Looking ahead: Winnipeg Jets prospects
I know the season isn’t over but I can’t help but look at the future. Blake Wheeler looks like he’s become that star, Evander Kane looks well under way, our goaltending looks solid for years to come with Ondrej Pavalec, and Alexander Burmistrov shows those flashes of brilliance we hope to see more of in the future. The hope is those players will be our top players for a long time but the team does lack some depth which contributes to their struggles on the road and why they are currently outside of a playoff spot.
Players like Nik Antropov, Eric Fehr, and Antti Miettenan have not produced to expectations. The GST line, although beloved in Winnipeg, is more of a fourth line than a third line. Kyle Wellwood and Tim Stapleton have been good plug-in additions this year but realistically they probably are not our future.
The Jets are not looking to make a big splash free agent wise, so let’s take a look at our prospect pool to see who can fill some roles for the future.
C – Mark Scheifele
I know you all already know about him. I’m sure there’s still a bunch of people that wish he made the roster this year and look forward to him next year. He’s not quite dominating with the Barrie Colts like many expected him to do. It might mean he is still one more year away. Maybe a year in the AHL would be fruitful for him so your Scheifele jerseys may still have to wait another year before he’s NHL ready. If we re-sign Wellwood to play centre on our second line for one more year, a call-up of Scheifele might not be needed yet.
D – Paul Postma
Another guy I know you all already know about. He is killing it in the AHL this year. I see the team not resigning Randy Jones and he’ll be competing with Mark Flood for the 6th D-man spot next year.
LW – Carl Klingberg
I’m really excited about this guy. Our weakest position for the Jets is left wing and that might mean seeing Klingberg playing sometime. Is he NHL ready? Tough to say. 33 points in 51 games in the AHL so far isn’t bad. If he comes out guns blazing in training camp, the 6’3″ big swede could get a spot especially with such little production out of our current fourth line. However, his development probably benefits more from playing full-time minutes in the AHL another year.
C – Patrice Cormier
It’s been a long time coming for him to get a shot in the NHL. He seems almost there. He played decent despite not getting any points in the 6 games he played with the Jets. His main asset, his faceoffs – an area the Jets really lack in. With Nik Antropov lacking production, Cormier could see his way into the fourth line next year.
D – Arturs Kulda
This guy is good. Slick skater who is defensively responsible. The biggest knock against him isn’t even about him, it’s that we have too many great defenseman already and we just signed Grant Clitsome. Would he be able to beat out Mark Flood and Paul Postma in next year’s training camp? Possible but doubtful. It’s not that he’s not NHL ready, it’s just that there’s not enough room. Unless he gets traded, his opportunity probably won’t come for another couple year’s when Ron Hainsey’s contract runs out.
RW – Spencer Machacek
The hope is this guy is a future third liner. He’s made his dues in the AHL and has 35 points in 56 games so far this season. Is he ready for the NHL? He’s going to have to really impress in training camp but with the likes of Eric Fehr and Antti Miettenan not producing, it is possible. (Update Mar 19: He was called up to replace Eric Fehr due to injury on the Mar 18th game against the Carolina Hurricanes. He’s been a beast with the opportunity and may have answered my question with whether he is NHL ready or not)
LW – Jason Jaffray
A Winnipeg and True North favourite for his time with the Manitoba Moose, it’s hard for me to figure out where his potential is. He’s had shots in the NHL and is not quite at the skating ability to be up with the big club full-time. He has a very outside shot at making the fourth line. He might be a better AHL player than he’ll ever be a NHL player but is always a great call-up when you need him to play during injury time.
LW – Jason Gregoire
He deserves a good look, if not for anything beside the fact that he’s a Winnipegger. Very good all around player but for me nothing about him stands out. Average size, average speed, average everything. Don’t get me wrong, he has no real flaws, but to make that next step into the big leagues requires you to have some real special qualities. That being said, I’ve heard he is a coach’s dream and a very hard worker. Look for him to spend more time in the AHL to evaluate him.
G – Eddie Pasquale
Pasquale has the measurable qualities of a NHL goaltender at 6’2″ and 216 pounds. All he needs is experience and is probably still quite away from even being Pavelec’s backup. That being said he was named AHL player of the week in the middle of February and is going to be a fine call up if either of our goaltenders get injured.
G – Peter Mannino
For a long time it seemed like Mannino was destined to be Pavalec’s backup. However, Pasquale has started to take that destiny from him. Tough to say where Mannino ends up as he’s currently playing in the ECHL with Chicago. Mannino has shown the potential to be in the NHL so maybe it is just a rough season for the undrafted prospect.
G – Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel
Frankly, I don’t know much about this guy mostly because he plays in Europe. The Swede plays a butterfly style and, from what I read about him, he is very agile. A little lanky at only 176 pounds at 6’1″ but he could fill out. The fifth round pick will be a pet project for the Jets for awhile.
Future Lines (two or three years from now):
(If Scheifele plays to potential, he takes over Little’s top line spot)
(Little and Ladd are realistically second line NHL players. Sure Wheeler and Little have great chemistry but, again, it all depends on how Scheifele produces)
(This line is a long shot and might be too young. You can interchange pieces from the GST line to provide veteran presence)
(Do they keep the GST line together? Do all of them stay signed even? It’s tough to say, players move around a whole lot in the NHL. Winnipeggers would love to see this line together for awhile but time and economics will tell if that’s realistic)
(They should stay together forever)
(Love the Clitsome pickup, hopefully we keep him for years to come)
(Flood deserves his shot but Postma won’t make it easy for him)
(Big shots, lots of speed. Ability to cycle and create opportunities from the point. Little might play on this line instead of Scheifele. Enstrom of course could stay with Buff like he normally is)
(Will they go with Cormier over Little in the power play? Will Burmistrov not be on the powerplay at all? Probably not, I’m just having fun here and this won’t likely be a real line. However, it seems to me that with Cormier’s face-off ability and Klingberg’s big body, goalies would fear this line during attacking zone face-offs. Put any of these big guys in the front of the net while someone shoots the puck and it could be scary)
(I see Mason building a home in Winnipeg with his family and finishing out his career as Pav’s backup. It’s a situation he seems to like and is thriving in when he gets starts. Pasquale has the edge on Mannino right now on the future backup role once Mason retires)