I don’t think I have ever heard a GM, coach, or even a devoted fan say the words “You know, we have too many depth guys in the system”. If someone said that to me, I’d probably smack them upside the head to try and knock some sense into them. Depth is never an issue, period. The biggest “problem”—and I use that word lightly—is when you have too many players fighting for a set number of spots during training camp. Further to that, if a team has a crop of young depth players, you’re set. The Winnipeg Jets are almost always mentioned in the “impressive prospect pool” conversation, but I’m going to delve into it a bit deeper. I’m talking about guys who are in the AHL or the NHL (I’ll leave juniors for another time). I’ll look at a few guys who could look to make an impact in the Jets’ system, because insurance policies are always nice when your team seems to be the unluckiest injury team in the league. So, without further ado, here are 6 players to watch as key depth pieces.
Adam Lowry, 2016-17 NHL Stats: 82GP | 15G | 14A | 29Pts
Adam Lowry, 24, was a much-improved player in the 2016-17 season for the Jets, as he was coming off a disappointing 2015-16 season in which he saw himself demoted to the AHL for 4 games. Lowry re-established himself as a force early in the season, and managed to keep it up for nearly every game, as he played all 82 for the Jets. As a 3rd line center, your role is pretty well defined, and he rocked it. Both figuratively and literally (he finished 18th in the league in hits with 217). He also improved his faceoff percentage, bringing it up to a respectable 50.8% from the previous season’s 46.3%. He’s also a versatile player, playing both center and on the left side, which is a great asset to have as a depth guy. As of right now, he is one of those guys whose expansion protected status is up in the air, but you’d have to think the Jets would try their very best to keep a guy like Adam around.
Andrew Copp, 2016-17 NHL Stats: 64GP | 9G | 8A | 17Pts, AHL: 8GP | 0G | 5A | 5Pts
Andrew Copp, 22, is coming off his second NHL campaign, and it was a slightly more productive one than his first. Copp put up 17 points in 64 games this past season, but mostly, he put his determination and heart on display. Copp is a player who usually bounces between the third and fourth lines, and it’s a relatively simple transition for him, as he spent some games on the wing, rather than at his center position. While spending a few games down with the Moose, it didn’t seem to hurt his spirit, as he was always a guy you could count on to grind away to get the puck. He also spent some time with Mark Scheifele on the top line during some injury trouble, and proved that he can show some offensive upside when in the right situations. Andrew is an Restricted Free Agent (RFA) this summer, but he brings a lot to this team, and it would be a shame to lose a guy like that.
Nic Petan, 2016-17 NHL Stats: 54GP | 1G | 12A | 13Pts, AHL: 9GP | 4G | 1A | 5Pts
After a few years of trying to break onto the Jets roster and remain there, Petan, 22, finally grabbed a spot this season, and gained some valuable experience. During his tenure with the Jets this season, he spent some time on the powerplay, while also bouncing around the lineup in a variety of different roles. He saw some time on the third and fourth lines, but also found himself in an offensive setting in the top 6. He struggled to find his scoring touch, but the inconsistent ice time certainly didn’t help with that, but he did show some promise for the future. Much like Andrew Copp, he spent a few games in the minors. He even had his own “Nic Petan Bobble Head Day”, and that certainly counts for something. Bobble heads aside, Petan seems to be a good asset in the system, and could be a valuable player to have looking ahead.
Julian Melchiori, 2016-17 NHL Stats: 18GP | 0G | 2A | 2Pts, AHL: 40GP | 2G | 6A | 8Pts
Melchiori, 25, was a solid depth guy last season, and looks to potentially become a regular on the Jets’ back end in the coming years. He was the go-to call up whenever a defenseman last year, and was seemingly always back and forth between the Moose and the Jets. He only played 58 total games, largely due to his fluctuating status as a player, and some time in the press box. As a big body at 6’5”, 214lbs, he is able to play physical in his own end, but can also work well in a transition play while moving the puck up the ice. The more NHL time he gets, the more comfortable he’ll be. Once that happens, he’ll be a mainstay in the Jets’ lineup. He is often overlooked when a defensive option conversation comes up, but is quietly a solid player.
Nelson Nogier, 2016-17 NHL Stats: 10GP | 0G | 0A | 0Pts, AHL: 60GP | 2G | 11A | 13Pts
There was a very small sample size at the end of last season, but we did manage to see Nelson Nogier in a Jets jersey. The 21-year-old was rather solid in the 10 games of action he got into, and showed management and coaching that he isn’t just another AHL guy. He plays a very smooth game, with brilliant transitions and great defensive positioning, but can we expect him to be on the big squad to start the season? I’m honestly not sure, but I can say for certain that he shows some great promise on the back-end, and could be a very important player for the Jets to have in their system in the next few years.
Eric Comrie, NHL Stats: 1GP | 1W | 4.05 GAA | .897 S%, AHL: 51GP | 19-26-2 | 2.96 GAA | .906 S%
We got a very brief glimpse at Eric Comrie, 21, at the end of last season, and he snagged a win for the Jets. Despite his win/loss record for the Moose, his play has been fantastic. He still has a lot to work on, but at only 21 years of age, the sky is the limit for him. He is a smaller guy, which is seemingly the opposite direction of which the NHL is going (Ben Bishop, Pekka Rinne, or practically any other goalie 6’4″ and up), but he is relatively solid when it comes to positioning. I wouldn’t imagine that we’ll see Eric in many NHL games for at least another year, but he is a fantastic guy to have as an insurance policy behind a relatively inconsistent, and uncertain goaltending core.
Joel Armia, 24: While he could be a Vegas target, Armia showed flashes of brilliance last season and looks to be a valuable asset.
Marko Dano, 22: He is an RFA this summer, but played a huge role in frustrating other teams, and still shows promise as a young player trying to find his scoring touch.
Kyle Connor, 20: He found his scoring hands late last season in the minors, and looks to transfer what he learned into next year.
Jack Roslovic, 20: He led the Manitoba Moose in scoring last year, but only found his way into a single NHL game last year. You should expect to see him pushing for a spot out of camp.
Tucker Poolman, 24: After 3 successful seasons and the University of North Dakota, Poolman signed his first pro contract, and looks to make some noise on the back-end, which will take all the depth it can.
Obviously, there are a few more that could be brought up (Tanev, Howden, Lemieux, Spacek, etc.), but I feel like the ones mentioned could be some of the most important players to have over the next few years. As I said, depth is never a bad thing, and the Jets certainly have a surplus of young talent on its way up.