Winnipeg Jets development camp has come to a close. The thousands of fans that packed the MTS Iceplex certainly got a good view at the future of the club. The Jets prospects now go there separate ways and start there off seasons. From there, they will prep for training camp before eventually joining their respective teams in the CHL, NCAA or AHL. A few will have their eyes set on something bigger that that though. A few of these prospects have a legitimate shot at making the big club. All indications point to a few spots on the Jets roster are up for grabs. So, which prospects could make the leap to the NHL?
Unless something significant changes with the Jets' roster before training camp begins, it appears that any incoming prospect is likely to be competing for a spot in the Winnipeg Jets' bottom six. Lipon is ideally suited for a bottom six role. Lipon tallied 42 points in 72 games with the Icecaps as a rookie. He tied for 5th in rookie assists. In addition to his scoring punch, Lipon demonstrated a fierceness that is hard to match and he never shied from physical confrontation. At 21 years old with a pro season under his belt, don’t be surprised if Lipon makes the jump. Lipon could add a nice physical edge to the Jets bottom six, along with youthful legs and some offensive upside.
If Lipon were to jump into a healthy Jets lineup it would be hard for him to make an impact at his original position of right wing. The Jets' depth chart will most likely feature Blake Wheeler, Michael Frolik, Dustin Byfuglien operating the top three right wing spots. Lipon would likely have to battle for a fourth line right role versus incumbents Anthony Peluso and Chris Thorburn. That is a battle that Lipon could win, but the Jets may rather have him season his game in the AHL instead.
Adam Lowry might be the most physically ready player on this list. At 6’5 and over 200 pounds, he has NHL size. He also has a pro season under his belt. Lowry’s game isn’t all size though; last season with the IceCaps he produced 33 points in 64 games.
Lowry made a full time transition from wing to centre last year (he shared duties between the positions in his last year of junior) and adjusted quite well. The position switch makes him a more valuable asset, but it could also present a problem for Lowry as he attempts to make the NHL team moving forward. As it stands now, it seems the Jets depth chart is already set at centre. The Jets could decide to move him back to left wing because the bottom two left wing spots for the Jets are wide open, but that’s some what unlikely. The Jets seem to be set on working in Lowry at centre.
Regardless of whether or not he makes the leap this year, Lowry’s skill set along with his big frame is a a nice asset to have down the middle going forward. If that means the Jets would have to wait another year (Jim Slater's contract expires upon season's end) to throw Lowry into the fire, so be it. Plus, as we all know, injuries can happen. If an injury does occur at the centre positio,n the Jets could call up Lowry and give him a shot. The Jets could also decide to give him a shot if is the season starts going south. He surely seems close to NHL ready.
The Jets' 2013 first round pick took a big step in his development this past year. After scoring 73 points in 59 games with the Prince Albert Raiders, Morrissey played with the IceCaps during their Calder Cup playoff run and produced 9 points in 20 games.
He impressed many with his adjustments to the pro game. His smooth skating and offensive upside from the blue line were readily apparent. His physical strength remains a question mark at the pro level though. Can Morrissey handle big forwards in front of the net?
Because of his physical shortcomings, Morrissey, might need some more seasoning, but seasoning Morrissey is a tricky proposition. Morrissey cannot play in the AHL next season; it is WHL or NHL for him. While he might be NHL ready offensively, the defensive and physical sides of his game will need to improve. How he fairs in camp and how he fairs in preseason will go a long way towards determining where Morrissey plays.
There was some question as to whether or not Jacob Trouba would make the big club this past season, but he showed up at camp looking determined and worked hard and he earned a spot. If Morrissey does the same, he could find his way onto the Jets roster.
Barring a trade, it seems as though Michael Hutchinson will make the leap to the NHL next season. He will head into camp to battle Ondrej Pavelec for time in the Jets crease. Jets General Manager Cheveldayoff said at the end of last season Pavelec was the Jets number one goalie heading into the Jets upcoming season, but unless Pavelec vastly improves, Michael Hutchinson might have a chance to usurp him.
It can be argued that Claude Noel overplayed Ondrej Pavelec over the last three seasons. Whether this will continue under Paul Maurice remains to be seen. The giant commitment to Pavelec wasted the talents of Al Montoya - who now finds himself backing up Roberto Louongo in sunny Florida.
Moving forward, Coach Maurice needs to let the better goalie play, regardless of pay grade, but that could create a tricky situation for Jets brass. Do the Jets want to let Hutchinson learn the ropes of the NHL slowly or throw him in into the fire if wins are needed? It’s the decision that every management team faces with every prospect; how much can they give the rookie and how fast can he be broken in? As it looks now, the Jets aren't ready to make the playoffs this year. Would this be a good time to work in a rookie goalie?
Making the leap and playing at the NHL appear to be a done deal for O’Dell. He played 30 games for the Jets last year and scored 7 points in that span. A couple of recent signings, however, have brought some doubt as to where he fits in. Chris Thorburn was re-signed for a (hopefully) fourth line role and Mathieu Perreault was signed to play centre. If O’Dell wants to stick with the Jets this year, he will most likely have to convert to the wing permanently due to the Jets strength down the middle. As it stands now the Jets bottom two left wing slots are vacant (unless Dustin Byfuglien continues to play his off wing).
Despite his physical shortcomings, O'Dell has a combination of slick hands and offensive vision that make him a viable NHLer. He thinks the game better than most, which helps him overcome a slightly slow first step. If O'Dell can enter camp with an improved first step and continue to build strength, it will help him make the jump to the NHL level.
Aside from Josh Morrissey (who's age creates problems), odds favor most of these players getting at least some ice time with the Jets next season. Even Morrissey could see some ice to start the season, under the NHL's nine game rule for juniors. From there, it will be up to him.
Heading into camp, Hutchinson and O’Dell have the highest odds of sticking with the big club.
Kevin Cheveldayoff has stated that there will be competition for roster spots, and that prospects will be given a chance to make the squad. The recent re-signing of Chris Thorburn will make this battle tougher, but he isn't exactly a stalwart NHLer. Will he effectively take a roster spot that could have been filled by Lowry, Lipon or O’Dell? If they can't beat him out are they actually NHL ready? Time will tell, but there will be some battles in camp.
Hutchinson, meanwhile, is heading towards his age of peak peak performance. At 24 years old his time has come to begin to learn the ropes and unless the Jets trade for someone like James Reimer it appears that is set to happen. Will Hutchinson start his season with the Jets? Will he be sent down? This will likely depend on whether or not the Jets add any players.
Which of these prospects do you think will make the leap? Let us know below.