Winnipeg Jets Development Camp is here! Today will be the first opportunity in months for hockey crazed Jets fans to check out an on ice product. If you are planning to attend, you should expect a crowd, but what else should you expect?
For starters, this is a great opportunity to get a glimpse of new Jets' prospects Lukas Sutter and Jacob Trouba. This also gives fans a chance to gauge the progress players like Mark Scheifele have made. But who else should you keep an eye on? Ed Tait of the WFP did a solid breakdown of who will be there, but I intend to nerd a little harder. Let’s take a look at the roster:
John Albert, Nicolas Bligh, Austen Brassard, Yasin Cisse, Norm Ezekiel, Danny Dries, Jason Gregoire, Carl Klingberg, Scott Kosmachuk, Tanner Lane, Adam Lowry, Zack Mitchell, Zach O’Brien, Eric O’Dell, Ryan Olsen, Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Vinny Saponari, Mark Scheifele, Lukas Sutter,
Ivan Telegin, Matt White, Blair Macaulay
There are definitely some familiar names there. Everybody will be watching the likes of Scheifele, Sutter, and Jacob Trouba. They are all carrying a lot of buzz, but there are a few other players that I think are really intriguing.
Zach O’Brien (RW) - 5'9, 178 lbs
Zach isn’t signed with with Jets and he is tiny. He is 5’9 and just under 180 lbs, I have also heard repeatedly that he isn’t a great skater, but he is also VERY productive. O’Brien recorded tallied 101 points (2nd in QMJHL scoring) in his 2nd full season with the Acadie-Bathurst Titans. To go with his 101 points he added a grand total of ZERO flipping penalty minutes. In 136 QMJHL games (Including playoffs) O'Brien has recorded ZERO penalty minutes. That is the mark of a smart hockey player, or as we call it in Winnipeg "soft".
The St. John’s NFLD native, got a few practices and one game in with the Ice Caps this spring, but didn’t stick through their playoff run. This likely had more to do with their roster being crowded than O’Brien himself. It will be interesting to see how he looks next to our best prospects. His size is an issue, but can he overcome it? If he does enough this week, he could land a developmental deal that will let him play at home on the Rock.
Jordan Samuels-Thomas (LW) - 6'3, 198 lbs
Who needs GST when you can have JST. Jordan is a big bad dude. The bruising power forward led Bowling Green State Univ. in scoring for back to back years, but was forced to take last season off after transferring schools. While Samuels-Thomas may never be a goal scorer in the bigs, he has the size and play style to be effective in a bottom six role. It will be interesting to see how the year off affected him. Keep and eye on this kid.
Joey Leach (LD) – 6’4, 190 lbs
It wasn’t long ago that Leach was considered one of the better defensive prospects in the Calgary Flames system. Thanks to some silly roster management by Jay Feaster, the flames were not able to sign him. This could be a plus for us.
At this point Leach is a tall / lanky shut down defender with some 2 way ability. If he can grow into his 6’4 frame he could be a very solid player. If camp goes well, the Jets may offer him a deal and let him further his development out east. Any time the Jets can add a solid prospect for free, it is full of win.
Zack Mitchell (RW) – 6’0, 174 lbs
A teammate of Scott Kosmachuk, Mitchell actually led the Guelph Storm in scoring. Mitchell scored 37 goals and added 38 assists in 67 games. That is some serious production for an undrafted player. Why wasn’t he drafted? Well he did nothing in the season leading up to his first year of eligibility and he was seen as a one year wonder coming into the draft this year.
Noted for his stick handling and shot Zack brings a high end offensive game, but he is lacking in the defensive end. Considering the lack of offensive flair in the Jets system a player like Zack could be a welcome addition. I am curious to see what he does with this opportunity.
If you think I've gone a little off the board with these names, that is because I have. JST is the only player that is currently under contract with the Jets, but these are the kind of players that really intrigue me. If the Jets can get a hold of even one undrafted gem it will really help the franchise as the Jets are rebuild the awful prospect pool they inherited from Atlanta.
Who are you guys most excited to see?