Training Camp Hopefuls: Forwards

Awe yes, it’s that time of the year again everybody.

The zamboni’s have finished their final tune-ups, and the equipment has been laid out by the equipment managers. The players have made their way to the ice a few times, hooking up with their new linemates.

The coaches have come up with a presentation and plan on what kind of systems their team will be running. Management has their eyes ready to watch and evaluate which players will be representing their organization when the puck drops for real next month.

The Winnipeg Jets have a wide array of training camp hopefuls that can will be deciding their fates with their play in the pre-season.With a large array of two-way contracts fighting for positions, it’s anybody’s guess who will be wearing the navy blue and white jerseys come opening night.

The Jets know who the for sure players are; Byfuglien, Ladd, Little, Frolik, Wheeler, Scheifele, Kane, Perreault, Slater, and sadly Thorburn are the locks. That’s 10 out of a possible 14 spots. While it’s likely Anthony Peluso and Eric Tangradi will keep their spots on the 3rd and 4th lines, there’s really two spots to compete for. 

One of the spots that will be up for grabs in the 3rd line wing. While it’s believed the Little-Ladd-Frolik line will stick together and Kane-Scheifele-Wheeler make up the second line, it’s anybody’s guess who could playing with Byfuglien and newcomer Mathieu Perreault. The final roster spot will likely be in the press box or on the fourth line. Let’s take a look at who could take the 3rd line winger spot.

ERIC O’DELL

O’Dell was a regular with the Jets for half the season last year, and he posted actual decent offensive numbers for a player who plays an agitating role. His draft pedigree (2/39 in 2008 by the Anaheim Ducks) suggests he had potential to be a useful NHL player.

He has sub-par skating, and but he plays all three forward positions. That and the fact that he will have to pass through waivers to be sent down may be enough to keep him with the big club once again. Due to his age, experience and abilities, he makes perfect sense as the 13/14 forward.

Likeliness to make club: 85%

CARL KLINGBERG

Klingberg is likely the most NHL-ready player due to his experience with the North American game and the 10 NHL games he already has under his belt. Klingberg has posted solid AHL numbers, scoring 22 goals and 43 points in 65 games last season.

He’s already a big body forward at 6’3 and 205 lbs, so he should be able to take some rough stuff from the strong western conference opponents. 

Klingberg can play a decent two-way game and has a power forward mentality, which bodes well for his potential work in the NHL as a bottom-six forward.

Likeliness to make club: 75%

TJ GALIARDI

Galiardi once was a spark plug of an NHL prospect, and exploded into the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche at the end of the 2008-09 NHL season, scoring 3-1-4 in the final 11 games of the season. 

Ever since he showed that potential, it became very clear that Galiardi would never become the star player he portrayed early in his career. He had a respectable season last year with his hometown team the Calgary Flames, but was unable to turn his season into another one-way contract.

Galiardi comes to the Jets camp with a two-way contract which could motivate him to push harder in training camp and win a spot and another NHL contract. I’d say Galiardi has just as good of a chance as Klingberg to be suiting up for the big club.

Likeliness to make club: 75%

MATT HALISCHUK

Halischuk played last season with the Jets, and played admirably but it was not enough to entice the Jets to give him another contract. He tested the market and found no suitors, instead settling on a two-way contract with the Jets once again.

Being familiar with the organization is a good start for Halischuk, but he will be battling others with two-way deals like Galiardi. Both he and Galiardi are similar players that had good prospect pedigree and potential and now find themselves fighting for their NHL lives.

It’s a good thing to have competition in the league during training camp, and that may have been the plan all along for Jets management.

Likeliness to make club: 50%

JOHN ALBERT

Albert is a classic late-bloomer. The 25-year-old finally got his first of NHL action last year, scoring once in nine games with the big club. He’s a former college player who didn’t turn pro until four years after his draft year, and played the last three seasons with the St.John’s IceCaps.

Albert has a reputation for being a tenacious force and a real good hard-working player. A good comparable for his upside as an NHL player is Ruslan Fedotenko or Daniel Paille.

He’s not an attractive waiver claim option so he may be sent down to the minors where he can be a leader and get called-up for spot duty. His chances are a little more slim, but he still has a shot.

Likeliness to make club: 30%

SCOTT KOSMACHUK

The Hockey News pencilled Kosmachuk in the 3rd line winger spot in their fantasy hockey league preview, and the youngster showed well at the Rookie Tournament in Penticton. 

The rookie tournament is one thing, and the NHL pre-season is a whole other ball game. Trust me, I thought Jesse Joensuu was a gold-mine of a steal for the Oilers last year. He was not.

While Joensuu was getting his last chance likely, Kosmachuk will have many more training camps ahead of him to make the club, and he would be much better served to develop his game in St.John’s instead of taking spot duty for the Jets. However, if he has an incredible pre-season, he could turn heads and make the club.

Likeliness to make club: 15%

NIKOLAJ EHLERS

In late July, I wrote an article asking the question i’m going to answer here: does Ehlers have a shot at opening night?

Here where I wrote then: “Nikolaj Ehlers is an amazing talent, and he has a real shot to be sporting the Jets beautiful jerseys when the club faces off against the Arizona Coyotes on October 9.”

Today, I want to retract that guess.

I watched Ehlers during the rookie tournament and he was incredible. His shot is Sakic-like, and he’s going to be an NHL star someday. Just not today.

In the comment section of my last article, many thought it would be stupid to start the kid in the NHL. They were right. Give Ehlers one more year in the Q, and then watch him steal a spot at next year’s training camp.

Likeliness to make club: 10%

SUMMARY

The Jets have a lot of things to be excited about for this season. A lot of players could decide their own fates while management makes the calls.

They have a real player in Axel Blomqvist, who was a player that I really admired during the rookie tournament, and in a few years he will be the new Dustin Byfuglien for this club. Patrice Cormier and JC Lipon could also surprise. Hell, you never know, the undersized Nic Petan could shock and make the club.

I’m suggesting that O’Dell and Klingberg make the club with Halischuk and Galiardi not far behind, but that’s just me. It’s up to Paul Maurice, and it will be exciting to see how the pre-season plays out.

The NHL is back baby!