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Despite the Manitoba summer sun blasting down on the prairies for the entire week, the MTS Iceplex remained nice and cool as the Winnipeg Jets ran their Development Camp over the past week (from July 9-13). If you had been tuning in to AIH over that week, you may have noticed that I was there for half of the event, live-tweeting (from @arby_18) what I saw and trying my best to notice at least one or two things from each participant. I also uploaded some video of the scrimmage to YouTube, so click here if you're interested in viewing some of those.
Unfortunately, it was a rather difficult thing to do, as the players didn't wear name bars. While I figured quickly that #55 was Mark Scheifele and #45 was Jacob Trouba and that 6'6 beast out there wearing #64 was Cody Sol, it took longer to memorize the numbers for more "unknown" guys. The guys that kept impressing me turned out to be the easiest to remember, as I kept seeing them. Guys like #70 (John Albert), #48 (Carl Klingberg), #56 (Adam Lowry), #72 (Scott Kosmachuk), #59 (Zach Redmond) and #71 (Julian Melchiori) eventually began to stand out.
While I am sure most people have read a few different accounts of what happened, after the jump I'm going to try to talk about some things I noticed, some things I liked, and some players who while still being almost complete unknowns to most may have played themselves into contracts.
1) Mark Scheifele Is Going To Be A Star.
I'll still never forget sitting in the MTS Centre during the 2011 Entry Draft, watching in disbelief as Chevy announced some name other then Sean Couturier. Having said that, I do think that while Couturier has already found success at the NHL level, Scheifele won't be that far behind.
Of all of the players on the ice last week, Scheifele easily displayed the most talent. He was consistently corralling awful passes while in stride and zooming in on the goalies and scoring goals. His skating stride, while still a little awkward, looks stronger and he is able to pick up top speed faster. He says that he's bulked up to about 196 lbs since last season, and while Ben may think he still looks skinny out there he certainly looks sturdier.
While Scheifele will be forever compared to Couturier around these parts, and the quick start for the Flyer forward makes some of us fanboy hacks around here completely jealous, I have no doubt that Scheifele can and will be a great hockey player for us. I hope he doesn't make the Jets this year, as I want him to DOMINATE the OHL and the World Juniors this year. Because he will.
One thing I found very interesting though. The Jets played Scheifele (@markscheifele55) on a line with Jordan Samuel-Thomas (@jsamuelsthomas) during the Friday 4-on-4 scrimmage, and the two were out feeding each other for one-timers during the warmup before the game. They seemed to have a lot of chemistry together. It will be interesting to see if (or when) JST is signed by the Jets as it certainly seemed like they were purposely trying to develop something here. JST is 6'3 and 198, and though he doesn't exactly fly down the ice he was noticeable. And the two hooked up to create a pretty goal by JST at the end of the scrimmage.
2) Jacob Trouba Will Be A Very Good to Great Defenseman.
It didn't take long for me to notice #45 out there. Despite being one of only two '94 birthdays (along with Scott Kosmachuk), he certainly didn't look like he didn't belong out there. His skating looks good, and he's pretty big out there for a youngster. Trouba (@JacobTrouba) will certainly be a longer-term prospect, as he did get beat by some of the veterans out there on a few plays, but he was also told to lay off of the big hits which is something he's likely not used to doing. Having said that, he did knock over Kosmachuk and Scheifele within about 20 seconds of each other during a 1-on-1 drill (as the video below shows at the 3:40 mark).
Did you guys know that his uncle is 7'1? I've only seen and heard that a million times... Having said that, Trouba is already 6'2 and 193 at 18 years old. With a chance to grow and develop, he should be a beauty. And I certainly hope so, because so will Filip Forsberg, Mikhail Grigorenko and Radek Faksa. But I digress...
3) Zach Redmond Is Almost NHL-Ready, If He Isn't Already.
After Scheifele and Trouba, the "star attractions", the next best player on the ice was easily Zach Redmond. He was flying around the ice all day, was pinching but never getting caught, and was making a major difference at both ends of the rink. He's fast, he's strong, and the coaches rave about his offensive instincts. At 6'2 and 205 lbs, he's big enough to play, and if this is any indication he's good enough to play in the show.
The one intriguing thing that I noticed about Redmond (after Robert Cleave [@rmcleave] noted it, that is), is that he made an unreal pairing with Julian Melchiori during the scrimmage. Those two were easily the best pairing on the ice, as the puck was rarely in their own end during their shifts. There were about four or five times I said "who was that?", and virtually ever time it was #59. If Redmond doesn't make the Jets, look for Redmond and Melchiori to be the feature pairing down in St. John's.
4) Carl Klingberg and John Albert Looked Mighty Good Together. And Jason Gregoire Was Impressive, Too.
As good as Redmond and Melchiori were during the scrimmage on defense, Klingberg and Albert were likely as good on offense. The scary thing? All four were on the same team. And when they were on the ice, the puck never left the offensive end. John Albert was flying around the ice and looking scrappy, while Klingberg did the dirty work down low and in front of the net.
I was pretty impressed by Klingberg from what I saw, but I was very impressed with Albert because I didn't expect it. He plays way bigger then his 5'11, 190 listing, as he and Redmond were going after each other during the crease-clearing drill a few times. Keep you eye on John Albert this year, people. And I'd bet anyone a nickel that he and Klingberg see some icetime together in St. John's.
Jason Gregorie kept popping up as well with some solid work during the scrimmage. I'm not sure what his future will hold in terms of NHL hockey, but he looks like he'll be a solid pro in the AHL for sure.
5) Our Goalies Are.... Um... Big. But Not As Big As Cody Sol.
We had six goalies on the ice during the camp, and none of them really stood out to me. The one thing I did notice, though, is that they are all... tall. Robert Levin was the shortest at 6'1, while the other five were either 6'3 or 6'4. They all looked tall and lanky, and appeared to have trouble stopping that far-side wrister right over the pad and under the glove/blocker, but there is no doubt they took up a lot of the net. Maybe somebody will develop here. Maybe.
Cody Sol is a monster. While he didn't look very good during the individual "skill drills", he dominated during the contract drills behind and in front of the net. He looks like he has a really hard shot, and he moves pretty well for a big man (6'6, 242). It'll be interested to see what he can do in the AHL next year, as he's just a beast out there.
6) Our Recent Draft Picks All Look Pretty Darn Good.
I thought that the draft picks that Chevy and company have compiled the past two years looked pretty good. Adam Lowry (ALowsyPlayer17) looks to be a keeper, as he's tall at 6'4 but can skate like the wind, and he impressed me. Scott Kosmachuk (@Kossyboy) is another guy that stood out, as he just looks like one of the players out there that you could just hate. I said that he reminded me of a Kris Versteeg-type of player, and I certainly hate that dude. He may not be tall at 5'11, but he looks like he has a strong lower-body and he just looks like a hockey player. I thought that Zach Yuen skated beautifully and I hope he continues to develop, and though I wasn't overly impressed with Lukas Sutter (@Suttsy23) during the main drills, he was noticeable during the scrimmage. Brennan Serville and Austen Brassard (@aus10brass) also did numerous good things during the scrimmage. Good stuff here. While the drafting record for the Jets over the past two years is up for major debate, the players who we did select looked good, and that's all that matters I suppose.
7) Eric O'Dell, Zach O'Brien and Will O'Neill Confused Me. But They Were All Pretty Solid Regardless.
O'Boy. This was all sorts of confusing. I kept getting these three mixed up due to their last names, but it was mostly because they all kept doing good things to get noticed. All three of them saw some time with the IceCaps last year, and I think that they'll be good pros. Whether any of them see any NHL time is very debatable, but overall I thought they were fine. Will O'Neill (@willoneill27) looked great during the scrimmage.
8) Joey Leach, Vinny Saponari and Jordan Samuel-Thomas May Have Done Enough To Earn Contracts.
I've already mentioned JST above, but I also thought that Leach and Saponari looked very good too. I really thought that Vinny Saponari may have been the best of the "unknowns", as I kept finding his number on the paper after seeing something good out there. Leach is another big defender who has some good tools, and JST looked great next to Scheifele.
9) As For The Rest? Decent Camps That May Or May Not Lead To Anything.
Guys like Ben Chiarot, Aaron Harstad, Nicolas Bligh, Norm Ezekiel, Tanner Lane, Zack Mitchell and Matt White all had their moments when they looked pretty good, but I'm not sure they did enough consistently to leave an impression. As for Peter Stoykewych, Yasin Cisse, Danny Dries, Blair MacAulay, I barely noticed them. I'm not saying that they were bad, I'm just saying that I don't recall searching for their numbers on the sheet after seeing a good play.
10) It Was Very Disappointing To Not See Ivan Telegin Out There.
I was really looking forward to seeing Telegin out there, as I wanted to see just how good he'd gotten after his solid year in Barrie last season. The hand injury is worrisome, but hopefully it heals up and he can get back out there soon. His future still remains bright though, and hopefully these injuries don't stall his development.
Overall, it was a good camp. It was nice to see such depth out there this week, as most of these players were able to display enough skill to show that they can play the game at a high level. I'll be most interested to see which players who came into camp without a contract did enough to earn one, and I'm actually looking forward to see if the Jets brass thought the same as I did about certain players.
At the end of the day, it was a mini-camp in the middle of July. The players got better as the week went along, which is to be expected, but it was also just a chance to get them together with the Jets staff and begin the process of becoming better professionals. I'm just glad that our cupboard appears fairly well stocked with talent, as a number of these players could turn out to be difference makers. We may not have a ton of blue-chip prospects in the system at the moment, but I'd suggest that a few of these guys will be full-time Jets eventually.