Yesterday night, a team called the Winnipeg Jets played a game for the first time since 1996. Dressed in scaled-down versions of the NHL Jets' jerseys, the Jets YoungStars took the ice in Penticton with a chance to give fans a first look at the future. We got the message.
After three periods of up-and-down hockey, the Jets emerged with the 4 to 0 victory, on the strength of Edward Pasquale's 22-save shutout. Watching the game at home, I took notes, followed the exciting action, and yelled out loud at least twice. It was just good to watch hockey again, and a team I cared about.
Now, on to those player notes. A number of our young players stood out today, though that's not always a good thing...
- Obviously, the big story of the night was Pasquale's shutout, and not just because the Jets were outshot 22 to 16 (by the box score; they reported on TV that the numbers were 27 to 21). He played an excellent game, with fluid, quick movement down low. What jumped out at me was how big he made himself appear in net (understandable, as at 6'2" and 218 lbs he's a bit roly-poly). At 21 years old and 24 games of AHL experience under his belt, he's a player worth watching in the minors, if only because we don't have any better immediate backup options if Chris Mason or Ondrej Pavelec get hurt.
- Watching Zach Redmond out there moving the puck, using smart angles to line up checks and darting up-ice, reminded me of a young Brian Rafalski. His shots seemed to have eyes, too. The 23-year old graduated from Ferris State after a solid four years on the blue line there, scoring 20 points (7 G, 13 A) in 26 games in his senior year. He'll need to put on some more pounds, but he could be another draft steal with better defence than Paul Postma.
- Mark Scheifele and his breakaway goal were impressive (even more impressive was his dish to Jason Gregoire), but it was hard not to notice the lack of "breakaway" in his breakaway. His skating could be the major roadblock to future success, particularly if nifty moves and playmaking are going to be his game. That said, his hands were slick out there, and I liked his backchecking.
- If I had to pick a non-goalie MVP of the game, it had to be Jason Gregoire. He was all over the place, making smart plays and displaying some zip on his shots. He's noticeably small out there, but he was good enough to keep it from being a problem against a pretty big group of San Jose prospects.
- Levko Koper gets the headlines, but I was not really that impressed. His first goal was good, not great, and the second was an empty-netter. The remainder of the game he tried hard but didn't create much when he got the puck.
- I was not wowed by Carl Klingberg. A couple of times he was deft with the puck, but his shot looked weak, and the physicality I keep hearing about did not match what I saw on the ice (though he did manage to take a dumb penalty, hitting a player from behind into the boards). He's young, but I can see why Corey Pronman has suggested he doesn't look good offensively. I had some of the similar feelings about Ivan Telegin, who seemed to bobble the puck a lot. Not quite as slick as I've seen him before.
- The colour commentary could not stop saying things like "The first shot for the Winnipeg Jets," "The first goal for the Winnipeg Jets," "The first fight for the Winnipeg Jets," and yes, "The first broken stick for the Winnipeg Jets." Just...stop.
- Klarc Wilson should not have been there.
- Zach Yuen was very disappointing to me. While I knew that offence was not his strong suit, the combination of poor passing choices and costly turnovers he committed really made me concerned for how his game would translate to the minors. It's only one game, though, so I'll assume it's just jitters.
- Also disappointing was Austen Brassard. But there's a reason these guys weren't taken earlier.
- Adam Lowry has some sneaky good hands. Putting some pounds on that frame is going to be an absolute necessity, though, if he's going to play physical.
- Overall, the team looked exciting, though occasionally a bit scatter-brained in its own zone. Once again, it's just great to watch the Jets again!