Most Winnipeg Jets fans are no doubt keen to watch recent high draft picks, Josh Morrissey and Nikolaj Ehlers test their wares, against some high skill prospects from their fellow Western Canadian teams. There are some other players to watch though, some that aren't technically Winnipeg Jets property. As Axel Blomqvist proved a year ago, the Jets are always looking for ways to add to their prospect pool and there are a few undrafted guys that have a chance to turn some heads this year.
Brouillard is perhaps the most intriguing player on this list. He is a truly elite point producing defenseman. Nik has put up .868 point per game over his last two QMJHL seasons. In both seasons he finished the season ranked third in defensive scoring. He did this in his 17 and 18 year old seasons. Most players with a similar resume get drafted. Nikolas Brouillard did not.
Why? Because he is flipping tiny. Brouillard is listed at 5'10 and depending where you look 150 or 160 lbs. Nik's size clearly has not been a hindrance to date. Brouillard isn't afraid to drop the gloves, who actually handles himself pretty well physically, and he is a dynamic scorer and he can quarterback the heck out of a powerplay. He has also been durable as he hasn't missed a game in the last two seasons. Brouillard may be a bit of a long shot to make the NHL, but there is no denying his offensive flare. He could be worth a flyer.
Chase is one of two Penticton invitees that has recently been inked to an AHL contract by the St. John's IceCaps. Balisy is a former Nashville Predators draft pick (2011 round 6 #170 overall). The 22 year old centre recently completed a four year career at Western Michigan University. He led his team in scoring in each of those four seasons and despite being undersized, he was always noted as having strong defensive value.
Chase twice saw himself ranked among the Pred's top 15 prospects by Corey Pronman. Chris Dilks of our SBN College Hockey affiliate also wrote a lengthy piece on the former Pred. While the Pred may have passed on Balisy, his NHL dreams are not over. A strong tournament in Penticton, followed by a strong start to his AHL season, could see Balisy landing himself an NHL contract.
Freidbergs is the other recent IceCaps signee that could potentially elevate his stock. Ralfs joined many signed Winnipeg Jets prospects as an invitee at development camp. We listed him as a player to watch prior to that camp and we are doing it again. Freidbergs is a smooth skating and poised two way defender. He posted quality offensive numbers through his college career and he has elected to turn pro.
The former Olympian may be asked to start the season in the ECHL, but it is clear at this point that the Winnipeg Jets are paying attention. Like Chase, Ralfs has a lot riding on this camp. He needs to continue to impress the Winnipeg Jets brass and see if he can earn himself an ELC.
Justin Hickman and Ben Walker also have some upside. These kids are also looking to turn some heads, but they are still battling for a minor pro look, not an upgrade to an entry level deal. At any rate, invitees are always fun to watch, because any one of them could find themselves inking an NHL deal at some point. Unearthing hidden gems can push a franchise forward. Is there one here? Is there another Axel Blomqvist? Only time will tell. Which invite are you most curious about?