Tuesday, August 14, 2012

30 Teams in 30 Days: Winnipeg Jets

Just like that, we've reached the end of our journey. I hope you've enjoyed the ride. Last, but not least, the Winnipeg Jets.

Mark Scheifele - Barrie Colts
If I'm being completely honest, I was a little underwhelmed by Scheifele's progression this year. I had really high hopes for him after coming back from the NHL, and I figured he'd be a man among boys with his size, speed, and skill combination. But a lot of the times I saw Barrie this year, he was only average. He really didn't look all that different than he did in his draft year, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's just that he left me wanting more. His ability to use his size offensively still seems like a work in progress. Towards the end of his draft year, he started to play fairly physical, which was something I expected to increase this past year. But that was inconsistent too. Essentially, I wanted to see him dominate every shift he played, but instead he faded to the background on a lot of them. I thought Tanner Pearson and Ivan Telegin were considerably more noticeable on a regular basis. Next year the Jets will be faced with an interesting choice. After making the NHL club out of training camp this past year, you'd have to think he's got a good chance this coming season to repeat that achievement. But is he ready to make a profound impact? Based on what I saw in the OHL last year, I don't think so. If he does return to Barrie, I'm hoping he can really dominate and come back like a man on a mission. In order to do that, he's going to have to take that next step in using his size aggressively on offense, taking over the boards and being a load to stop on the way to the net. If he's back, he should easily crack the 80 point barrier and help Barrie make the playoffs.

Ivan Telegin - Barrie Colts
2011/2012 was the coming out party for Telegin. Throughout the final two months of the OHL season, he might very well have been the best player in the league. In the final 19 games of the regular season (February and March), Telegin had 21 goals and 12 assists. That's a damn impressive pace. This year, he was so much more aggressive with the puck. His confidence in carrying the puck had really improved. Not only is he one of the fastest skaters in the league, but he's also one of the biggest forwards. That combination made him SO hard to stop off the rush. OHL defenseman had a really tough time defending him this year. Especially without the puck. He drew a ton of penalties in beating backchecking forwards to the net. He was also more physical this year, and fully engaged away from the puck. I'm very interested to see how things go for Ivan moving forward. The only negative is that he just can't seem to stay healthy, and I know that worries Winnipeg fans. Heck, I think he cut himself on a fence this offseason and had to miss the Jets rookie camp. This coming season, he'll most likely be in the AHL, where it looks like he's going to get a lot of playing time. If he plays well, I actually think he could see some NHL action as early as this season. I can't see any reason to suggest why he won't be able to carry the momentum he's built as a prospect to watch. A 25 goal rookie AHL season is within reach.

Julian Melchiori - Oshawa Generals
Just a solid prospect. It was great to see him take on a little more offensive responsibility this year, playing on the powerplay with both Kitchener and Oshawa. He's still not very comfortable shooting the puck or taking chances to jump up and score a goal, but he was more composed with the puck and demonstrated a calm patience in trying to create plays. He also started to try and carry the puck up ice from his own end. Defensively, he remained solid. He uses his size well and does a particularly good job in the corners and in front of the net. Sending him back to the OHL for his overage season was a good choice by Winnipeg management. This year, it looks like he should be able to see full time action in the AHL, as the Jets don't have a lot of depth in the minor leagues. I wouldn't expect a lot of offense from him this year as he adjusts to the speed of the pro game. But hopefully he can continue to assert himself physically and play solid defensively. The Jets have two potentially very solid defense prospects in Melchiori and Sol moving forward.

Cody Sol - Kitchener Rangers
Speak of the devil, here's the other tower of power for the Jets. As with Melchiori, sending Sol back for his overage year was incredibly smart by the Jets. He grew so much as a hockey player this season. Tremendous improvement at both ends of the ice. All these years, I've been waiting for him to score some goals because of how heavy his shot is. He's got an absolute cannon. And with 15 on the year, it definitely happened in 2011/2012. He was able to get himself in better position to use it this year, and also greatly improved the accuracy of it. He first pass out of the zone also improved and he had less trouble with the forecheck, exhibiting greater confidence with the puck. Defensively, he was just as physical, but he was a little smarter about it. He allowed the game to come to him (and his huge reach) and ran around less looking to hit people. Next to Jarred Tinordi, he was probably the hardest defenseman to win a battle against in front of the net this past year. He still can be prone to taking some bad penalties, but he'll learn to find some reserve eventually. It was a great year for Sol. Like Melchiori, Sol will be in the AHL this year where he'll have a chance to play everyday. Hopefully he's able to continue to progress offensively and is able to put up some decent numbers, while maintaining a level of physical dominance in his own end. 

Austen Brassard - Belleville Bulls
The biggest improvement in Brassard's game this past year was the improvement in his play away from the puck. He's had some issues with his consistency level and the amount of intensity he brings to the ice, but I saw a more committed player this year. He really rounded out his game, becoming a consistently more physical player, and someone who's engaged on the backcheck. The improvement's he made in his play off the puck translated to more chances at the other end of the ice. He was more consistently involved offensively and was one of Belleville's go to guys. I thought his skating looked better this year too, gaining a bit of an extra gear which made him more dangerous off the rush. Moving forward, it looks like he's on the right track to becoming the type of player many envisioned he would. This coming season, he'll need to step up yet again. Belleville should challenge for first in the East and Brassard will, yet again, be counted on as an offensive catalyst. Given the improvements he made this year, I'd love to see him hit the point per game mark, including potting over 30 goals.

Scott Kosmachuk - Guelph Storm
I felt like Kosmachuk was one of the more underrated players heading into the 2012 draft. I feel like the Jets got a steal by taking him in the 3rd. He's an aggressive goal scorer cut from the same cloth as a guy like Ryan Callahan in New York. Kosmachuk has great instincts and, despite the fact that he scored 30 goals this past year, is still learning how to use his shot most effectively. This coming year, Guelph is going to be one of the most exciting offensive teams in the league. I truly expect Kosmachuk to be a 40 goal scorer, considering how many terrific playmakers he'll be playing with. Hopefully he has a chance to wear a letter this year too and take on a leadership role. 

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