The Winnipeg Jets failed to reach the playoffs for the second straight year and there were a lot of moving parts in and out of the lineup last season. However, the Jets front office managed to stock the prospects cupboard full and once again continued to target the blue line through the draft. For more on the newest additions to the organization, check out the July 31-in-31.
The Jets bought out the remaining two years of long-time assistant captain Mark Stuart’s contract. They also lost goaltender Ondrej Pavelec to a one year deal with the New York Rangers, where he will presumably backup Henrik Lundqvist. Joining the list of free agent departures were Brenden Kichton, Anthony Peluso, Paul Postma and Brian Strait. Veteran forward Chris Thorburn was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft.
Steve Mason inked a two-year deal with the Jets, which further complicates things in the crease and now leaves Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson to battle for backup minutes. The addition of Dmitry Kulikov will bump either Ben Chiarot or Josh Morrissey to the press box and the Jets also added veteran Matt Hendricks up front to shore up their bottom six.
Patrik Laine was every bit as advertised in his rookie year with the Jets, scoring 36 goals and 64 points in 73 games. If not for a head injury that forced him to miss nine games, Laine could have very well topped fellow rookie Auston Matthews for the Calder Trophy voting. Hellebuyck appeared in 56 games with the Jets last season and will likely battle the newly acquired Mason for minutes in a platoon role. Morrissey played in all 82 games on the blue line last season and appears to have landed a full-time spot on the Jets roster for the foreseeable future.
Jack Roslovic – The Jets 2015 first-rounder is all the rage right now after an impressive rookie campaign in the AHL that saw the 20-year-old lead the team in scoring with 48 points in 65 games. He has all the tools to be a consistent contributor on the scoresheet for the organization one day and it’s only a matter of time before he forces the coaching staff’s hand to put him in the Jets lineup each night.
Eric Comrie – With the goaltending situation a bit cloudy in Winnipeg, Comrie still projects as the team’s goalie of the future. Hellebuyck hasn’t really seized the opportunity and the signing of Mason in the offseason shows that management is no longer confident in him.
Michael Spacek – The young Czech forward had a tremendous finish to his junior career, leading the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels with 85 points in 59 games. Spacek has plenty of scoring upside and will have a chance to showcase that with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL this season. Not the sexy pick on everyone’s prospect boards, but if given the opportunity to play with some of the Jets young talent, he will surely be an impactful scorer at the NHL level one day.
Joel Armia – Armia is running out of time to show he can produce night in and night out at the NHL level. Once a highly touted first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, he has yet to show he can make a difference and score at the rate we saw during his time in Finland. At 24, the window is quickly closing on Armia to be a consistent top six forward in the NHL.
Marko Dano – Some will say not to hit the panic button just yet with Dano (still just 22), but the Jets are already his third team in the NHL and he too has yet to make any immediate impact in a top six role. Dano is walking a fine line between the NHL and playing full-time on an AHL roster.
Chase De Leo – Size is definitely playing a factor in De Leo’s inability to make the jump to the NHL for regular minutes. He spent all of last season in the AHL after getting a cup of coffee with the Jets at the end of the 2015-16 season and will need to tweak his game if he wants another crack in Winnipeg. The 21-year-old is in the final year of his entry level contract and is poised for a big season if he wants that extension next summer from the Jets.
Top 10 Prospects:
Kyle Connor, C/LW (Winnipeg Jets, NHL) – There is little doubt that Connor can be a talented player at the NHL level, but his consistency needs to improve. He looked a little bit out of place early on last season and was demoted to the AHL, where he exercised some demons and found his scoring touch that was so prevalent during his time with Michigan in the NCAA. Connor has a quick first step and excellent shot, that should terrorize NHL goalies one day. He is expected to challenge for a full-time roster spot with the Jets this fall.
Jack Roslovic, C (Manitoba Moose, AHL) – Roslovic had an impressive first season at the pro level, leading the Manitoba Moose in scoring with 13 goals and 48 points in 65 games. He was also a member of the gold medal winning United States team during the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championships. Roslovic will return to the Moose this fall and continue building on his rookie campaign in hopes of being a regular for the Jets in the near future.
Eric Comrie, G (Manitoba Moose, AHL) – With the crease currently crowded in Winnipeg, Comrie is set for another stint with the Moose, where he posted a 2.96 GAA in 51 games last year. The Jets are in no rush to move the 22-year-old along and it will likely work in his benefit with the added reps down in the AHL. Comrie is an agile goaltender and projects to be the starter in Winnipeg for years to come.
Michael Spacek, C/RW (Manitoba Moose, AHL) – Spacek had a terrific campaign with the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL last season, leading the team in scoring with 30 goals and 85 points in just 59 games. The 2015 fourth-rounder will play his first full season in the AHL this fall, and bring plenty of scoring prowess to the lineup.
Kristian Vesalainen, LW/RW (HPK, Liiga) – The Jets 2017 first-round pick is the ultimate package of size, skill and speed. However, Jets fans will have to be patient as Vesalainen will need plenty of seasoning in Europe before he is ready to take the leap to North America. He will join HPK in the Finnish Elite League this year.
Nic Petan, C/LW (Manitoba Moose, AHL) – The 22-year-old has plenty of scoring upside, but was often lost in the shuffle with the Jets this season. The top six is already crowded in Winnipeg and Petan may be forced to change his playing style if he wants to be in the lineup every night.
Brendan Lemieux, LW (Manitoba Moose, AHL) – Lemieux is an agitator and racked up 130 PIM with the Moose during his rookie year at the AHL level. He likely won’t show any flash on the scoresheet at the NHL level, but he will be a valuable fantasy asset in deeper leagues that count hits, shots and PIM.
Jansen Harkins, C (Manitoba Moose, AHL) – Harkins will enter training camp fresh off a newly signed entry-level contract with the Jets. He is expected to start the year in the AHL, but with his solid two-way game down the middle, it may not be long before we see him in a Jets uniform. Harkins is a hard worker with great playmaking ability and he can play in any situation.
Logan Stanley, D (Kitchener Rangers, OHL) – Stanley has tremendous size on the back end and plays a very defensive minded game. The 6’7” defenseman could push for a spot on the Jets opening night roster, but was also just acquired by his hometown Kitchener Rangers in a trade with the Windsor Spitfires. It remains to be seen where Stanley starts the year, but wherever it is, he will be a force to reckon with for his opposition.
Marko Dano, C/RW (Winnipeg Jets, NHL) – The Jets are Dano’s third team since making the leap to the NHL and it would appear his window of opportunity is quickly closing. Still just 22, Dano does have some time to show the offensive ability that made Columbus draft him in the first round of the 2013 draft. However, he appeared in just 38 games last season and recorded 11 points.
Prospects Depth Chart:
Kyle Connor Jack Roslovic Kristian Vesalainen
Marko Dano Nic Petan Joel Armia
Brendan Lemieux Jansen Harkins Michael Spacek
Chase De Leo Mason Appleton J.C. Lipon
Erik Foley Pavel Kraskovsky Jimmy Lodge
Logan Stanley Tucker Poolman
Sami Niku Jan Kostalek
Dylan Samberg Jack Glover
Nelson Nogier Luke Green