2018-19 Farm System Report: Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets are quickly developing into one of the Western Conference’s most lethal and intimidating teams.
Boasting a whack of highly skilled young players as well as size throughout their lineup, the Jets can attack in a variety of while playing a heavy, shut-down style of defence. Led by their young forwards in Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, and Nikolaj Ehlers while defended by young stars in Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey, Winnipeg stands poised to enjoy a wealth of postseason success in the years ahead.
Adding further fuel to the Jets’ growing fire is the franchise’s bustling farm system. Although it doesn’t feature an elite level prospect per se, Winnipeg’s organization features a handful of promising young players who should come to play a substantial role with the Jets in the immediate future.
Stanley Cups: None
2017-18 Record: 52-20-10; 114 Points
2017-18 Top Scorer: Blake Wheeler; 23G, 68A, 91PTS
Farm System Grade: B
Top 10 Prospects:
- Jack Roslovic
- Kristian Vesalainen
- Sami Niku
- Mason Appleton
- Dylan Samberg
- David Gustafsson
- Brendan Lemieux
- Logan Stanley
- Eric Comrie
- Michael Spacek
The State of the Jets’ Farm System
As mentioned above, Winnipeg does not boast a high-end prospect within their farm system. However, what the Jets do gloat is an impressive level of prospect depth at the forward and defence positions of the ice.
Up front, the Jets own the likes of Jack Roslovic, Kristian Vesalainen, Mason Appleton, and Brendan Lemieux — four forwards of varying size, skill, and potential who have all played an impressive brand of hockey of late.
In Roslovic, Winnipeg holds a smooth-skating and agile forward known for his creativity and well as composure with the puck. A first round choice of the Jets in the 2015 NHL Draft, Roslovic enjoyed a stellar beginning to his NHL career last season during which time he potted five goals and 14 points in 31 games played. Although off to a somewhat slow start in 2018-19, Roslovic retains the innate skills necessary to succeed at the NHL-level.
In short, Roslovic stands as the Jets’ top prospect.
Closing in on Roslovic for this distinction, however, is Vesalainen.
After a stellar season with HPK in the Liiga in 2017-18, Vesalainen made the jump to the NHL to begin the 2018-19 season and secured a place with the Jets to begin their campaign. However, after recording a single point in five games played alongside limited playing time, Vesalainen was sent to the AHL — where he instantly became a point-per-game player. Headed back to his native country of Finland and the KHL to round out the current campaign, Vesalainen’s potent playmaking abilities and lethal shot will undoubtedly improve in time for his return to Winnipeg.
In addition to Roslovic and Vesalainen, the Jets also feature a pair of unique forward prospects in Appleton and Lemieux. Although widely regarded for their creative and lethal offensive production, both Appleton and Lemieux love to play an intense physical game and can irritate their competition with relative ease. Both high-scoring forwards at the AHL-level, it would appear to be only a matter of tie before both come to claim a consistent role with the Jets at the NHL-level.
Then, there is Winnipeg’s blue line of the future.
Although the Jets already feature one of the NHL’s deepest and most skilled blue lines, the team’s back end stands to strengthen in the years ahead owing to the impending arrivals of Sami Niku and Dylan Samberg. An absolute steal for Winnipeg in the seventh-round of the 2015 NHL Draft, Niku has quietly progressed into a stellar two-way defender at the AHL-level and is fresh off of a 54-point rookie campaign with the Manitoba Moose — a season which earned Niku the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s Best Defenceman.
On the opposite end of the spectrum stands Samberg, a stay-at-home style of defenceman whose offensive game has grown steadily in recent years. Currently in his second season of play with the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Samberg is a former second-round choice of the Jets who represented Team USA at the 2018 WJC. With not only great size but ample mobility, Samberg will surely be an NHL-ready defender once his residence in the NCAA comes to an end.
Lastly, there is Winnipeg’s future in-goal.
Presumably, it is Eric Comrie who is projected to make a push for the Jets’ starting role in the years ahead. While of average size, Comrie is extremely athletic and as competitive as they come. However, one Winnipeg netminder who has become increasingly impressive is Mikhail Berdin. Currently competing in his first professional campaign in North America, Berdin boasts solid size and features a game founded upon his stellar positioning.
Ultimately, Winnipeg’s prospect pipeline is one bustling with promising young players eager to make their mark at the NHL-level. With depth across the board, the Jets’ next wave will add yet another level of skill and capability to an already dominant roster.
One Jets Prospect to Watch
Of Winnipeg’s farm system, one particular prospect worth keeping an eye on is Appleton of the AHL’s Moose.
A former sixth-round choice of the Jets in the 2015 NHL Draft, Appleton boasts solid size given his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame as well as a lethal offensive skill set. A pass-first player, Appleton features excellent on-ice vision and a level of composure typically reserved for the NHL’s elite. Alongside a growing shot, Appleton is not afraid to drive hard to the net and can collect more than his fair share of rebounds as a result.
In 2017-18, Appleton enjoyed a tremendous AHL campaign and one which established his presence as a dynamic NHL prospect. As a rookie, Appleton notched 22 goals and 66 points in 76 regular season games played. In fact, not only were Appleton’s 66 points the most of any AHL rookie, but his overall play was good enough to earn him the Red Garrett Memorial Award as the AHL’s Rookie of the Year.
Throughout the 2018-19 season, look for Appleton’s play to not only improve but remain remarkably consistent. With a frame built for the NHL-game and the skill-set to match, Appleton should command a call-up to the Jets as the year progresses — he is simply that good despite being a relative unknown in the world of hockey.