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The Jack Attack

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What do the Jets have in top rookie Jack Roslovic?

NHL: Preseason-Winnipeg Jets at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Winnipeg is comically blessed with a plethora of phenomenal young talents. Whether it’s the dazzling speed of Nikolaj Ehlers, the net-shredding shot of Patrik Laine, or the all-around dominant scoring presence of Mark Scheifele, the Jets are an embarrassment of scoring riches. One such prospect, Jack Roslovic, left something of an indelible mark on my memory. I’ve been excited about Roslovic’s potential since he was drafted, and his early showings with Winnipeg have only whet my appetite for the return of The Jack Attack. Just what do the Jets have in this promising young forward?

The Draft

Roslovic was selected 25th overall during the 2015 draft, using a 1st round pick that was acquired in the Evander Kane trade. There was some buzz around the talented American, but some felt his results with the US National Team Development Program were a product of his linemates. Playing with talents like Auston Matthews and Matthew Tkachuk led some draft observers to question whether Roslovic was truly a prolific 1st line talent.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Minnesota Wild at Winnipeg Jets James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Roslovic’s USNTDP scoring rates, especially with the under-18 team, were actually pretty impressive. His underlying scoring rates suggested that he wasn’t merely a passenger on that 1st line. He was driving play, and doing it in style. From 32 points in 54 games with the USNTDP under-17 squad, to 79 points in 65 games with the under-18 team, Roslovic was proving to be far more than a flash in the pan. A short stint with the Miami University of Ohio hockey team revealed similar results. 26 points in 36 games might not sound terribly impressive, but Miami University was offensively anemic that season. Roslovic was one of the lone bright spots on a relatively underwhelming squad that finished 15-20-3 on the year.

The Pro Leagues

By the time Roslovic debuted in the Winnipeg system, there was a quiet undercurrent of excitement surrounding his debut. More and more folks were made aware of a speedy, skilled, and offensively-gifted center who could thread the needle in space. Even with the raised expectations, Roslovic still impressed with how much he flourished in his rookie AHL season. Jack potted a cool 48 points, good for 1st on the team, finishing ahead of star Jets rookie Kyle Connor.

This season saw a significant increase in Roslovic’s AHL production, just over a point-per-game over 32 games with the Moose. It’s rare to find 20-year old scoring forwards who approach such lofty scoring rates, especially given that this is only Roslovic’s 2nd year as a professional player. Naturally, the versatile forward (who’s played at both center and wing) earned a call-up to the Big Club.

Jack Roslovic’s player card. His card, along with countless others, can be found at hockeyviz.com. The cards are paywalled, but accessible through a small recurring donation at Patreon. Support the wonderful statistical analysis Micah Blake McCurdy offers to the masses and subscribe!

Roslovic didn’t earned much ice-time with the Jets, but the shifts he did play were ridiculously productive. Jack paced at an unearthly 1.9 p/60, which is absurd for a player averaging less than 13 minutes a game. That is most assuredly 1st line forward territory, and especially impressive given the lack of power-play time. Jack’s 14 points in 31 games all came at even-strength, and it’s hard to over-state the remarkable display Roslovic put on during his time with the Jets. The playoffs saw Roslovic add an additional 3 assists in 10 games, further cementing Paul Maurice’s trust in him.

The Coming Season

There is no place Roslovic deserves to be more than the top-9 of the Winnipeg Jets. He’s clearly proven he’s a gifted offensive talent, but equally impressive is how he individually creates scoring chances. Roslovic is a shifty skater, and can laterally maneuver his frame in close quarters. He often anticipates defensive reads a step ahead of his opposition, and adjusts his velocity and angle of attack to account for it. This often leads to Roslovic cutting in against defenders and breaking away from pursuers with ease. Roslovic’s excellent breakout speed further allows him to create space, and he has an intelligent shot to go with it. Speed and shooting are both lethal skills, but Roslovic’s set-up skills are equally impressive.

Jack had 9 assists during the regular season, and they were seldom filler points. His smart passing and ability to create separation quickly allowed him to set-up teammates for great scoring chances. Roslovic is a wizard with the stick, and his handling and smart passing in small spaces regularly gave opposing skaters absolute fits. The kid is so, so good at deftly changing the pace on defenders.

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Winnipeg Jets Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively, Roslovic is still a work in progress. He’s ironing out his positioning and defensive zone reads, but that wizard stick-handling was on full display in stripping the puck from opponents. There were multiple instances of Roslovic aggressively pursuing puck-carriers, carefully extracting the puck, and immediately counter-attacking to create a scoring chance. In many ways, Roslovic resembles a faster, more offensively-inclined Mathieu Perreault. That should terrify opponents, because Perreault is one of the most dangerous forwards the Jets can ice. Perreault is a Swiss army knife of skill, and if Roslovic approaches or exceeds that performance threshold, good lord.

I’d personally like to see Roslovic moulded into a 2nd line center. He was largely used on the wing this season, but Bryan Little’s aging could force the Jets to place Roslovic down the middle. I like Jack in either position, and he’s best as a winger right now. If the Jets bring Stastny back, I’d like to see how Roslovic does in a 3rd line role alongside Little and another skilled left-wing. That line would be quick, dangerous, and able to rapidly transition the zone of play.

The Future

At one point, Roslovic’s AHL performance was comparable to that of a noted Philadelphia Flyer, Claude Giroux. I hear he’s pretty good or something. I obviously don’t expect Roslovic to quite match up to the NHL scoring rates of Giroux’s prime.....but this kid is phenomenally talented. His skilled edgework, smart passing, good shot selection, and rapid decision-making offer a tantalizing package of offense.

I’d wager that Roslovic becomes a 60-65 point 1st line forward, though as a center. The Jets can afford the luxury of having him play at wing right now, but I see Jack as being the future 2nd line pivot of the next Winnipeg core. He has acute playmaking instincts and the physical traits to execute on his lofty vision. Returning to the center position would give the Jets tremendous skill down the middle, and make him an invaluable asset to a deep Winnipeg team. The future is bright for Roslovic, and it’ll only get better as he continues to get more ice-time.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports