It's the start of another hockey season in Winnipeg and it's time to size up your 2013-14 Winnipeg Jets. This being the third year of the Top 25 list from Jets All Out, it promises to be the most expansive list yet with the Jets increasing their depth at many different positions via the draft, trades, and free agency.
First of all, here are the honouarble mentions for 2013-14:
Chris Thorburn has never really been a fan favourite. Has never really taken that role of enforcer and done anything grand with it. In fact, his job has really been effectively taken over by Anthony Peluso - granted he stays healthy in 2013-14.
For Thorburn, his two seasons in Winnipeg have been ineffective. He has played in a role above his skill level and has been in over his head too much being mismatched by the Jets lack of depth up front.
A -11 rating for a player who averages between 5-12 minutes of ice time a night is nothing to write home about. With only 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 114 games in Jets blue, Thorburn has shown flashes of offensive capabilities, but that isn't his role on this team. His role is to fight, check, and get the bench going. With one year left on his contract, I wouldn't be surprised to see Thorburn wearing another jersey in 2014-15.
Positive vibes are coming out of MTS Centre lately and the latest two signings should have Jets fans excited for the future.
Not the future as in the 2013-14 season, mind you, but possibly for 2014-15 and beyond.
Two of their later round draft picks - JC Lipon (third round) and Brenden Kichton (seventh round) - were both signed to entry-level contracts early this week.
Surprising to me is the fact the Jets were able to land these two talented players when they did in the 2013 Entry Draft.
First of all, Kichton, 21, is the least of the two surprises. Originally drafted in 2011 by the New York Islanders in the fifth round, the Spruce Grove, Alberta native was expected to garner an entry-level contract quickly by the Isles, but when the price dipped too low for the likes of Kichton, there were no further negotiations and back into the draft pool he went.
When Kichton was originally picked, he had come off an 81 point season with the Spokane Chiefs in his third full season. With a career high 23 goals from the blueline, what scared the Isles is not apparent - could have been his size 6'0, 190 pounds or perhaps the fact that they already had a glutton of young defensive prospects in their system - Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan, Jared Spurgeon, Anton Klementyev.
Spurgeon came into a similar problem that Kichton did.
Spurgeon and Kichton were teammates in Spokane in Kichton's first two seasons and was the Chief's leading scorer on the blueline.
Selected in the sixth round, 156th overall in 2008, Spurgeon was not signed to an entry-level contract and played out the last two seasons of his WHL career with Kichton as his younger teammate.
In 2010-11, he was invited to the Minnesota Wild's training camp and was awarded a three-year entry-level contract.
The fact the Islanders lost out on Spurgeon and now Kichton isn't surprising given the team's track record, but Kichton isn't just another defenseman that has been passed over and not signed to a deal.
He has a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove to the Islanders they were wrong.
In an interview with Buzzing The Net's Kelly Friesen on Yahoo! Sports, Kichton flat out said, "I want to prove them wrong."
"You never wanted to be doubted and I guess they didn't believe in me. I'm going to Jets camp...and I want to make an impression and go on to have a good career with them."
Talk about a chip on the shoulder, Kichton was awarded with his three-year, entry-level contract on August 28th - worth $1.86 million.
In 333 career games in Spokane, Kichton collected 67 goals and added 201 assists.
Even the Winnipeg Free Press' Paul Wiecek asks if Kichton could possibly be the steal of the 2013 draft - "Ever wonder how it could be that a guy who was the top defenseman in the Western Hockey League last season, averaging better than a point per game for the Spokane Chiefs, was still available to the Winnipeg Jets with the 190th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft?"
For JC Lipon, the story isn't as complicated, but still raises questions about why he was chosen so late in the 2013 Draft.
Signed on August 29th to a three-year, entry-level contract worth $2.1 million, Lipon was a steal of a pick 91st overall, but I was surprised he had dropped so far down after a 2012-13 season that saw him play in the World Juniors and also collect 89 points and 115 penalty minutes in 61 games with the Kamloops Blazers.
True, Lipon is 20 years old and could be considered a late bloomer (Kichton was 19 when drafted the first time) but his skills and grit are something many teams could have seen as an immediate impact coming into their franchise.
First of all, the speedy forward from Regina, Saskatchewan has played four years in the WHL - he is ready for another challenge. Is it possible he could be playing professional in the AHL with the St. John's Ice Caps in 2013-14?
It could be possible that both he and Kichton could be AHL bound, which not only bolsters the Jets organizational depth pronto, but also gives the Ice Caps two talented young players under 22.
In 248 games as a Blazer, Lipon collected 61 goals and added 127 assists. His 2012-13 season being his best with 36 goals and 53 assists for 89 points in 61 games. Add to the package his grit - 374 penalty minutes in those 248 games - and Lipon at 6'0, 180 pounds could be a potential grinder/agitator the Jets need (along with Anthony Peluso?)
In 2012-13, Lipon was invited to the Colorado Avalanche's training camp, but was not allowed to attend due to the NHL lockout. Despite being looked over for two rounds, Lipon states in an interview with Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post, "This year it was nice to know after your season was done that you had done enough (to get noticed)."
Notice is what the Winnipeg Jets did and they topped two good drafts in 2011 and 2012 with a very good draft in 2013.
Take notice of Josh Morrissey but don't forget the Jets selected Kichton and Lipon - two players who will make immediate impacts.
And don't be surprised if they show up in Jets blue in 2013-14.no comments
If David Thomson, Mark Chipman, and the True North Sports & Entertainment staff want nothing else this season - not even bonuses or days off - you know they will be wanting to work well into late April/early May this season.
In the Winnipeg Jets third season of existence in their second act, the team has taken its finest step forward as an organization to not only improve and cement its future in stars such as Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian, and company, but to distance themselves from the negative stigma that comes from being a former losing franchise.
If the 2013-14 NHL season brings nothing more than a dissapointing season for the Jets and their rabid fanbase, there will be more questions than answers at that point, but at this point now, it's like we have crossed the finish line before the gun went off.
Earlier this summer, Bogosian, Little, and Wheeler all signed long-term contracts after filing for arbitration to have their pay increased. But the main case for going to arbritration after all three restricted free agents were sent qualifying offers showed Jets fans from the start of the free agency period these three players wanted to stay in the Peg.
Wheeler, the forerunner of the three big signings and perhaps the most important when it comes to offensive potential and where he sits in the Jets forward depth chart, is coming off another good season - 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists) in 48 games. Translate that to a regular 82 game schedule and Wheeler has a career season with 70 points (six more than he had in 2011-12).
It makes sense for Wheeler to have a six-year contract at this juncture in his career. He already has 372 NHL games under his belt and has done respectably with 232 points in that span - the last 100 or so coming in Winnipeg in only two seasons.
With the projections to be that Wheeler's 82-game total going from 64 in 2011-12 to a projected 70 in 2012-13 (with a full season, mind you), the roof has only to be raised even higher in 2013-14 for the 26 year old winger.
For Bogosian, a seven-year deal puts him as a future #1 defenseman on this team, but can he deliver in that role or is he more of a second/third defenseman who can play a consistent two-way game?
Bogosian struggled in his two seasons in Atlanta to find any consistency and any real tactics to his defensive game. Always a positive offensively (61 points in 60 games in Peterborough in 2007-08), Bogosian has made a solid home in Winnipeg with 44 points in 98 games (versus 59 points in his first 199 games in Atlanta). Add to that his upgrading defensive play - he is a -8 in his past two seasons, a far cry from his -27 and -18 in his final two seasons in Atlanta).
The seven-year Bogo contract is back-loaded so the cap hit becomes its heaviest when the Dustin Byfuglien contract is done and the Tobias Enstrom contract is fading away. Granted, it's a toss up whether Enstrom may be more of a case to stay in Winnipeg if the last two seasons have anything to say about consistency and production (Enstrom has 48 points in 84 games - 0.57 points per game - versus Byfuglien's 81 points in 109 games - 0.74 points per game).
There will always be the case for a #1 or even a #2 defenseman in front of Bogosian for the time being, but that will give him the time and opporutnity to learn and improve to fill into that role. With the departure of Ron Hainsey, the minutes will be given to Bogosian to fill that expectation that comes with this new contract.
Finally, the Bryan Little contract is not only cap friendly but gives them a former 30 goal scorer at the price of a 20 goal scorer. Though Little has had a 24 goal season in Winnipeg - the 2012-13 season was one where he saw his playmaking abilities come to the fore more often.
In 2011-12, Little had a career high 22 assists which he eclipsed in the shortened 2012-13 season with 25 assists. Over the course of an 82 game schedule, Little would have had a career year in points with 54. Span that over his last three seasons - 48 points, 46 points, 54 points - the Jets #1 centre is on pace to eclipse the 60 point mark if he stays healthy. And if that is so, look for Little to break the 30 goal plateau for the first time since he notched 31 in 2008-09 as a sophomore in Atlanta.
Many more positives can be found than negatives in the Jets camp this year, and with these big three signees, it bodes well for the positivity to become wins on the ice.no comments
It has been quite the year for Jets goalie prospect and Commerce, Michigan native Connor Hellebuyck.
First, the tower 6'4, 200 lb netminder was selected in the fifth round, 130th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in the 2012 NHL Draft. A bit of an unknown but still showing strong numbers in his season with the USHL's Odessa (Texas) Jackalopes (26-21-5, 2.49 GAA, .930 SV%), Hellebuyck ventured off into NCAA hockey after being drafted.
Then, in his freshmen season at UMass-Lowell, as a River Hawk, Hellebuyck would become one of the most unlikely of all stories posting a 20-3-0 record, a stellar 1.37 goals against average, and a sparkling .952 save percentage as the River Hawks won their first Hockey East title in school history.
In four posteason games, Hellebuyck allowed only four goals and was named the tournament's most valuable player. The River Hawks swept Maine in two games, then outduelled Providence to a 2-1 win, before dispatching Boston University with a 1-0 win.
To say Hellebuyck was good would be an understatement.
To say he was spectacular would be more appropriate.
"I try to be calm at all times, even on the ice, so the guys don't see I'm emotional." Hellebuyck told The Boston Globe's Nancy Marrapese-Burrell.
"I always had great coaches who emphasized that. I'm so thankful for everyone who has been in my hockey career so far. I think it's one of the big keys to a goaltender's game that they need. You have to be poised and calm so the guy around you are poised and calm."
Hellebuyck's calm poise paid off as he helped the River Hawks do what two other UMass-Lowell teams almost but could not do in 1994 and 2009 - defeat the powerhouse Boston Univeristy Terriers for a Hockey East title.
Hellebuyck would backstop the River Hawks into their first Frozen Four appearance as well, as #1 ranked UMass-Lowell took out the fourth seeded Wisconsin Badgers 4-1 and then New Hampshire 2-0 in the Northeast Regional Tournament.
The train would eventually stop as the River Hawks would fall in the national semifinals to the eventual NCAA Champions from Yale in overtime. Despite the loss, Hellebuyck would stop 41 of 44 shots he faced in the 3-2 loss.
From his achievements in only one season of NCAA hockey, Hellebuyck has shown that he is perhaps one of the biggest gems in the Winnipeg Jets treasure case and can build upon his strong freshmen season to help the River Hawks continue their dominance in Division I hockey.
"Now that we’ve done this, we all believe that we can do it again." he told Rheanne Marcoux of WinnipegJets.com.
"The goal is to repeat it and do better next year,” affirms the keeper. “We’re going to take all that in, and next year we’re going to go in there knowing what to expect and not have that shock and awe that we had this year.”
For the Jets, however, he has shown how dominant he can be, the Jets would be happy if he could do that in the future in the NHL at the MTS Centre.no comments
Winnipeg Jets development camp provides Winnipeg fans with a look to the future of their franchise and what exactly is in store for them moving forward.
They can see the immediate impact players - the Jacob Trouba's and the Mark Scheifele's.
They can see players who are a year or two away - the Brenden Kichton's and the Adam Lowry's.
And they can also see the players a few more years away - the Jimmy Lodge's and the Eric Comrie's.
But development camp has been much more about just looking at who can make impacts on the roster - it is how much talent there is divided between Group A and Group B when both take the ice.
Group B was the more star studded on Thursday with Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, and Josh Morrissey both in that group during drills.
Group A did include 2011 pick Adam Lowry and Winnipeg native Jason Kasdorf, but the spotlight was shone the brightest on Group B for their obvious star power amongst the prospects.
Here are some tips and thoughts from Thursday's development camp:
- JC Lipon, the Jets third round pick in 2013, has skill, but lack size. He needs to find some elusiveness if he is going to be an NHL player.
- Nic Petan isn't the biggest player on the ice, but the Jets second round pick in 2013 has the hands, speed, and skill to be an NHLer. Needs to fill out more just like Scheifele.
- Lukas Sutter appeared to be dogging it all day today. Passes were not crisp, wasn't skating too hard, not sure if he's injured or what the deal is. Not playing like a second round pick.
- Connor Hellebuyck looks like a solid goalie. After a stellar year in which he took UMass-Lowell to the Frozen Four, he looks like another talented goalie in the Jets system.
- Adam Lowry has filled out since the Jets drafted him in the third round in 2011. He has more speed and plays with more of a purpose.
- Scott Kosmachuk has speed and hands, just needs to put them together on the ice.
- Jimmy Lodge has some upside, needs to bulk up too.
- Mark Scheifele can't seem to stand up for long periods of time. During one-timer practice, couldn't hit the net very much. But it looks like he wants to emulate Steven Stamkos (not a bad thing).
- Jacob Trouba is a beast! He can pass, shoot, hit, and play defense! He seems to be 2-3 steps ahead of everyone with the exception of Scheifele and maybe Josh Morrissey.
- Josh Morrissey is a very mobile defenseman - great active stick, quick feet, makes smart decisions on the fly - may be a gem of a draft pick.
- Austin Czarnik was impressive; not drafted, he had some beautiful dangles and hands and speed to back it up. Played last two seasons at Miami University (Ohio) and had 40 points in 42 games last season.
- Big fan of Juho Olkinuora - a big goalie (6'2) and very sound positionally. He has a good shot at being a goalie in St. John's this season at 22.no comments
Finally, I can say that the Jets are rid of their biggest distraction: Alexander Burmistrov.
Yeah, go ahead and say that the fact the Jets haven't made the playoffs since their relocation to Atlanta is their biggets distraction, but on ice and off ice, Alexander Burmistrov's attitude and work ethic was pitiful and juvenile to say the least.
In 194 games with the Atlanta and Winnipeg, Burmistrov had 23 goals and 35 assists for only 58 points - a far cry from the production usually expected for a top 10 draft pick.
Once again, the futility of the former Atlanta Thrashers comes into play and thankfully it is now gone. The Thrashers latest draft pick bust made a break to the KHL's Ak Bars Kazan for two years.
And all this after he was quoted as saying the KHL is a league for old guys.
However hypocritical Burmistrov is that he flew away to the KHL, the Jets are better off without him.
He did show flashes of brilliance as a two-way player, but his inconsistency caught up to him.
As did his immaturity as he was known to get into full out shouting matches with Jets head coach Claude Noel.
But again, we see the failure of the Atlanta Thrashers organiation full bloom in the fact they did not develop their players properly before arriving in Winnipeg.
Burmistrov only had one year in the OHL with the Barrie Colts - scoring 62 points in 65 games (hardly an elite scoring machine worthy of a top 10 pick) - before joining the Thrashers in their last season in Atlanta in 2010-11, scoring 20 points in 74 games with a dismal -12 rating.
He did show promise in his first season in Winnipeg scoring 28 points in 76 games with a +4 rating, but dropped off again in an unispired 2012-13 where he didn't even dominate the AHL as top 10 draft picks of old (i.e. Jason Spezza, Thomas Vanek) did.
In 22 games with the St. John's Ice Caps, Burmistrov had only 11 points (two goals, nine assists) and a -2 rating. His return to Winnipeg brought even less returns - 10 points in 44 games.
It is the final and long anticipated ending to a relationship that was started off the wrong way.
I'm sorry Burmi, it isn't us, it's you.no comments
The Winnipeg Jets didn't land any of the big name free agents on the July 5th "Free Agent Frenzy", but any Jets fan who was expecting GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to do anything big should be shaking their head.
It is Kevin Cheveldayoff after all and he pulled off a deal that may be the start of putting the final nail in the coffin of the old Atlanta Thrashers.
Cheveldayoff dealt a second round pick in 2014 to the Minnesota Wild to acquire the 26-year old winger from Taber, Alberta.
In 48 games last season, Setoguchi collected 27 points including 13 goals.
A draft pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2005, Setoguchi had a career year with the Sharks in 2008-09 when he scored 31 goals and added 34 assists for 65 points in 81 games. That was his second full season in San Jose.
In 384 career NHL games, Setoguchi has 116 goals and 106 assists for 222 points and a friendly +8 rating.
He also has extensive playoff experience which the Jets lack aside from Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien.
In 53 playoff games, Setoguchi has 15 goals and 10 assists along with a -9 rating. In the first round against Chicago this past playoffs, he had only one goal in five games.
Setoguchi had signed a three year deal with the Wild prior to the 2011-12 season.
With the addition of Setoguchi, the Jets now have solidified another scoring winger for their top six forwards along with Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, and Andrew Ladd.no comments