The Nations Network is sending this Jets blogger to the 2014 Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC. I’ll be judging your team and bringing you live scouting reports. Check out last year’s wrap-up piece here.
The Young Stars Tournament is here again! I’ll be there all weekend to scout, blog, and dry out my insides with Okanagan Events Centre popcorn. You can follow me on twitter (@kevinmccart) for live insights, or check out the Nations Network of blogs for game and player reviews.
Inside we’ll reflect a bit on last year’s tournament and take a look at the Jets’ Young Stars roster. Have a player, story or system you’re excited about? Let me know in the comments!
The Move to Skill-Based Drafting
The Jets’ 2013 Young Stars squad was crammed full of skill. We knew it at the time – Scheifele, Petan, Lowry, Morrissey and Trouba were all in attendance – but it was in that tournament that the organization began to take note of Kosmachuk’s scoring, Kichton’s control of the play, and Blomqvist’s offensive sense. Blomqvist was an invite but would come out of the tournament with a free agent contract. Kosmachuk (70th overall, 2012) would eventually cap his breakout year playing for the Memorial Cup as the Storm’s leading scorer. And Kichton (190th, 2013) would earn AHL All-Rookie honours and play for the Calder Cup in the AHL.
More than just seeing a few players excel, we also got some hints at the answer to some of the organization’s most troubling prospect problems. Lukas Sutter (39th, 2012) (who would be released and re-drafted this off-season) showed why he’s struggled to impact the WHL when his hockey sense was exposed as considerably below average for the tournament, and well behind fellow two-way agitator JC Lipon (91st, 2013). Jan Kostalek (114th, 2013) – he of the strangest season I’ve ever seen on paper – was a chameleon. He carried the puck and generated chances when put with Cody Sol, but then played opportunistic, defensive minded hockey on his off-side with Kichton.
We’ve talked a lot about the failures of Head Scout Marcel Comeau (here and here for example), and he still holds the ignominous honour of graduating just 7 players (out of 60 picks) from the drafts between 2003 and 2010, and worse, just 4% of his picks (2 of 54) after 12th overall. But the team’s recent turn to drafting for skill is already paying dividends. The Young Stars Tournament is one of the first places we get to see with our own eyes the talent the scouting department has put together.
The team graduated NHL rookies Scheifele and Trouba from last year’s squad. But AHL’ers Adam Lowry, Brenden Kichton and JC Lipon return, alongside some other familiar names in Scott Kosmachuk, Josh Morrissey, Eric Comrie, Jan Kostalek, Ryan Olsen, Axel Blomqvist and Jussi Olkinuora.
Some new and exciting additions include:
Jimmy Lodge: The skilled but under-discussed centre didn’t hit the 20 goal or 50 point mark this season after starting with 32 points in 29 games. He was at the tournament last year, but didn’t play due to injury. His two-way game is an unknown, and there are still questions about his ability to create scoring consistently.
Nik Ehlers: The Jets first round pick this year and by all accounts a speedy offensive dynamo. The Jets have had trouble filling the left side of their lineup for years, and Ehlers may be exactly what the team needs to complete three scoring lines. He might be too small to make the jump to the NHL just yet (listed at 163lbs), but we’ll get to see his skill against some older pros and college grads to see.
Connor Hellebyuck: Turned pro after his Sophomore year, he’s got the inside track for Pavelec’s job. A huge, calm netminder who dominated college hockey at a young age. Extremely excited to see him share the ice with fellow prospect Eric Comrie.
For the full roster and game schedule, go here.
If you have any scouting requests or things you’d like me to watch for, fire away in the comments!