Jets Prospect Update

Kevin McCartney
December 26 2013 12:13AM

Kichton moves the puck while Pasquale and Chairot act out Wrestlemania 19. Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

It's been a month since we looked at the progress of the Jets' many prospects.

As of the December break, St John's IceCaps of the AHL is a mixed bag with some considerable concern surrounding a few key prospects, but continued excitement around others. As well, the 2011 crop of NCAA players is looking unlikely to produce a pro player. But the team has started to sign some of its CHL players early, including Eric Comrie and Scott Kosmachuk this month, and there are an impressive number of would-be Jets making noise at every level. 

AHL

Player

POS

Record

GP

G

A

P

SOG

+/-

PIMS

Brenden Kichton

D

15-11-1-2

29

6

16

22

58

5

6

Carl Klingberg

W

15-11-1-2

25

8

4

12

64

6

14

JC Lipon

RW

15-11-1-2

26

4

8

12

37

-6

45

Adam Lowry

C/LW

15-11-1-2

21

2

3

5

34

-3

24

Julian Melchiori

D

15-11-1-2

18

0

5

5

22

3

14

Eric O’Dell

C

15-11-1-2

28

12

17

29

85

-1

20

Zach Redmond

D

15-11-1-2

11

4

6

10

42

2

8

There is a problem with this organization, and it may involve losing players in development. We can put a lot of blame of long time Head Scout Marcel Comeau for his atrocious draft record after 12th overall (graduating 2 NHL players out of 54 picks). But in the time after draft day, the organization has to develop a hockey player. 

It's early, and we'll wait for the final results before sounding any alarms, but I am concerned about Adam Lowry's season. He showed great range, plus size, and professional physicality in the Young Stars Tournament. As WHL Player of the Year last season, he showed his scoring ability. No one is expecting Eric Lindros from the young man, but I think Jets fans would have been insulted by a comparison to Curtis Hamilton 4 months ago. 

JC Lipon has been consistent. He had 4 points in 9 games at our second check in, 9 points in 16 games at our last check in, and still remains very close to half a point a game. That total isn't particularly inspiring on a shallow IceCaps team. It speaks to his continued support role. His 45 PIMs tell us that he continues his bad habits. Despite JC Lipon's fan favourite status, and his impressive final season in junior, his progress continues along the path of Jets also-ran and another former Canada WJC role player Patrice Cormier. That said, his goal differential numbers are better than Cormiers - he's been on for 18 goals for and 17 against while Cormier shows his lesser role and lesser success by being on for 10 goals for, 14 against. 

One player we can be extremely excited about is Brenden Kichton. He's tied for second most points on the team behind O'Dell, and you might have noticed he plays defence. GIven his age, his NHL Equivalency is said by Robert Vollman in this summer's Hockey Abstract to be .62. With that factor, Kitchon is on pace for a 38 point NHL rookie season. He's also +5 on a team with an even goal differential, and where the IceCaps had an 18th ranked, 16.5% PP last year, they now have an 11th ranked, 20% efficient group with few other changes. Music to the ears of Jets fans. Did I mention he can play both sides?

Thanks to Josh Weissbock, we also have his on-ice and off-ice goals for %. Kichton has been on for a team high 45 goals (of 86 total team goals!!), and just 24 against. With him off the ice, the team is 41 goals for, 50 goals against. He's second on the team behind exceptional AHL'er Jerome Samson for on-ice goals for % (65%) and the differential between on and off (+20%)

Zach Redmond has perhaps outgrown the AHL, even if his brief NHL appearance this season was less than inspiring. As well, with the Jets' bottom 4 forwards a bit of a mess and a few UFAs likely to be traded at some point in the year, I'm excited for the possibility that Carl Klingberg will finally make his debut later this year. His minutes are very limited - he's only been on for 15 goals for and 7 against. And ss a 22 year old in his 3rd pro season, his scoring is not enough to suggest a top-9 player, but his size, skill, and +6 rating on an even club suggests he might be worth a viewing in a lost season. He also had a reasonable training camp and I thought showed he could play at an NHL speed, even if he wasn't always making things happen. 

Eddie Pasquale has a .922 save percentage for the team this year. That is (by far) a career high for the 23 year old, who I don't typically include because he's been a poor AHL goaltender in his St John's tenure previously. Perhaps things are looking up.

WHL 

Player

POS

Team

Record

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIMS

Josh Morrissey

D

Prince Albert

17-16-2-0

28

13

22

35

11

24

Ryan Olsen

C

Kelowna

28-3-0-2

32

15

17

32

19

34

Nic Petan

C

Portland

23-8-2-2

32

20

46

66

25

30

Lukas Sutter

LW

Red Deer

17-16-0-2

28

7

7

14

-2

44

Axel Blomqvist

RW

Lethbridge

6-27-2-3 (3-12-2-2)

19

8

5

13

-10

10

 

Trade (Nov 20)

Victoria

23-13-0-2 (8-4-0-0)

12

3

10

13

8

2

   

Total

 

31

11

15

26

-2

12

Axel Blomqvist was traded shortly after our last update. It's been a very positive move for the young man, already signed to a contract by the Winnipeg Jets after being an invite to the Jets' Young Stars group. From a miserable Lethbridge team where his meager scoring still meant he was involved in 28% of the team's goals, he's gone to a much better Victoria team where his point-per-game pace still means he's involved in 27% of the goals scored by his club. Exciting stuff for the massive power-forward.

Josh Morrissey will be seen in the WJC for Team Canada, and in spite of Prince Albert being less than good, his personal season could hardly be better. More than a point per game and a plus player while playing the toughs in his draft +1 year. Terrific.

Speaking of exceptional, how about that Nic Petan? He'll be hard pressed to win ths scoring race this year with missing so much time for the World Juniors, but averaging more than 2 points per game, Jets fans will forgive him. The questions last season were about who stirred the drink on his high scoring line on his high scoring team. This season he leads the way for Portland.

Ryan Olsen is also scoring well - a top-3 scorer for the defending WHL Champion Kelowna Rockets. He's in his final year of CHL eligibility and is projected to have a ceiling of an NHL third line. A big bodied, energetic player, Olsen's scoring this season and last are encouraging signs that he has the skill to play the pro game at the highest levels. 

On the other end of things, Lukas Sutter continues his spiral into draft bust. Also in his final year of eligibility and also projected as a bottom-6 player, Sutter's .5 points per game scoring rate has been consistent this season and is not nearly enough to get the former 2nd rounder into the conversation for future Jets' employment.

Player

POS

Team

Record

GP

GA

SVs

GAA

Sv%

SO

Eric Comrie

G

Tri-City

17-16-1-2

30

75

901

2.52

0.923

1

Eric Comrie signed an Entry Level Contract with the Jets this past week. The plucky netminder was a second round pick in the promising 2013 draft class, and his numbers continue to improve season over season.

As happy as we can be for the player, and as hopeful as we might choose to be for his future, the contract itself speaks to poor asset management by a happy-go-lucky Jets' front office. Comrie is avaiable to be signed at any moment, of course, and could have been so for the same rate had he forced his way onto the roster at next year's training camp. Still, the Jets are not required to put the young man against their 50-contract limit for another full 18 months. 

Everyone and their dog knows that a lot can happen to a very young hockey player in 18 months, and that goalie development is hardly a straight line. This contact could look a bit wasteful this time next year (however unlikely), with absolutely no upside to its timing. It is a risk without any reward.

That said, with Pavelec currently ranked 50th in NHL save percentage, and dropping games against the Panthers, Sabres, and Oilers with a goals against average of 5.00 this December, the reward might have been in the announcement of the contract itself.

OHL

Player

POS

Team

Record

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIMS

Scott Kosmachuk

RW

Guelph Storm

25-7-2-1

35

26

25

51

19

58

Jimmy Lodge

C

Saginaw Spirit

16-14-4-1

29

12

20

32

8

32

Scott Kosmachuk was also signed by the Jets this month. It's the usual 3-year, $925K deal for a winger who won a CHL Player of the Week award in October and is currently sitting tied for 7th in scoring in the OHL. That said, he's been involved in just 29% of his team's impressive offence. Nic Petan, for example, was involved in 37% of the Winterhawks' scoring in his draft year. 

Kosmachuk brings offence as well as a real edge to his game. His speed is tremendous and he's a very involved player. Again, we can be excited about the player. But it's yet another contract signed by this General Manager for full value before it's required. We can be happy for the player at the same time as a little dismayed at Kevin Cheveldayoff's apparent disinterest in reducing risk to his franchise.

Kosmachuk wasn't invited to Canada's very small WJC camp, and looked to be an after thought by the organization in September given his playing time at the Young Stars Tournament. Suffice to say, he's put himself on the map and is now expected to prove he deserves his spot, counting against the 50-man contract limit.

Jimmy Lodge hasn't quite had the same season, playing as he does for a much weaker team. Nevertheless, his early season injury struggles have given way to a heck of a tear. The last time we checked in, he had 11 points in 16 games. Since, he's gone 9-12-21 in just 13 games. He compares himself to New Jersey's Travis Zajac, a strong, two-way centre with an offensive finish. Sadly, he was left off the American WJC invite list and we won't get to see him play on U-20 hockey's biggest stage. 

QMJHL

Player

POS

Team

Record

GP

G

A

P

SOG

+/-

PIMS

Jan Kostalek

D

Rimouski

21-11-2-4

30

1

17

18

80

-2

24

Kostalek is playing for the Czech team in this year's World Junior Championships. I strongly encourage everyone to give him a gander if you can. I quite enjoyed his play at the Young Stars Tournament.

He fell down the draft board because his offence wasn't as expected moving from the Czech league to the Q last year. When we last checked in, he had tied his season total of 18 points in just 23 games. As you can see, that's where his scoring total remains 7 games later.

His season success has followed his opportunity as far as I can tell. His 11 points in five games to open November included powerplay points, and his 9 game pointless streak since suggests he's off the team's top unit again. It may have been connected to the health of fellow defender Jeremy Morin and Jimmy Oligny, or simply the coach's perogative.

In some ways, his scoring is a bit illusory - 8 of his 18 points came in the team's 3 games against the Victoriaville Tigres. The team also has a losing record with him in the line up (14-16) compared to out of it (7-1), but most of those games have come while he's been away for the WJC tryouts or in pro camps, and obviously other teams are missing stars for the same reason. 

It's a tough season to read by the numbers, but the Young Stars Tourney showed us that he's a tremendously flexible player. When paired with Cody Sol, Kostalek moved the puck and carried like an offensively inclined player. He took risks at the blue line and made some Kronwall-ian hits. When paired with Brenden Kichton, the Czech defender could have been mistaken for Ladislav Smid. That versatility makes him a desirable pro player, but also a bit of a victim of circumstance. 

NCAA

Player

POS

DIV

Team

Record

GP

G

A

P

SOG

+/-

PIMS

Andrew Copp

C

Big10

Michigan

10-2-2

14

9

5

14

30

5

8

Aaron Harstad

D

NCHC

Colorado College

2-12-3

17

0

2

2

   

10

Tanner Lane

F

NCHC

Nebraska-Omaha

8-7-1

13

3

1

4

14

-1

4

Jordan Samuels-Thomas

LW

ECAC

Quinnipac

13-3-3

19

8

8

16

72

7

22

Brennan Serville

D

Big10

Michigan

10-2-2

12

0

0

0

8

2

8

Peter Stoykewych

D

NCHC

Colorado College

2-12-3

17

0

1

1

   

18

Andrew Copp is on the American WJC team this year as a Sophomore. He leads Michigan in goals and points. At this moment, he's pacing much like Andrew Miller, the college Free Agent signing in Edmonton. Miller didn't make make the pro impact expected, but is a little shy of Copp in size, pedigree, and natural athleticism (you might remember Copp as a former successful highschool Quarterback). 

Samuels-Thomas is a Senior, and I'm pumped about it! He's fourth in team scoring behind fellow Seniors the Jones brothers (Kellen and Connor) out of the AJHL, and undrafted Freshman Sam Anas. All three of those players are undersized and considered long shots for high level pro hockey on account of their dimensions. Still, no doubt the Jets have seen Anas play while looking in on Samuels-Thomas, and there will be some discussion of him around the draft table come June. 

As for Samuels-Thomas, his outrageous size and obvious skill has at least this fan dreaming of him in Thorburn's spot in the Jets' top-9. (NB: I dream of so many players in that spot it borders on the obsessive)

Sadly, Juniors Harstad, Serville, and Stoykewych are all well off a pace to expect a pro career.


Player

POS

DIV

Team

Record

GP

GA

SVs

GAA

SV%

SO

Connor Hellebuyck

G

H-East

UMass-Lowell

11-5-0

10

17

305

1.72

0.947

2

Jamie Phillips

G

WCHA

Michigan Tech

6-9-5

4

12

85

2.94

0.876

0

Boy am I excited about Connor Hellebuyck. He's a Sophomore, ladies and gentlemen, and is making his outrageous Freshman year look like the real deal. 

Jason Kasdorf isn't listed this time around. He was the Rookie of the Year in the ECAC last season, and the Winnipeg native has perhaps already beaten his draft pedigree as a 6th rounder in 2011. Sadly, recurring dislocation problems with his shoulder have sidelined his Sophomore season. He had surgery (reportedly successful) and will miss the year.

The Jets have a goalie battle heating up in the prospect cupboard (no, nothing like The Indian in a Cupboard). Of course, the path from prospect to NHL player is perilous, and this injury changes the timeline of Kasdorf's participation in that battle. Comrie has signed, Hellebyuck is only getting better as the season wears on and appears to be in the lead by raw performance. With a starting netminder currently ranked 50th in NHL save percentage, and a backup the coach won't trust, we could see a genuine contest as early as training camp in September 2014. 

Still, Kasdorf will be back for his Junior and Senior years at RPI and the longer college route is beneficial in that way. The Jets badly need to find a genuine starter out of this group of prospect netminders, and it can't come soon enough. 

As an aside, one of the key questions facing this organization has to be whether current goalie coach Wade Flaherty - a high event, journeyman netminder in his own career - is the right man for the job moving forward given his limited success in developing Ondrej Pavelec these last three seasons. 

Jamie Phillips is the other name in the Jets' goalie prospect conversation. I can't find news of an injury, and third-stringer Freshman Matt Wintjes hasn't started a game yet. It seems he's simply lost his job to fellow Sophomore Pheonix Copley (none of that is a typo), whose numbers are far superior so far this year.  

Other

Player

POS

League

Team

Record

GP

G

A

P

SOG

+/-

PIMS

Tucker Poolman

D

USHL

Omaha Lancers

20-4-3

26

7

12

19

52

16

8

Marcus Karlstrom

D

J20 SuperElit

AIK

11-12-4

26

8

11

19

-

6

20

Alex Burmistrov

C

KHL

Kazan Ak-Bars

26-12-0

38

8

22

30

91

8

26

Poolman has been involved in just 19% of the Lancer's offence. He's the top scoring defenceman on the club, and the fourth highest scorer. Still, the third highest scorer has 32 points on the club, and the team is led by undrafted 19 year old Jake Randolph with 47 points in 27 contests. 

Marcus Karlstrom finds himself in a very similar circumstance. His 19 points is tied for fourth in scoring on his club, and is tops among defenders. The team is led by 19 year old, undrafted centre Henrik Rommel with 34 points in 27 games in a similarly high-scoring league. 

Burmistrov is having all the success we could have imagined for him in the KHL. He's the leading scorer of the Eastern Conference leading Ak-Bars Kazan. He's 12th in league scoring with a very pedestrian shooting percentage (8.8%) and continued prowess in the faceoff dot (53.4%). He continues to be the player he was when we knew him, only on the top line instead of the third. The NHL Equivalency for his scoring rate (given Vollman's 0.78 number from this past summer's Hockey Abstract) is 49 points in a full NHL season. That's nearly double his career high of 28, and reflects his much more offensive role with Ak Bars Kazan.

The team clearly misses him, but we shouldn't be too excited about his burst of offence. Second in team scoring is former Jets powerplay specialist Tim Stapelton. Similar level scorers in the league include former NHL busts Marcel Hossa, Roman Cervenka, and Dustin Boyd. Former Atlanta forward Nigel Dawes is outscoring Burmi, as is former NHL journeyman Brandon Bochenski. Opportunity and competition are still the drivers of scoring (in players above a replacement level), and Burmistrov can only expect a 7th man role in the world's best league. 

Burmistrov remains a flawed player, though considerably better than many of the options we've seen inside the Jets' top-9 this year. One of the most exciting possibilities of Claude Noel's imminent firing is the return of this player as a meaningful compliment to the Jets' top-9 and penalty kill. As well, his offence in Russia tells us that he can, with more support and better minutes, accomplish what many of the ex-NHL'ers listed above did - a 30 point season.   

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Kevin is the Managing Editor of Jets Nation. His work has been featured on Bleacher Report, The Sporting News, and around the Nations Network. An enthusiastic over-analyst, his background and interests are diverse, but you might notice he's obsessed with hockey. Track him down on twitter @kevinmccart or @nhljetsnation
Avatar
#1 ScottOCanada
December 26 2013, 11:16AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
1
props

Really enjoy reading your monthly checkup on the Jets prospects. I'm seeing Petan and Kichton in a Jets uniform to start the year in 2014, with Morrissey's high IceQ and Copp's athleticism a year away. I also think we'll be seeing Hellebuyck sooner rather than later.

With almost a lock for a top ten draft pick in 2014, the Jet's prospect pool will get that much deeper. However, if there was ever a year for the Jet's to begin a youth movement, next year would be it, as 2015 is shaping up to be a very deep draft.

Avatar
#2 Travis Hrubeniuk
December 27 2013, 11:28AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
+1
0
props

I'm really curious as to if the back injury that Lowry suffered in the preseason was worse than the Jet let on. I think everybody expected more out of him this year, so to this point I'd agree he has been pretty disappointing.

It'll be interesting to see how the Jets handle him moving forward. Give him another year to develop and adjust, or maybe he just needs an off season to really let that back heal properly?

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