Ben Chiarot is the first full time NHLer to make an appearance on our list. Well, we think he is a full time NHLer. After a couple of up and down seasons in the AHL, Ben Chiarot lucked into a call up that saw him play alongside the Winnipeg Jets lone SUPERSTAR - Dustin Byfuglien.
The early returns were quite positive. Chiarot played big minutes on the Jets top pair fresh out of the AHL. He played well - but there has been some debate about how much of this was a product of Buff. Only time will tell what Chiarot has truly got.
The counting stats aren't overly impressive, but they aren't bad either. We also found out at the skills competition that Benny has one hell of a shot. There isn't really a reason to expect the offense to grow, but it is always nice to have an extra cannon on the blue line.
AIH Authors' Thoughts:
He's the Robin to Buff's Batman. Steady and dependable, Chariot was a grounding force behind Buff's roaming, hit anything that moves style.
Ben Chiarot is a late blooming defenseman who seems to have hit his development ceiling as a solid third pairing defenseman who can play up if need be. Let's see if Chiarot steps up his game even further this season.
Was at his best and strongest when paired with Byfuglien, so I would like to see how Chiarot would do without him. But then again, why fix what isn't broken?
Ben Chiarot was an afterthought to me after the past few seasons in the minors, but when he got his chance due to the massive injury bug last season he held his own. How much of that was due to Buff playing out of his mind is up for debate, but I'm not convinced that Ben is a top-4 defender yet. He didn't do much for me away from Buff, so it'll be interesting to see where he fits, and with whom. But I'd prefer him over Stu, so there's that.
Look, I'm big on upside. It's the reason I ranked Andrew Copp 28th and Sami Niku 14th. And I fully expect Josh Morrissey and Jan Kostalek to both leapfrog Chiarot, if and whenever it is they make the NHL roster.
But Ben Chiarot has already played more games with the Winnipeg Jets than many if not most folks on this list ever will, and that's meaningful. At the end of the day, the NHL is where you should want each and every one of your prospects to contribute, even if a good number of them will fall short.
Did he ride on Byfuglien's coattails? Sure. But there's something to be said for being able to play with and compliment more skilled players (See: Roslovic, Jack). He provided a stable, reliable option on the back-end, and at age 24 there's still some room for improvement. At some point in the future, if Paul Postma ever escapes the press box, he and Chiarot could form a very interesting bottom pairing.
Ben Chiarot is already in the NHL. A number of the other players on this list will never get this far. The biggest question about Benny is upside. Can he become a legit top four defender away from Byfuglien? If the answer is 'yes', the Jets have a really nice piece here. If not, oh well. This isn't a bad return for a mid-round pick.