, if that is what they have found.

Kichton put up electrifying numbers over his career in Spokane, averaging 80 points over the past three seasons and winning the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s best defenseman in 2013.

His size is, of course, his limitation, and he will try and translate his unique offensive gifts to the professional level with AHL affiliate St. John in 2013-14.

19. (12) Eric O’Dell, C, 6.5C
Acquired in a trade with Anaheim, 2009

O’Dell led the AHL St. John IceCaps in scoring 29 goals and 55 points in 59 games in his second professional season. Brought back on a one-year, two-way contract by the Jets over the summer, O’Dell presents a low-risk option with a shot at a bottom-six forward slot at the NHL level.

If he does gain a shot at the big time, O’Dell will face the challenge of making his offensive game translate to the top level. If he does not, he provides cheap injury insurance on a two-way deal. Expect him to start the season at St. John, but with continued production, he could be one of the first players summoned should the injury bug strike the Jets.

20. (14) Peter Stoykewich, D, 6.5D
Drafted 7th round, 199th overall, 2010

A native of Winnipeg, Stoykewich was drafted when the team was still in Atlanta before heading to Colorado College, where he has grown into a leadership role for the Tigers. A sizeable defenseman at 6’3 and 200 pounds, Stoykewich is lauded more for his speed and skating than his physical prowess. He added a modicum of offense during his sophomore campaign in Colorado Springs, potting his first two collegiate goals to go with nine assists in 42 games.

He will return to school for his junior season, where he will be an alternate captain and a key member of the Tigers defensive corps, looking to impress his hometown team.