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Uncovering the Hidden Gems in Winnipeg Jets Development Camp

Who the heck are these guys?

Martin Rose

Every year there are a handful of undrafted free agents that tour through NHL prospect development camps. Some players are looking for little more than experience, many are looking for contracts. This year, the Winnipeg Jets have offered some ice time and coaching to the following 12 players:

Taylor Fleming, Ralfs Freibergs, Shane Hanna, Kevin Lohan, Nolan Zajac, Brendan Harms, Justin Hickman, Kalle Kossila, Reid Sturos, Blake Tatchell, Frank Vatrano and Ben Walker.

There are a few interesting names on that list. (For the full list and schedule, click here)

Kalle Kossila

Birthyear: 1993-04-14 Birthplace: Neuilly-Sur-Seine, FRA
Age: 21 Nation: Finland
Position: C Shoots: L
Height: 178 cm / 5'10" Weight: 76 kg / 168 lbs
Youth Team: GrIFK

Kalle Kossila is perhaps the most intriguing invitee, mostly because he can score. Kalle is a Finnish national that has transitioned to US college hockey to continue his development, but he carries a strong resume on both sides of the Atlantic.

Before moving stateside, Kossila spent his final season in Finland dominating Jr. A SM-liiga. He scored 20 goals and added 37 assists for 57 points in 32 games. His play earned him a scholarship at St. Cloud State University.

Kalle posted 33 points in 39 games as a 19-year-old freshman and followed it up with 40 points in 38 games this year. His play 40 points ranked him 31st in NCAA scoring last season. Needless to say, his transition to North American hockey has gone well.

Kalle is an undersized but highly skilled forward who thrives mostly due to his hands and his vision. His goal to assists ration are reflective of this. Kossila has the hockey sense that Kevin Cheveldayoff appears to covet. He is a live prospect, but it is unknown how committed he is to college hockey.

Nolan Zajac

Birthyear: 1992-08-01 Birthplace: Winnipeg, MB, CAN
Age: 21 Nation: Canada
Position: D Shoots: L
Height: 178 cm / 5'10" Weight: 82 kg / 181 lbs

Zajac is one of a few local boys that has received a camp invite, and he may be more than a warm body. Nolan, the brother of Travis Zajac, is an undersized offensive defender playing out of the University of Denver. He is an adept puck mover and he has posted solid, albeit unpectacular, point totals in each of his first two college seasons.

Zajac tied for 14th and 26th in defensive scoring over the last two seasons. Zajac has been voted to the 2010-2011 USHL All-star team and the 2012-13 WCHA all-rookie team. He has two more years of College Eligibility.

Ralfs Freibergs

Birthyear: 1991-05-17 Birthplace: Riga, LAT  Google maps link

Age: 23 Nation: Latvia

Position: D Shoots: L

Height: 180 cm / 5'11" Weight: 87 kg / 192 lbs

Youth Team: Prizma Riga

Ralfs Freibergs played in the Olympics, so that is pretty cool. Ralfs is another one of the many undersized, puck moving defenders that will be attending Winnipeg Jets Development Camp. Ralfs posted 22 points in 37 game this season after posting 7 points in 8 games in a brief stint as a freshman.

Ralfs' 0.59 points per game actually rank him slightly ahead of the other NCAA defenders that will be attending camp, just edging out Shane Hanna and Nolan Zajac, but Ralfs is also the oldest of the trio. Shane Hanna is the youngest.

For the most part, a free agent attending a development camp means very little. Most of them are simply looking to get some practice in with top end coaches, while a team may simply need bodies. True interest from the team is a rarity. Still, there are cases where seeds can be sown. Unearthing a hidden gem, or even a depth player, is a great addition to a team's system.