Jets Organizational Sketch: Blue Chips and Top Prospects

Kevin McCartney
July 27 2013 04:19PM

 

Photo by Tom Lube, courtesy Wikicommons Images

Recently over at Oilers Nation, Jonathan Willis went through the Oilers' prospect cupboard in an effort to identify strengths and weaknesses in the team's program to build from within. It's a valuable exercise for the rebuilding Jets as well, so I've decided to replicate it here. Below we'll start our sketch of the Jets prospect depth with their top prospects in two categories: Blue Chip prospects who are very likely to make an impact at the NHL level, and Legitimate Prospects, or those who have a good chance at NHL action but come with more risk or lower ceilings. 

Within each category, the players are organized alphabetically. For now, we're not too worried about ranking the prospects. As part of this exercise, it's important to keep in mind that it is common for all of us to over-value more recent draft picks as we often imagine players as developing toward the NHL until they show otherwise. For the Jets, the most recent draft includes a number of over-age players, and I have been somewhat hard on them in these rankings. It's very possible each is a legitimate prospect who developed slightly late, so we should keep in mind that several of these players could move up or down dramatically within a single season as professionals. 

Just as Willis did, we'll use Calder Trophy eligibility to determine who is a prospect. It means Postma, Cormier, and Kulda are all excluded, while Redmond stays in amazingly. I'm very open to hearing arguments about why players should be in certain categories, but for now, we can at least get a sense of the system depth going forward.

Blue Chip Prospects

  • Adam Lowry - Huge bodied power-forward voted MVP of the WHL this year, and impressed at the Jets Development Camp with his nose for the net.
  • Josh Morrissey - Left shooting, puck moving defender with high-end skating and elite hockey sense. 
  • Mark Scheifele - A big-bodied eventual power-forward who cleaned up at the OHL Coach's Poll for his scoring ability and hockey sense.
  • Jacob Trouba - A physical, right-shooting, multi-tool defender with impressive skating who was invited to the American Olympic camp at just 19 years of age.

Legitimate Prospects

These prospects could become NHL regulars, but have more risk or lower ceilings.

  • Eric Comrie - undersized, skilled goaltender known for his hockey sense and strong reads was 2nd ranked at his position going into the 2013 draft
  • Connor Hellebuyck - huge netminder led UMass Lowell to its first ever Frozen Four appearance on the back of a personal 20-3 record, and a stunning 1.37 GAA and .952 sv% in his Freshman year. Only his pedigree holds him back of being a Blue Chipper. 
  • Brenden Kichton - Second time drafted, Kichton beat Morgan Reilly for WHL Defenceman of the Year, posted 85 points as Captain of the Spokane Chiefs, and played in all situations. A gifted skater, puck mover, and powerplay quarterback, he racked up 240 points in his last 206 games in Junior.
  • Jan Kostalek - Preliminary rankings put Kostalek inside the first round based on his success in the Czech leagues as a polished, mistake-free defender. His scoring dropped during his first season in the QMJHL, and the hard-hitting, two-way defender dropped with it.
  • J.C. Lipon – Lipon impressed at the Jets Development Camp this year, and comes with high hopes as an instant fan favourite. Never drafted out of Bantam and passed in the NHL draft twice, Lipon went on to make the Canadian World Junior U-20 team, and score 89 points while racking up 115PIMs for the storybook Blazers this year. He's a physical pest who plays on the edge and has developed enough offence to earn his minutes. 
  • Jimmy Lodge - Lodge is an effective player below the hashmarks already at a slight 170lbs, and projects as an effective possession and cycle player with a nose for the net.
  • Nic Petan - All-world skill and vision, only size can hold the 5'9" centre back from being an impact scorer in the NHL.
  • Zach Redmond - Already made a moderate impact at the NHL level in a short audition. The late blooming two-way defender has size and skating enough to make the Jets again this year after losing a season to injury.

The Depth Chart 

Left Wing

Centre

Right Wing

LH Defence

RH Defence

Goal

Lowry

Scheifele

Lipon

Morrissey

Trouba

Hellebuyck

 

Petan

 

Kichton

Redmond

Comrie

 

Lodge

 

 

Kostalek

 

The Jets defensive prospect depth appears impressive as things stand today, but there are problems brewing. As an organization, left handed defencemen is a position of concern. Enstrom leads a group that includes Clitsome, Stuart, and Pardy at the NHL level without a lot of help coming any time soon. Morrissey, though lauded for his exceptional offensive instincts and skating, is 3 to 4 years from having an impact as he continues to develop his body and his defence. He projects as a replacement for Enstrom given his timeline, rather than an addition to the current defence group. Kichton turns pro this year and is a wildcard for development after incredible junior production while being passed over in his first draft, not being a priority for the Islanders, and then waiting until the 7th round as a rare 21 year old draftee. The verbal from the Spokane coaching staff makes Kichton out to be a leader playing in all disciplines against the WHL's best. But something isn't adding up and we might get some clues in the coming season. Along with Trouba and Redmond likely graduating to NHL players from this list, the Jets blueline prospect depth could appear shallow just one year from now.  

With Jokinen's struggles last year and contract ending, Scheifele may play as the Jets 2C this year, with Petan and Lodge aiming to make an impact as soon as 2016/17. Yet the tremendous lack of organizational depth at RW means Scheifele is needed in two places at once. Lipon may even get a chance to compete for the 3RW job with Matt Halischuk and Andrew Gordon at the Jets main camp this year. 

Call it the hope of the desperate, but Hellebuyck is projecting as a tremendous goaltender. His reputation as a calming influence means he might be the anti-Pavelec in just a few seasons. With Montoya on a one year deal, Hellebuyck's sophomore season should be watched with great interest. Below are the highlights of his 36 save shutout against Boston U to witn the Hockey East Championship. 

 

Next up: the Fringe Prospects and Suspects.

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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
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#1 truck
August 04 2013, 03:06PM
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I think the Jets are going to try to work Lowry in at centre.

Lodge and Petan may end up on the wing though.

It will be interesting to watch.

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#2 Travis Hrubeniuk
July 27 2013, 05:42PM
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I think my favourite part of that highlight package was hearing Hellebuyck referred to as "positionally sound". Wouldn't that be a nice change.

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