MANITOBA MOOSE - FIRST QUARTER REPORT - Forwards 23 yrs old & younger

THE FORWARDS - Contracts w/ Winnipeg Jets

YOUNG GUNS (23 or younger)

Chaz Lucius:

The young American was drafted 18th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 2021 and is making his AHL debut this season.

Last season, Lucius put up 19 pt in 24 games (.792%) with the University of Minnesota before an ankle injury ended his NCAA season. Coming off ankle surgery, the young center worked on improving his speed and conditioning in the off-season before making the decision to jump to the professional ranks.

The Manitoba Moose gave the 19 yr old a prime spot to start the season, putting him in the middle of the 2nd line. Starting out with Malott and Stenlund on his wings, the line did create scoring opportunities at a decent pace but failed to capitalize on most of them. Lucius was making consistent improvements in his game in the early parts of the season, displaying a good vision with his passing and an impressive shot that needs to be used more often (17 shots in 12 games w/ 11.8% shooting). Chaz netted his first AHL goal in his first AHL game, but had only accounted for 2 goals and 3 assists before he sustained an injury that took him out of the lineup. Lucius has missed 2 Moose games so far as a result and is expected to be out for at least another week or two.

The 6'1" forward is still young and needs to continue developing his strength in the hopes that frequent injuries don't become a pattern. At the bottom of this article, I included some stats of other NHLers time in the AHL for comparison to the Jets' prospects. When you compare Lucius at this point in the season to some of the other 19 yr olds' seasons, you see that he is scoring at a slower place than players like Kyle Connor, Cole Perfetti, Jack Roslovic, etc. Not that I'm saying Chaz is less of a prospect than all of those players, because I expect Lucius' name to get on the scoresheet more often as he continues to learn the systems and gain confidence.

At this point, it's not certain whether Winnipeg will release Lucius for the upcoming World Juniors Championships, but he is one of two Jets' prospects invited to the US camp (along with Rutger McGroarty). So he may get a chance to gain some experience against the best of his peers or continue his work in the AHL and I don't think either of those things would be a bad thing. Personally, I'm hoping that Lucius turns out to be a Perfetti-like player at the NHL level, with the bonus of being a center.

Another similar player to keep an eye on might be Marco Rossi of the Minnesota Wild. He was drafted just in front of Perfetti, but since the Wild have kept him at center his development seems to be going a bit slower. Rossi was also 20 yrs old when he made his AHL debut (53 pts in 63 games for .841%), a year older than Lucius is. Marco couldn't stick with Minnesota in training camp this year, but was called up (1 pts in 16 games) and couldn't stick. The Wild center does have the disadvantage of being small (5'9"), but it may be that it just takes longer for centers to become defensively responsible enough for the NHL level.

NAME / AGE / GP / PTS / PTS% / +/- / PIM

Lucius / 19 / 12 / 5 / .417 / -2 / 6


Brad Lambert:

The Finnish forward had a disappointing year as he neared his eligible NHL draft, resulting in Lambert falling to the Jets at 30th overall in 2022. Things didn't look much better after he was a healthy scratch by Finland during the World Juniors last year, but the speedy winger had a great training camp with the Winnipeg Jets.

Chevy and the Jets management had a decision to make with the 18 yr they send him to the WHL or let him play against stiffer competition in the AHL. In the end, they opted for the latter, likely thinking that it would be better for Lambert to work on his deficiencies (defense) against the better opposition.

While there is little doubt about Brad's offensive skills, which include a powerful shot and a knack for being in the right place to receive a pass or fight for a rebound in the offensive zone. With respect to his shot, it is amazing when he has time to get it off, but I do think he needs to work on a quicker release version and also find ways to disguise his shot lane better to avoid blocks. Despite that, he does get his chances with 25 shots in 11 games, helped by time on the 2nd PP unit.

Then there is that speed, seeing him skate at top speed instantly conjures up an image of a cartoon mouse saying "Arriba! Arriba!". As with Lucius, the 6'1" Lambert also needs to bulk up to make fighting along the boards easier.

Lambert opened the season hot following his strong training camp, scoring 3 pts in the first 4 games. However, since then the road has been much rougher, having no points in the next 7 matches and accumulating a -9 rating. The 18 yr old has had to deal with an illness (likely Covid) between those stretches, so it's possible that he still isn't completely back to 100%.

Despite having only 3 pts in 11 games, Lambert has been unlucky at times and just a bit inaccurate at others. Just the last game, the winger could easily have had a couple of goals on a rebound that bounced over his stick and a bad angle shot on a open net failing to find twine. I also think his linemates, which have varied greatly from the 2nd to 4th lines, can also find more innovative ways to use Lambert's quickness and have started to see a few flip passes for him to chase the past couple games.

The biggest thing to keep in mind about Lambert is his age....there aren't that many 18 year old that get the chance to play in the AHL due to the CHL transfer agreement. I haven't heard anything official yet, but the young Finn is the right age to represent his country at the upcoming World Juniors. Is it a good idea to send him if the Finnish coaching staff are going to make a habit of healthy scratching him?? That's something for Chevy to ponder, I guess.

NAME / AGE / GP / PTS / PTS% / +/- / PIM

Lambert / 18 / 11 / 3 / .273 / -7 / 6


Daniel Torgersson:

With the 40th overall pick of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the Winnipeg Jets selected the big Swedish winger from Hono. Torgersson is a large man, standing 6'3" and 199 lbs, yet still has decent mobility and his style of play is similar to fellow Jet Morgan Barron.

The 20 year old has shown flashes of a scoring touch in his past and I expect that the majority of them came from battles in front of the net. He uses his body well in those situations, as well as battling/cycling along the boards.

Last season, Torgersson came over late in the year and got into 4 regular AHL season games (3 pts), but was unable to break into the lineup for the 3 post-season games.

This year, Daniel has had a couple game in the middle 6, but has played his best when on the 4th line with Nikkanen and Reichel. With 5 pts in 17 games, the winger hasn't been able to capitalize as often as he did last year, hindered by 5.5% shooting. He has managed 22 shots to date, so the opportunities will likely start to go in if Torgersson keeps putting in the work. The constant rotation of players due to injuries has hindered Manitoba from developing much chemistry in the bottom 6 and has led to worse than normal defensive play.

There is a lot to like about the Swedish forward and I think if he puts in the work to improve his skating/conditioning, Torgersson should have a good chance to battle for a bottom 6 NHL spot in a year or two. Hopefully with a bit better luck, Daniel can finish the season closer to a .500 point percentage since he does seem to get a decent amount of chances from the slot (during 5 on 5 and on the 2nd PP unit).

NAME / AGE / GP / PTS / PTS% / +/- / PIM

Torgersson / 19 / 17 / 5 / .294 / -6 / 2


Henri Nikkanen:

Selected in the 4th round of the 2019 draft, the 6'4" forward has a lot of similarities to Adam Lowry. Both players play center and excel at the defensive aspects of the game, whether it is winning face-offs, keeping a tight gap in the neutral zone, or just plain out-muscling their opponents.

Nikkanen came over to North America last year late in the season, appearing in 4 regular season AHL games with the Moose, as well as 1 playoff game. The big Finn didn't manage to get his name on the scoresheet, but did display his defensive abilities with a +2 rating.

This year, Nikkanen has played in all but one of Manitoba's games and has continued to make his line hard to score on. Henri started off well offensively, scoring 5 pts in his first 10 games that included a beautiful snipe to spark a Moose comeback. Since then, the 21 yr olds' hands have hardened and he has been stuck at 5 points, good enough for .294% scoring rate. For comparison, Lowry was 20 yrs old in his first and only AHL season, where he scored at a .516% pace.

We'll have to see how Nikkanen finishes the year, but by all accounts he appears to be a 4th line NHL center at the lowest, with the possibility of equaling or surpassing Lowry as a top-end.

NAME / AGE / GP / PTS / PTS% / +/- / PIM

Nikkanen / 21 / 17 / 5 / .294 / +2 / 10


Wyatt Bongiovanni:

The 6' 190 lb forward ended up not getting selected in any of his eligible NHL drafts and signed a 2 year contract with the Winnipeg Jets late last season, after finishing his NCAA career with Quinnipiac University.

In the NCAA, Bongiovanni showed that he tended to score goals and gather assists at about the same rate and was named captain in his final season.

Wyatt joined the Moose for 3 regular season matches last year, not getting any points, but displaying skating and defensive capabilities that suggested he was capable of playing at the AHL level.

This season, the 23 year old center/winger earned the opportunity to become an almost every game player, suiting up for 16 of the 18 games. The coaching staff has gained a level of trust with his play this year, resulting in Bongiovanni being on the ice whether Manitoba is at even strength, short-handed, or on a powerplay. The American has pocketed 5 goals this season, but the lack of assists have hindered his point total. While he hasn't scored a game-winner yet, he has scored a PP goal and 2 of his goals were part of Moose comebacks.

Not overly big, Bongiovanni doesn't shy away from the corners or the net front and shows a level of grit in his play. Hard on the forecheck, sooner or later the resulting turnovers will get a linemate a goal and Wyatt's first assist of his career.

At this point, it's too early to predict how Bongiovanni will progress as an older prospect. Possibly he finds his way to becoming a 4th liner in the NHL or he may just be a Cole Maier-type player and be a team leader for an AHL team for his career. Regardless, I enjoy watching him play with the Moose and the Jets & I will hope for the best.

NAME / AGE / GP / PTS / PTS% / +/- / PIM

Bongiovanni / 23 / 16 / 5 / .313 / -4 / 8

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