A lot has gone well for the Winnipeg Jets this season, which goes ways towards explaining their record and place atop the Western Conference’s leaderboard. You had to know they were going to face adversity at some point though and in losing Mark Scheifele to injury in a Wednesday win over the Edmonton Oilers, they’re getting a heavy dose.
Based on their win last night over the New York Islanders, the Jets are up to the task. Shawn Matthias returned from his exile in the press box and scored the game’s first goal barely two-minutes in — talk about making a statement.
That would’ve been enough to put a damper on speculation that the Jets might call upon their star prospect Jack Roslovic, who’s lighting the AHL on fire, to help them get through this stretch.
Matthias can play centre and is on a relatively costly deal at $2.25-million. Relatively costly in the sense that an internal budget team like the Jets can’t sit that kind of cash in the press box on a nightly basis. Certainly, they’d rather avoid it if at all possible.
The injury to Brandon Tanev last night though might change that dynamic entirely. Jets head coach Paul Maurice suggested Tanev’s lower-body injury is going to be evaluated tomorrow and that for now he’s day-to-day.
Hopefully, it’s a positive diagnosis. Tanev’s developed into quite the useful player in the Jets bottom-six, and his absence would certainly be felt.
Let’s assume, however, that Tanev is at least out for Sunday’s game, which seems fairly reasonable all things considered. Is now the time to give Roslovic his shot?
There’s no arguing against Roslovic’s case based on merit. At the time of writing this, Roslovic is tied for third in the AHL in scoring, which is a phenomenal feat for a 20-year-old.
In 31 games with the Manitoba Moose, Roslovic has 35 points (15 goals and 20 assists), good for better than a point per game pace. The next best Moose is Mason Appleton, who’s four points back.
If we look at how Roslovic’s statistical and stature based profile projects his likelihood of NHL success, well, it’s looking pretty damn good at the moment.
Using the pGPS (prospect graduation probabilities system) draft metric, developed by CanucksArmy’s Jeremy Davis to account for a prospect’s likelihood of NHL success based on how comparable players fared, Roslovic is in elite company. His closest comparable player is Claude Giroux based on this season.
Based on a sample of nearly 20 players, Roslovic’s cohort has a 75% success rate of translating to full-time NHL players. Roslovic’s expected production per 82 game season based on this year in the AHL is about 60 points a season, which is well north of what one would expect from a first-line centre. Not bad — not bad at all!
Perhaps best of all, this production, and what it means about Roslovic’s future, isn’t just a blip on the radar. Other than a decent-if-unspectacular first year in college, Roslovic’s hovered at or above a 50% mark by Exp. Succ percentage ever since the Jets drafted him 25th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Roslovic’s been on a steady upward trajectory towards the NHL from the age of 18.
At 20-years-old, is Roslovic ready to make the jump? I can’t see the harm in taking that theory for a test ride. And if Tanev can’t go on Sunday, what better opportunity? It’s not like the Jets have been especially keen to give Marko Dano a real shot, whether they should or not is another question entirely — perhaps another article, even. That’s the alternative if the Jets have to go that route.
Then again, maybe they should just give Roslovic a shot because he’s earned it? That might have to be the driving force, assumign Tanev is good to go sooner than later. And there’s definitely a case for just that.