In case you’ve been living under a rock the last few years, or just woke up from a coma that started back in 2013, the Winnipeg Jets have had an incredible run of super talented and young players come up through the system and become big time players.
Patrik Laine obviously is the first name that comes to mind, but Connor Hellebuyck, Jacob Trouba and Kyle Connor have all made huge leaps this past season to establish themselves as core members of the Jets and breakout stars that hockey fans around the world may get more familiar with over the next five years.
But it’s hard not to help but wonder, who’s next?
Jets prospects have consistently seen graduating players join the team at the NHL level and it’s starting to leave the overall depth a bit thin, but there are still a few gems worth keeping an eye on.
Sami Niku will have to scrap for a spot on the main roster, but there are few who doubt that he is far and away the best defensive prospect the team has right now and may already possess more overall skill than at least three current Jets. It’s his offensive ability that was on full display with the Manitoba Moose this season that captured the fancy of on-lookers, but his defensive play shouldn’t be overlooked. At 6’1″ he’s not so small that he will be a pushover on the blueline and thus Jets head coach Paul Maurice will likely give him more than a fair shot to make the team out of training camp.
That said, even if he doesn’t make the team right away, there are always injuries and it’s very likely Niku will be one of the first call ups when it happens. If his one lone NHL game from last season was any indication, his offensive ability may make it very tough on the Jets to send him back down after that.
Am I the only one that thinks lemieux's ahl season was more impressive than Appleton's? Look at their linemates Appleton played with far more scoring talent.
— not affiliated 🐺 (@Tony_MBHKY) July 17, 2018
Lemieux seems to have a good tool box full of skills that would make him a very useful bottom six forward with some major league abrasive style to go with it, but therein seems to lie the problem with the son of Claude: Maybe too much focus on grit and not quite enough on the talents – his speed and hustle would play great along side say an Adam Lowry or Marko Dano where he could get teammates the puck from hard work in the corners – that would see him be a solid depth offensive player. He had 19 goals and 43 points with the Moose this past season in 51 games, and as Tony deftly pointed out, it was in a middle six forward role that didn’t see him play beside Jack Roslovic or Nic Petan.
But Lemieux’s lack of discipline has been a major issue to the point where it has maybe held him back from the Jets giving him a better look at some NHL time. If he can rein that in a bit, the Jets may just have a super-pest with a flair for some offensive production.
Maybe the best indication that this kid is more than ready for a full time NHL gig is that he changed his number just recently.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) July 14, 2018
Instantly, fans started wondering if we could see a “27-28-29” line that would have Roslovic center between Nik Ehlers and Patrik Laine. He may not get that assignment right away, but with no Paul Stastny, and Bryan Little still a question mark going into the fall, there has been no better time for Jack to step up and prove himself after a 15 goal, 35 point run in 32 games with the Manitoba Moose as well as an extra five NHL goals and 14 points in 31 games with the Jets.
There is no question Poolman will get a long, hard look at Jets training camp to see if he can move up the depth chart from being the team’s seventh defenseman to a role on the Jets third defensive pairing. He’s going to have to compete with Joe Morrow and Ben Chiarot along with as mentioned fellow rookie Sami Niku, but having re-signed a very club friendly three year deal this summer, there might not be as much panic for Poolman to make an immediate impact in the NHL but even with Poolman being tabbed as a bit of a late-bloomer, at 25 years old, he’s may get one, maybe two more seasons to stick with the club.
The Jets may not need to worry about that though. In his 24 games this past season with the Jets he displayed an ability to play a strong two-way game on the blue line.
You didn’t think we’d talk about the future of the Jets and leave out Petan did you? If you did, you don’t know us very well. I think it’s safe to say most of the JN crew are fans of the kid and even though he made the Jets roster coming out of training camp, his playing time was limited and he was ultimately sent down to the AHL.
The biggest complaint about Petan right now is not about anything Petan himself can do or not do, it’s the notion that Paul Maurice hasn’t given him a fair chance to establish himself. Last season he only played in 15 games. He just signed his qualifying offer that was made before the start of free agency, a one year, two way deal but it comes with an interesting caveat…
Petan, who didn’t have arbitration rights, will sign a one-year, two-way deal that carries an AAV of $874,125 and an #AHL salary of $73,500, though it’s important to remember he would be subject to waivers if he doesn’t earn a spot on #NHLJets out of training camp
— Ken Wiebe (@WiebeSunSports) August 1, 2018
One way or another, this feels like the make-or-break season for Petan as far as his time in Winnipeg goes.
What do you think? It looks like the Jets will have some openings as training camp opens up and it will be a prime chance for someone new to shine. Let us know who you expect to do just that in the comments below, or on either our Twitter feed or Facebook page!