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World Junior Summer Showcase, Winnipeg Jets Edition

Hockey in August!

NHL: NHL Draft David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Winnipeg Jets management and staff find themselves either at the cottage basking in the heat and humidity that a Manitoba/ Northern Ontario summer can produce...Or, they are actively engaged in the task at hand and sitting in the stands scouting the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan.

The Showcase is a means for management of the United States, Canada, Sweden and Finland squads to determine who will be part of the rosters in the upcoming 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, which will be held Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Buffalo, New York. This training camp of sorts is a chance for players to play against each other in inter-team play and along side their countrymen against other countries’ finest.

How do the Winnipeg Jets fit in, you may ask? Two answers...

First, it gives all the teams in the NHL a chance to have a rink-side seat and view 21 2018 NHL draft eligible entrants.

Secondly, it gives the Winnipeg Jets staff access to view four of their most recent draftees, two of which are coming off major injuries.

2016 1st RD, #18 Draftee and Canadian Defensemen Logan Stanley is coming off right knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Despite the injury happening mid season and resulting in Stanley to miss the remainder of the 2016-17 OHL season, Stanley was fortunate enough to be able to work hard in rehab and lead his team to a Memorial Cup championship a mere 4 months after he played his last game. It may have taken him a few shifts to get his game legs back, but Stanley took advantage of the time off to heal and as a result, he was awarded a goal in the championship game and his name in another history book.

2017 4th RD, #105 Draftee, and Finland’s Center Santeri Virtanen is coming off a major shoulder injury, which hampered his play and development during the 2016-2017 season with TPS in the Jr. A SM-Liiga. Of the 5 games he did play before his injury, Virtanen did have 2 goals and 4 assists for 6 points. After surgery and rehab, Virtanen was a member of the Finland squad at the World Juniors, where he was able to build on his work ethic and determination to have a strong tournament, resulting in the Jets picking him with their 4th round selection. Prior to the injury, Virtanen was projected to be a 2nd round pick, so the Jets may have received a steal of the draft, as long as Virtanen keeps up the hard work. In addition, Virtanen is slated to play in the USHL for the Dubuque Fighting Saints this coming season, an easy drive from Winnipeg. I would think he may find himself playing for the Manitoba Moose before the upcoming season is out, dependent upon his play of course.

2017 1st Rd, #24 Draftee and Finland’s Winger Kristian Vesalainen was a teammate and linemate of Virtanen’s during the 2017 World Junior tournament, and his strong play helped propel Finland’s team to a silver medal. Highly touted yet raw, Vesalainen saw his stock drop during the first round of the 2017 NHL draft, where he was once estimated to be picked in the top 10, then the top 15 as the time drew near. When Vesalainen was still available when it was the Jets’ turn at the podium, it was simply a no brainer. Although he will play in Finland for HPK in Liiga, Vesalainen has been positioned as a long term project, but I think he’ll challenge for a Winnipeg Jets’ roster spot the season after next.

Finally, 2017 2nd Rd, #43 Draftee and USA’s Defenceman Dylan Samberg is getting a long look at the camp, and rightfully so. Samberg’s willingness to learn, determination and a booming blue line shot has the USA high on Samberg. The experience will bode Samberg well as he starts his college career with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in the fall.

The tournament schedule is as follows (all times EST) and can be viewed on TSN 1, 2, & 4, and the NHL Network;

Canada vs. Finland, 1 p.m., Aug. 2

United States vs. Sweden, 4 p.m., Aug. 2

Sweden vs. Canada, 1 p.m., Aug. 4

Finland vs. United States, 4 p.m., Aug. 4

Sweden vs. Finland, 4 p.m., Aug. 5

United States vs. Canada, 7 p.m., Aug. 5