Part 4: Are the Winnipeg Jets building a contender; by Geoff Brookes.

© Geoff Brookes

Part 4 – review of Jets 2.0  draft picks – the forwards

Connor

Winnipeg Jets first pick of 2015, Kyle Connor

This is part 4 of a thematic series on building an NHL contender using the draft and develop model.

The idea is that if you’re building a NHL team with the draft and develop model, you need to produce at least 2 NHL players each year, but really 3 or more is necessary to build a contending NHL team. The later picks are just as important as the early picks, in order to get quantities of high-caliber NHL players from each draft.

In this fourth blog in the series, I’ll review the Jets’ success in their first five drafts, focusing on the forwards. Here’s a quick summary of the potentially “successful” picks from those drafts:

jets 5

2011- Scheifele, Lowry
2012 – Trouba (D), Kosmachuk, Hellebuyck (G) and Phillips (G)
2013 – Morrissey (D), Petan, Comrie (G), Lipon, Copp, Poolman (D)
2014 – Ehlers, Glover (D), De Leo, Franklin, Nogier (D)
2015 – Connor, Roslovic, Harkins, Foley, Spacek, Appleton, Niku (D)

We’ll toss in Armia, Lemieux and Dano (acquired by trade) as well as Brandon Tanev and Michael Hutchinson (free agents) (“the incoming prospects”).

It’s worth mentioning that the Jets already have a good start with the following NHL high quality veterans (other than Jets 2.0 draft picks):

Myers

Wheeler
Little
Perrault
Stafford
Byfuglien
Enstrom
Myers
Pavelec (I know there’s a debate re Pavelec)

Of the draft picks and incoming prospects (“the prospects”), these players have already established themselves as regular NHL starters:

Scheifele
Lowry
Copp
Ehlers
Trouba
Hellebuyck
Hutchinson

So far (above) we have 8 solid NHL players who were acquired by the Jets through trade or free agency, or who were with the Thrashers when they moved to Winnipeg. Plus, we have 7 more NHL Jets who were drafted or found by the organization. Total so far – 15. I’ve left Burmistrov off this list, because he hasn’t really demonstrated to me that he can consistently produce points in the NHL.

Jets prospects at centre:

Petan (Moose)
De Leo (Moose)
Roslovic C/RW (US college – Miami (Ohio))
Harkins (Prince George, Moose)
Appleton (Michigan State University)
Kraskovsky (KHL, Lokomotiv)
Gennaro (Calgary Hitmen)
Stallard (Calgary Hitmen)
Olsen (Moose)
Lodge (Moose)

The top 4 all are solid bets to become good NHL players.

Nic Petan, like Morrissey, needs to adapt his game to the big pro competition. Petan has great hands and hockey IQ. He had well over 100 points in the 2 junior years leading up to the 2013 draft, and over 70 assists in his last 3 years before turning pro. If he discovers how to set up the likes of Laine and Connor with the Jets, he’ll have a great NHL career.

De Leo looks good already at the NHL level. He plays with great energy and has some good vision on the ice.

If there’s no room to move up at centre,
Jack Roslovic can also play right wing. Although he’s likely to stay in college hockey for at least another year, he’s rated highly. It was considered a snub when he (like Connor) was left off the tryout roster for Team USA for the world juniors last year. Roslovic

Appleton, Kraskovsky and Gennaro have potential to make it to the show, as does Stallard (2016). Stallard is from Brandon Manitoba. Stallard was actually a team-mate of Gennaro with the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL.

Olsen has limited upside, and is likely a career Moose player, especially with the influx of talented prospects.

Lodge is disappointing to me – I had high hopes for him, but he seems to have reached a ceiling at the AHL level. The most important tip I can give you for Lodge is that, if you’re google searching, you need more search arguments than Manitoba or Moose, or Lodge.

Nevertheless, If you thought there was good depth of prospects at centre, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Lemieux

Brenden Lemieux; a clone of his dad, Claude Lemieux.

Wingers:

Laine – Projected to be a great scoring winger. Projected Jet for fall.
Connor – great scorer, Hobie Baker finalist. Projected Jet for fall.
Armia (Moose/Jets last year)
Lemieux (Moose)
Kosmachuk (Moose/Jets last year)
Dano (Jets)
Lipon (Moose/Jets)
Tanev (late season with Jets)
Spacek (Red Deer Rebels)
Foley (Providence College)
Franklin (Minnesota State U Mankato)

All of the above have a good chance to make it as solid NHL wingers. Some have already been with the big club, and Laine and Connor are certainly going to be with the Jets this year.

Laine and Connor both have the skill and pedigree to suggest that they could be stars at the NHL level. Some independent commentators have predicted 40, 50 or even 60 goals for Laine sometime during his career. This changes everything for the Jets!

Armia and Lemieux were acquired in the Kane trade, as well as the draft pick that brought Roslovic (Centre) to the Jets.Joel Armia has already appeared in 43 games with the Jets last season, notching 4 goals and 6 assists. Armia has the “highlight reel” skill, but needs to become a consistent professional on each shift, each game.

Brendan Lemieux. You can’t say the name out loud without evoking Stanley Cup memories. Brendan is the son of Claude Lemieux, who is one of only ten players to win the Stanley Cup with three different teams. We’re talking bloodlines. Brendan can score like his Dad, having scored 32 times last year, and 41 times the year before. And he, ahem, can mix it up, too, having 145 penalty minutes in consecutive seasons. It’s been suggested that the Jets might need some of this kind of “moxy”. Lemieux’s game seems to translate well for the pro game, scoring 3 points in 5 games with the Moose last year as a late season addition, along with 6 penalty minutes. I like the idea of Lemieux riding shotgun for some of the other young rising stars on the Jets. NHL? I think so.

Scott Kosmachuk- great skater, eager to improve his game. Energy guy. “Kossy Boy” skated in 8 games for the Jets last year, with 3 assists. After spending most of 2 years with the Ice Caps/Moose, he looks NHL ready, but he’s going to have to battle hard to stick with the Jets given the intense competition at the wings with the big club.

Marko Dano was acquired in the Ladd trade, and impressed many Jets fans (and the coaches) with a solid 2-way effort. He had 8 points in 21 games with the Jets. He can produce at the NHL level, having had 21 points in 35 games with the Blue Jackets in 2014-15. Like Kosmachuk, he’ll have to work hard for a spot on the wing, due to the long lineup on the Jets depth chart.

JC Lipon – another energy guy, now entering his 4th pro season. He looked good in 9 games with the Jets last year. However, he doesn’t have the offensive potential that the other wingers on this list might have. He’s more likely going to start with the Moose, and be an injury call up when needed.

Brandon Tanev is a highly regarded US Collegiate player, who chose to sign with the Jets as a free agent late last year. He appeared in 3 games with the Jets. He had 28 points in 38 games with Providence last year, prior to turning pro.

Michael Spacek is a smart winger with good vision and puck possession, and some ability to produce. He most recently competed with the Red Deer Rebels in the memorial cup, and had 54 points in 61 regular season WHL games, along with 13 points in 17 games in the WHL playoffs. A native of the Czech Republic, he’s had 18 points in 22 games in the world juniors or WJ under 18’s. I feel like he’s a “can’t miss” for the NHL.

Jets Stanley Cup

Like Tanev, Erik Foley is a collegiate player with Providence College. He’s very strong on the puck, and a competitor. He had 19 points in 36 games with Providence.

CJ Franklin was a late round 2014 pick who is considered to be a “late bloomer”. He’s making strides at the Minnesota State University Makato, with 25 points in 41 games.

As an afterthought to this geyser of talent, the Jets also own the rights to Russia’s Ivan Telegin, who looked great at the World Championships last spring. However, he seems happy playing in the KHL, and he had a falling out with the Jets relating to his comeback from concussion issues a few years ago. He might not play for the Jets, but he could be a minor piece in a trade, possibly. Telegin (along with Postma, Melchiori and Chiarot) were Thrashers draft picks, as well as veterans Little, Enstrom, Pavelec and Burmistrov.

By my count, and including only Laine from the 2016 draft, the Jets have drafted 25 potential regular Jets in 6 draft years (or 24 in 5 years if you exclude 2016). Granted, the more recently drafted prospects are more of a guess on my part. But even if my analysis is only 60% correct for 2011-2015, the Jets appear to be making that 3 NHL players per draft year ratio work for them. And that doesn’t include the acquired prospects, which adds another 4, making the total 29 to date. Nor does it include anyone other than Laine from the 2016 draft, just to be cautious.

And then there’s Patrik Laine, MVP of the 2016 world championships, with 7 goals in 10 games, along with 15 goals in 14 world junior games. And playoff MVP for his championship Tappara team in the Finnish “Liga”.

And there’s Kyle Connor, Hobie Baker finalist for best US college hockey player, with 35 goals , 36 assists for 71 points in just 38 games as a first year “freshman” in college hockey. With all the attention showered on Laine recently, Connor is the quiet superstar next door.

It’s gold, Jerry.

So, are the Jets building a contender through the draft?

Oh yeah, baby. Bring it on!!!

JETS DEVELOPMENT CAMP SCHEDULE AND ROSTER:
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