The Winnipeg Jets 2014 NHL Prospect Development Camp is here. Many new Jets will be making their first tour through the Peg, others are returning and will aim to show management the steps that they've taken. Fans will also be keen to get their eyes on some of these young Jets.
Nikolaj Ehlers most likely will generate the most buzz at development camp. Ehlers was drafted ninth overall by the Jets at this years past draft. The 2013-2014 campaign is one to remember for Nikolaj Ehlers. Ehlers entered the QMJHL as a rookie with the Halifax Moosheads. He was not considered a top 20 talent by many. Ehlers went on to score 49 goals and also dished out 55 assists. That was good enough for fourth in the QMJHL in points. He was the QMJHL Offensive Rookie of the Year and the QMJHL Rookie of the Year. Not too bad.
Ehlers is extremely skilled, and has modeled his game in some ways to teammate Jonathan Drouin. Both players play a game that is filled with skill. Ehlers is extremely versatile, but despite his readily apparent skill wise, Ehlers has some work to do. He needs to improve his overall strength and perhaps bulk up a little. His small frame has not affected him much at the junior level, due to his speed and ability to beat defenders. If Ehlers wants to make the jump to the pros, he might need to hit the gym some more.
Since being drafted 59th overall in 2013 draft, Eric Comrie has been among the top ranked WHL goalies. This past season, Comrie finished top 10 in Goals Against Average, Save Percentage and wins. Along with that, Comrie lead the Tri City Americans to a playoff berth.
After a strong season in the WHL, Comrie was assigned to the AHL to play for the St Johns Icecaps. During his tenure with the Icecaps Comrie struggled, posting a 0-2 record and a poor 6.35 GAA. Comrie's struggles adapting to the pro game aren't abnormal. The learning curve for goalies is not easy. Comrie is still at least a couple years away from becoming an NHL goaltender. He needs to work on his rebound control. Still, he is a high quality prospect.
Chase De Leo
De Leo was selected 99th overall at this year’s draft, and in my opinion he could turn out to be a hidden gem for the Jets. De Leo played for the WHL powerhouse Portland Winterhawks along fellow Jets prospect Nic Petan. De Leo produced a 81 point season within 72 games. Those are impressive numbers to say the least. De Leo plays a quick offensive game.
He has very strong puck skills and it helps him easily gain the offensive zone. He is very well positioned in both zones. At 5’9 170 lbs, he is far from NHL ready. Bulking up is a priority to upgrade his much needed improved strength. De Leo is an exciting prospect that is an offensive magician who will surely impress fans at development camp.
At this year’s draft, Nikolaj Ehlers headlined, Jack Glover comes next in line. He was the Jets next pick at pick 69 overall. Glover spent last season playing for the US National Under 18 team. Glover is a solid two-way defenseman who won’t wow people with his offensive toolbox. Nevertheless his hockey IQ is high-end caliber. He’s aware in all three zones and defends with a physical edge. He uses his 6’3 frame to separate players for pucks and size to clear the crease. He has good puck movement and a solid outlet pass, he isn't really a hitter though.
Glover presents a reliable option on the back end. He is a stay at home defenseman that needs a few years to craft out his game. Glover has committed to play for the University of Minnesota next season and he will likely spend a couple years there furthering his game. Watch him now, he won't be on TV much.
Hellebuyck enjoyed two incredible years at Umass-Lowell. In that time span, Hellebuyck led the River Hawks to consecutive Hockey East titles and a berth in the 2013 NCAA Frozen Four. Hellebuyck posted a 18-9-2 record with a 1.79 GAA this past season. Hellebuyck then signed a 3 year entry level contract with the Winnipeg Jets. He will be turning pro come this fall.
With his College days behind him - his transition to the pros has begun. Hellebuyck has a lot to prove. Standing at 6’4 and weighing in at 200 lbs, Hellebuyck fills the crease well. He plays a relaxed and calm style with his big body. He has good movement for a big man. He tracks the puck well and has gradually improved his rebound control. Hellebuyck should be a key cog for the IceCaps in this upcoming season. The Jets have some system depth with their prospect goalies, but Hellebuyck has gradually climbed his way towards the top.
You can’t miss Adam Lowry when he is on the ice for two reasons. The first reason is, his big frame. The second reason is his tremendous skill. Standing at 6’5 Lowry is an intimidating presence. After a tremendous junior career, which he capped with the WHL Player of the Year award in 2012-2013 season, Lowry turned pro. Lowry progressed well in the AHL, producing 17 goals and 33 points in 64 games for the Icecaps.
Lowry also made the full time conversion to centre. Lowry presents a physical presence down the middle with excellent skill. Lowry can produce in both ends and play the body well. Physical battles are not a fear for the big centre. He has good goal scoring ability and can battle well in front of the net.
Lowry, has the size and strength to play in the NHL and could compete for a spot at training camp. Don’t be surprised if Lowry suits up for the Jets the odd time this year. But, the Jets want Lowry as a centre and because of that he might need a little more time to adapt to the position before making the full time jump.
Petan is one of the Winnipeg Jets most skilled prospects. At every level he has played at, he has been a point-producing machine. In his last two seasons with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, Petan has produced two consecutive 110+ point seasons. He has a quick shot and is particularly shifty - especially when going through the neutral zone and entering the offensive zone rush.
Petan has found a way to produce points at every level. So what makes people think that he can’t jump in and produce massive amounts of points right off the bat? The leap from the juniors to the pros is a substantial leap, especially physically. Petan’s stature of 5’9 173 lbs isn’t going to cut it at the NHL level. Petan isn't likely to add many inches, but he can add some muscle. He’s going to need to muscle up if he wants to make an impact at the NHL level.
Petan will likely be back in junior this year, ripping up the league like he has the last two seasons. If he bulks up and continues his strong play, don’t be surprised to see him a Jets jersey in 2-3 years.
The Jets 2014 fourth round pick is not an offensive defensemen, not by a long shot. That’s not his department. Nogier is an old-fashioned rough and tough shutdown defensemen. Nogier is a good one on one shutdown guy. His mobility helps him cover a lot of ice and make smart plays with his body. Unfortunately for Nogier, he was restricted to 37 games due to him tearing his labrum in late December. Nogier slipped to the Jets in the fourth round and the Jets took a chance on the Saskatoon native.
Nogier is a project. He is far from ready to jump in and make an impact at the NHL level. His shutdown characteristics to his game will help him make the leap to the pro game when his time comes. If all goes well, Nogier could compete for a spot in 3-5 years.
Lipon is a late bloomer, a really late bloomer. After being passed over in the NHL Draft two years in a row, he was finally selected in the 2013 draft by the Winnipeg Jets with a third round pick. Lipon plays his game on edge. While tallying 42 points in 72 games for the Icecaps, Lipon also racked up 136 PIM, which was the highest on the IceCaps. His vision is superb which helps with his smooth hands. Lipon is very versatile; he can be used in a defensive situation such as the penalty kill or he can be counted on to make a game winning play. Coaches love Lipon because his game is circles around three components, competitiveness, grit and skill.
The Jets have open spots in their bottom six. Indications point that those spots are up for grabs from players on the Icecaps. Lipon could secure a third or fourth line spot on the Jets - but this will depend on what the coaches want from a player in that role.
Komsachuk enters development camp fresh off a 101-point season and a Memorial Cup berth with his team the Guelph Storm. Kosmachuk's junior days are behind him and he will embark on his pro career this fall. Kosmachuk has good skill attributes combined with physical play. He is an above average skater who can back off defensemen from the rush when he generates speed. He likes to play hard between whistles and play hard on the forecheck.
His defensive zone coverage still needs work, but it has gradually improved over the years. Kossy's scoring touch is something you can't teach; he has a nose for the net sprinkled with an aggressive touch, fighting for everything in front of the net. Some fine-tuning in the AHL should serve him well before he can make the leap. After one season in the AHL, I think Kosmachuk could make the leap and play for the Jets.
Who are you most interested in watching at Development Camp? Which players do you think are closest to NHL ready?