Photo by Jacob Shwirtz
Time to shake game one off and get so pumped your face-veins show, Jets Nation! Tonight the Ottawa Bureaucrats are in town to face Group B of the Winnipeg Plane-Enthusiasts. Group B is the only squad to have played two scrimmages so far in camp, losing both by a combined score of 9-4. Next step, NHL glory.
***Gary Lawless with some projected lines a couple hours before game time, so I’ve updated below.
- Frolik – Little – Wheeler
- Ladd – O’Dell – Halischuk
- Blomqvist – Cormier – Samson
- Sutter – Olsen – Peluso
My suggested lineup card sees Cormier and Olsen switch places, and I won’t be surprised if that happens during the game. While all media eyes seem to be on long-time pro Michael Frolik, I’m excited to see Eric O’Dell tonight most of all. The 23 year old former second round pick has had trouble staying healthy since turning pro, but led the IceCaps with 55 points last year, and did that in just 59 games. He was also +9 on a team that was a putrid -40. His chances at a skill role with the Jets have all be evaporated with Scheifele set to step into the top-6 and veteran Olli Jokinen still on the roster. His first step to NHL employment is showing he’s a 1st call-up by playing an effective two-way game. But a few points wouldn’t hurt.
Axel Blomqvist is an invite to camp, and showed very well in the Young Stars Tournament. A Huge reach off his 6’5" frame, and he protects the puck very well. Two goals in game two, including a breakaway off an anticipation steal. Drives the net very well, reads the offensive zone effectively, and has hands. I compared him to Dustin Penner, and it’s his speed and willness to hit people that raise questions about his ability to turn pro. Still, he looked like a tremendous prospect last week and has a good shot at a contract with a strong showing tonight.
Sadly for Blomqvist, he’s doing it without much help down the middle. Patrice Cormier has been a project since his injury-filled draft year five years ago, and earned a reputation for dangerous play in the seasons to follow. Has 49 points in 106 AHL games, and another 2 in 40 NHL games. Claude Noel mentioned wanting to see a complete and responsible game develop, but in Cormier’s self-description to the Winnipeg Sun today, mentioned faceoffs, penalty killing, hitting twice, and fighting as his skills. They may not be on the same page at this point.
Meanwhile, Ryan Olsen just keeps adding to his resume. A switch from the Blades to the Rockets in the WHL saw his scoring nearly double in his draft year +1, and he had three strong games in Penticton from a position in the roster few expected much success. Has distinguished himself from the also-rans so far this year after a 6th round selection in 2012.
Samson and Halischuk are both on two-way contracts, and so fighting not only for the perks and prestige of NHL employment, but to multiply their salaries by three. Jerome Samson was thought to be a possible top-6 player in Carolina a few years ago but didn’t make the leap despite scoring 78 AHL points in 2009/10. Followed up with another season at better than a point-per-game in the AHL, but in his 23 games in the NHL, garnered just 2 points. At 26, he may only be an AHL veteran scorer, but with only 46 NHL games spead over three years to make an impact so far in his career, may have more ability than we think. Matt Halischuk should probably come with the opposite warning after enjoying exceptional percentages and luck in his NHL career and remaining a bubble player.
The fourth line has a couple ‘Stick-Optional’ types on it. Sutter is slowly sinking as a prospect of interest with this franchise due to poor decision making more than any physical limitations. He drives the net well, but takes (many) bad penalties, doesn’t read offence well, and likes to hit more than he likes to play defence. Anthony Peluso was given NHL money this year after being taken off waivers from the Blues to play 25 minutes of so-called hockey last season. Watch all three attempt to win praise through the lesser-known advanced stat "Opponent Ice Packs / 60." For now, Cormier leads with 77 ‘likes’ on facebook.
- Enstrom – White
- Kichton – Kostalek
- Pardy – Postma
Again, some gueses. The team has kept Kichton and Kostalek together since game two of the Young Stars. Kostalek really adjusted his game to play with Kichton and be the ‘responsible’ one, but I hope we get to see a little of his offence, which is impressive in its own right. Both men take a lot of risks in their games, but both are tremendous skaters and anticipate the play extremely well. I’ll be excited to see how they adjust to the professional speed of the game.
Speaking of speed, Adam Pardy is the only one without it in this group and has the unenviable task of doing all the face-punching, scrum wrestling, net clearing, and general dirty work. Postma is another guy who takes a lot of chances in his game, but also did things like turn the wrong way and play the outside lane in defensive transition last year, so it wasn’t always for the good. Despite having 5 offensive defencemen on this blue line, I think it will be Pardy we notice to be ‘running around’ as he tries to cover for Paul Postma’s slow defensive zone reads. I’m not a fan of Postma, apparently.
Jets Nation <3’s Tobias Enstrom.
I’m also very excited to see Ian White in action, and shamelessly hope he is signed to a deal to help out the Jets defensive depth. He would fit very nicely on the 3rd defensive pairing, and would give Redmond and Trouba time in the AHL, while pushing Postma to spot duty. But that depends on his ability to impress at this camp. I’ll be looking for him to show tight transition gaps, use his stick to close lanes in the defensive end, and to move the puck off the offensive blue line intelligently. All of that comes with experience and will distinguish him from the more raw Kichton, Kostalek, and Postma.
Michael Hutchison starts in goal after the team watched Olkinuora through two Young Stars games. I’ve never seen Hutch play, but the scouting reports on him are that he’s an efficient netminder who uses his size (6’3") well. His knock is always ‘consistency’ and Hockey Futures gives the comp of Mathieu Garon, who can go hot and be amazing, but isn’t an NHL starter quality goalie when he’s not on such a streak. If you’re a believer in such narratives, you might point to the fact that he struggles to win games on a good team despite strong AHL numbers. If you’re like me and ‘consistency’ sounds like code for ‘wish he was better’, you might point out that his AHL stats are better than Pasquale’s and he may be able to supplant the curent 3rd stringer.
Robin Lehner photo by Michael Hiridjee
I haven’t seen the Senator’s lines yet and will update when I do. Apparently the top line of Spezza-Michalek-Ryan, Karlsson-Methot are all in, along with Lehner in net. It’s going to be an NHL test for the Jets Group B.