2014 NHL Draft Prep: Winnipeg Prospect Pool Analysis and Draft Needs

Bruce Bennett

As draft day approaches, positional needs become regular topics of conversation. Unfortunately, draft picks generally take years to develop so any talk of "needs" turns to they system. What does the Jets' system need?

For the sake of simplicity we will look at each position within the Winnipeg Jets' far system individually. From there we will look at the depth and shining stars of each position and attempt to gauge whether or not there is a serious need to add at said position on draft day.

Warning: The following analysis is realistic about the fact that most prospects bust. This can be misconstrued as negativity. If you plan to continue reading, please do your best to construe appropriately.

The Players

GOALTENDERS

Michael Hutchinson
Connor Hellebuyck
Eric Comrie
Ed Pasquale
Jamie Phillips
Juho Olkinuora
Jason Kasdorf

Position Notes:

Despite the goaltending woes of the big club, this is arguably the Winnipeg Jets strongest position on the pre-NHL depth chart. Michael Hutchinson has been a stud at the minor pro level and has likely landed himself a full time NHL gig. Connor Helleybuyck and Eric Comrie are also top notch prospects, although they are both likely years away from NHL action. Jason Kasdorf was playing well in college before season ending surgery. Pasquale was doing the same in the AHL. Phillips and Olkinuora are both major question marks at this point.

Is there a need here?

Goalies are notoriously hard to predict, so a system can always use more goalie prospects, but the need here is not pressing.

RIGHT WING

Scott Kosmachuk
J.C. Lipon
Jordan Samuels-Thomas
Tomas Kubalik
Austen Brassard
Axel Blomqvist

Position Notes:

There are a few interesting names on this list. Scott Kosmachuk just finished a breakout season with the Guelph Storm. He was among the top scorers in the OHL and finished his junior career with production that provides some hope of top six upside. A bottom six projection is probably more fair.

After that there is a bit of a drop off. JC Lipon is a quality depth prospect who has some flair for passing the puck, but again his game is mostly about grit and he likely projects as a 4th line energy player. JST is another decent depth prospect, but he is UFA as of Aug 15th. Blomqvist is intriguing, but he doesn't project as anything more than a project at this point.

Brassard landed an NHL deal, but he is struggling to land AHL ice time. Kubalik is likely a goner.

Is there a need here?

The Winnipeg Jets currently have a couple quality depth prospects at right wing. Kossy and Lipon look like long term options as role players, but neither is even a sure thing for that role. After them, thing take a quick turn for the worse. There are no difference makers here. One of Lippy and Kossy will have to outplay their draft ranking and current pace for that to change.

Drafting a right wing, surely wouldn't hurt either.

LEFT WING

Ivan Telegin
Carl Klingberg

Positional Notes:

The Wininpeg Jets have been in desperate need of a third line left winger for a while. Apart from Klingberg, internal options have been slim. Even after a strong AHL season (and some strong play in the post season) Klingberg's status remains unknown. He is an RFA and he will be waiver eligible next year. It may be now or never with the big club.

Telegin was looked at as a quality prospect before injuries and a trip to Russia derailed him. His status with the team is unknown. His status as a players in unknown. Hard to bank on him at this point. Sincerely wish him the best.

Is there a need here?

Hells to the yes! The left wing position of the Jets' system definitely needs work.

CENTERS

Nicolas Petan
Eric O'Dell
Andrew Copp
Adam Lowry
Jimmy Lodge
Patrice Cormier
Ryan Olsen
John Albert

Positional Analysis:

Finally a position of relative strength for the team, not so much because it is strong, but rather because the wings are so weak. There are a few very interesting pieces down the pike at centre. Nic Petan is a shining star in junior hockey. He has produced at a rate that is usually reserved for top 5 (overall) draft picks. But he is 5'9 and that creates a problem in projections for some. Boom or bust is the word. Will he make it? Hard to say, but the has the smarts and the gumption, even if he lacks physical tools.

Eric O'Dell should be a lock to make the NHL at this point. He has a relatively high offensive ceiling compared to many on this list, but how close he will come to reaching it has yet to be seen.

Andrew Copp had a great year in college. There is a lot to love about his mature, pro-styled game. There are however, major questions about his offensive ceiling. Can he top out as more than a third liners? Maybe, but it wouldn't be a favorable wager to make.

Lowry is in a similar boat. He is solid defensively and plays a mature two-way game. People love to talk about him because he is 6'5, but again, there are some major questions about upside. A safe projection would be fourth liner, with third line upside. Lowry can also play left wing.

Jimmy Lodge struggled to score this year, but he still has some marvelous hands and vision. His offensive ceiling is probably higher that every centre on this list not named Nic Petan, but he is also likely among the most boom / bust prospects in the system. Let's hope he rebounds. Lodge also has played right wing.

The scouting reports for Cormier and Albert read fairly similarly. Hard working two-way center (Cormier has been playing some left wing as well). This duo is essentially a couple know commodities and their time as true NHL prospects is running out .

Olsen has an interesting size and skating mix combined with a bit of hands and some defensive smarts. His is similar to Lowry and Copp in that regard, but again his ability to provide offense as at the next level is unknown.

Is there a need here?

Always yes. A team can never have too many quality centre in their system. If at some point there is a log jam of prospects, centres can always be moved to the wing.

DEFENSEMEN

Josh Morrissey
Brenden Kichton
Ben Chiarot
Jan Kostalek
Julian Melchiori
Tucker Poolman
Marcus Karlstrom
Cody Sol
Brennan Serville
Aaron Harstad
Peter Stoykewych

Positional Analyisis:

Josh Morrissey is the best player in the Winnipeg Jets system. Only one year out from his draft day, he appears to have developed into a blue chipper. His upside is long run top pairing defender. There is a rather large drop off after him though.

Brenden Kichton scored at an impressive rate for a rookie, but it is worth noting that Paul Postma scored more. Kichton is a very smart player, but he is limited by a lack of size and a lack of speed. He is an interesting prospect, but hard to bank on becoming anything better than a bottom pairing powerplay specialist.

Jan Kostalek is a smooth skating puck mover with some decent upside, but he is a long long ways away from NHL ready. Karlstrom is that time plus another 10 or so. Ben Chairot and Julian Melchiori look like depth defenders. Neither has much wow to their game. Ben has more grit and a better shot, while Melch is a better passer. Neither will provide much offense. Poolman earned some accolades in the USHL as an overaged player, but it is hard to gauge him before he starts playing college puck next year.

Cody Sol isn't a great ECHL defender. He won't likely be re-signed and the three college guys listed below him are unlikely to get so far as their first pro contract.

Is there a need here?

You betcha. The Jets have one defender in the system that projects as an impact NHLer. That player in Josh Morrissey. Kichton has a shot, but outside of a few long shots (Kostalek, Karlstrom, Poolman) that is about it. The rest a likely looking at Adam Pardy as a ceiling.

Summary

The cupboards are still relatively bare in Winnipeg Jets' land. There are few strong prospects with starter potential in the blue paint and Josh Morrissey looks like a stud, but beyond that there are a load of question marks. Can Petan make the jump - as things sit - the Jets need him too. He is the only real top six forward prospect in the system.

If he doesn't hit that mark, the Jets may continue to struggle with scoring depth for years to come. Here is hoping Chevy can add another top flight piece at number nine this year. Plus there is also always hope that a perhaps Jimmy Lodge or Jan Kostalek can take  a huge step forward and realize their upside. Regardless of how they are acquired, the system is flush with depth and grit players, but can definitely use a few more shining stars.

If you want to look at the raw numbers that these players posted this year be sure to take a look at Garret's prospect trackers for the Winnipeg Jets CHLNCAA and AHL / European prosprcts.

Is there a specific position you see the Jets needing to pursue or should they simply stick to the best player available? Share your thoughts below.

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