The Winnipeg Jets have built their team around some great draft picks, including Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Connor Hellebuyck, who are the faces of the franchise. Over the last decade, since the Jets made their triumphant return to the NHL, they have built themselves a modest prospect pool that continues to get stronger.
Similar to what my colleague Declan Schroeder wrote last year, here’s a breakdown of who I believe to be the Jets’ top-25 prospects heading into 2021-22. With that said, I will use his set of rules: the players must have appeared in fewer than 30 games at the NHL level or be under the age of 26.
25 – Dmitri Kuzmin – D – 2021, 82nd Overall
- Dinamo-Molodechno (Belarus Extraliga) 46 GP – 3 G – 9 A – 12 PTS
The Jets selected Dmitri Kuzmin 82nd overall in the third round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. As a member of Team Belarus at the U18 World Junior Championships, he had five points (one goal, four assists) in five games. He possesses fluent skating, agility, mobility and walks the blue line with poise. Even though he is predominantly an offensive defenseman, he is solid in his own end. He is an excellent slot defender who knows how to cut off open lanes and deflect scoring chances. He is calm and demonstrates solid positional awareness. Kuzmin is still considered to be a project, but he also has the potential to make his way into the Jets’ system once he moves to North America.
24 – Pavel Kraskovsky – C – 2014, 164th Overall
- Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL): 56 GP – 17 G – 21 A – 38 PTS
Pavel Kraskovsky is a product of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey program and has risen through the ranks to become a dominant figure among his peers. At 6-foot-4 and over 215 pounds, he has great power on the ice and becomes a target whenever he has the puck in his hands. With a powerful shot and reliable passing abilities, he creates plays with ease. While he will remain with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl for one more season due to his contract, there is a chance the Jets could persuade him to come and play hockey in North America in talks next summer.
23 – Croix Evingson – D – 2017, 211th Overall
- Niagara Univ. (NCAA): 21 GP – 1 G – 11 A – 12 PTS
- Jacksonville Icemen (ECHL) 7 GP – 0 G – 1 A – 1 PTS
The Anchorage, Alaska product is built like a tank. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, he is a force to be reckoned with. He led all NAHL defencemen with 52 points (12 goals, 40 assists) in 59 games in his draft year. A big-bodied, hard-hitting defenceman, he rarely loses puck battles. Although he has hopped between U-Mass Lowell and Niagara University in the NCAA over the last few years, he has shown promise. As the NCAA regular season ended, Evingson was assigned to the Jets’ ECHL farm club, the Jacksonville Icemen, where he played seven games. Next season, he is likely to return to Jacksonville.
22 – Austin Wong – C -2018, 215th Overall
- Fargo Force (USHL): 49 GP – 15 G – 9 A – 24 PTS
In the 2018 Draft, Winnipeg selected Cochrane, Alberta’s Austin Wong with their seventh-round pick after he tallied nearly a point per game for the Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL). During his shortened season in 2019-20 with Harvard University of the NCAA, he scored six points in 21 games. He was an assistant captain on the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League (USHL) and one of the team’s top contributors this past season. Wong is a hard-working grinder who is not afraid to go head-to-head with opponents. He is a puck hound who won’t let you get off easy. He will return to Harvard to play another season in the NCAA in 2021-22.
21 – Johnathan Kovacevic – D – 2017, 74th Overall
- Manitoba Moose (AHL): 29 GP – 2 G – 12 A – 14 PTS
Jonathan Kovacevic is another monstrous defenceman that the Jets are developing. Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 216 pounds, he is well suited for the physical game. He is an offensively sound player with a heavy shot. Prior to joining the AHL, he played for the Merrimack College Warriors in the NCAA. Last year, he recorded 14 points in 29 games, his second year playing for the Moose. He will continue to play for the Moose during the regular season in 2021-22, which will be instrumental to his development. Kovacevic has been described as having untapped offensive potential.
20 – Harrison Blaisdell – C – 2019, 134th Overall
- Univ. North Dakota Fighting Hawks (NCAA): 19 GP – 0 G – 4 A – 4 PTS
Harrison Blaisdell, a left-handed centre, registered four assists in 19 games for the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks during the NCAA season last year. He has been described as a fantastic skater who also has a wicked release. When all of those traits are combined, you get a dynamic package. He has the right tools to contribute consistently; in 2018-19, he scored 33 goals in 51 games for the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). While he remains unsigned, Blaisdell will play for the University of New Hampshire Wildcats next season.
19 – Nathan Smith – C – 2018, 91st Overall
- Minnesota State Univ. (NCAA): 28 GP – 9 G – 16 A – 25 PTS
Nathan Smith had another great year with Minnesota State University (Mankato) where he put up 25 points and helped lead his team to the Frozen Four NCAA Tournament. The Tampa, Florida product has a toolkit that works in all three zones and he is a crafty finisher with smooth hands. His high hockey IQ and offensive upside make him worth watching. The third-round pick of the 2018 Draft will return for another year of NCAA hockey with Minnesota.
18 – Nelson Nogier – D – 2014, 101st Overall
- Manitoba Moose (AHL): 12 GP – 1 G – 2A – 3 PTS
Nelson Nogier has established himself as one of the Moose’s top defenders. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 Draft out of the Saskatoon Blades in the Western Hockey League (WHL). In five seasons with the Moose, he has been a hard-working, stay-at-home defenceman who isn’t afraid to sacrifice his body. He has suited up for 11 games with the Jets in the last couple of seasons and was on the taxi squad for the remainder of the Jets’ season in 2020-21. Nogier has the potential to make the jump to the NHL again if he can continue his development.
17 – Henri Nikanen – C – 2019, 113th Overall
- Jukurit (Liiga): 47 GP – 7 G – 13 A – 20 PTS
Twenty-year-old Henri Nikanen played in his second full season in the Finnish Men’s League (Liiga) in 2020-21. At 6-foot-4, he is another big power-forward in the team’s pipeline who can use his large frame to his advantage when battling for the puck along the boards or trying to close out a shot. With big size comes big vision, and that’s the trait that allows him to have strong playmaking abilities. While he is unsigned and still one of many Jets prospects playing overseas, don’t be surprised to see him in the AHL in the next couple of years.
16 – Joona Luoto – LW/RW – Undrafted
- HIFK (LIIGA): 19 GP – 5 G – 4 A – 9 PTS
- Manitoba Moose (AHL): 11 GP – 2 G – 2 A – 4 PTS
Undrafted Finnish winger Joona Luoto is one to keep an eye on. He split the 2020-21 season between HIFK of the Liiga where he registered nine points in 19 games. He returned to North America and played 11 games for the Jets, recording four points. Unfortunately, he suffered an upper-body injury in 2019-20 that required surgery and hindered his development. If he can stay healthy, he has the chance to contend for a bottom-six role on the Jets.
15 – Kristian Reichel – C – Undrafted
- Manitoba Moose (AHL): 29 GP – 6 G – 6 A – 12 PTS
Kristian Reichel is the son of former NHLer Robert Reichel. The younger Reichel is a solid two-way centre who has a load of untapped offensive potential. In 2017-18, his first season with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL, he had 57 points in 63 games and was named the most valuable player on his team. While he was passed over twice in the NHL Entry Draft, the Jets signed him to an entry-level contract (ELC) in June 2018, and he has spent the last three seasons with the Moose. All in all, he needs more ice time for his development to progress.
14 – Arvid Holm – G – 2017, 167th Overall
- Färjestad BK (SHL): 24 GP – 2.70 GAA – .914 SV%
Arvid Holm is a big Swedish goaltender who is on loan to Färjestad BK of the SHL where he had a solid showing last season. He recorded a 2.70 goals-against average (GAA) and a .914 save percentage (SV%) in 24 games. On June 15, 2020, Holm signed his ELC with the Jets, but, unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he had to stay overseas to play. With that said, Holm is expected to make the trip to Winnipeg for summer camp and play his first full season in North America.
13 – Eric Comrie – G – 2013, 59th Overall
- New Jersey Devils (NHL): 1 GP – 3.00 GAA – .909 SV%
- Manitoba Moose (AHL): 4 GP – 1.23 GAA – .947 SV%
Eric Comrie was considered to be the Jets’ next big goaltender, but unfortunately, that has not been the case. The 26-year-old has bounced between the AHL and NHL over the past few seasons, and in 2019-20, he played a few games for the Detroit Red Wings and one game with the New Jersey Devils in 2020-21. Although he is a good goaltender, his inconsistencies affected his play and hurt his confidence. While he only played in four games last season for the Moose, he put up impressive numbers, including a 1.23 GAA and a .947 SV%. In the upcoming season, Comrie will get the opportunity to serve as backup to Connor Hellebuyck.
12 – Daniel Torgersson – LW – 2020, 40th Overall
- Frölunda HC J20 (J20 Nationell): 10 GP – 4 G – 5 A – 9 PTS
Torgersson was selected in the second round of the 2020 Draft and put up an impressive nine points in ten games with Frölunda HC J20 in the J20 Nationell League. His performance earned him a call up to the SHL where he played two games with Frölunda but didn’t get on the scoresheet. He is an extremely strong skater and a hard player to knock off the puck. He uses his 6-foot-3 body to control the puck, allowing him to create plays while simultaneously holding off defenders. He has dominated the junior leagues in Sweden, so he will likely be suiting up for Frölunda in the SHL full-time next season.
11 – Nikita Chibrikov – C – 2021, 50th Overall
- SKA St. Petersburg (KHL): 16 GP – 1 G – 1 A – 2 PTS
- SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL): 20 GP – 3 G – 5 A – 8 PTS
- SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL): 11 GP – 3 G – 6 A – 9 PTS
One of the Jets’ newest members is Russian playmaker Nikita Chibrikov. Several scouts projected him to go in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft, but he ultimately fell to the second round where he was selected 50th overall by the Jets. His shot is exceptional and, combined with his skating and hands, makes for a real threat on the ice. With his speed and edgework, he easily weaves around defenders to get off a quick pass. Since he sees the ice much better than the average player, he is able to create highlights reel plays.
Earlier this spring, Chibrikov was named captain of the Russian U18 team that won silver at the World Junior Championships in Texas. In seven games, he recorded 13 points and was one of the top three Russian players. He will return to the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and play for SKA St. Petersburg next season.
10 – Mikhail Berdin – G – 2016, 156th Overall
- SKA St. Petersburg (KHL): 14 GP – 2.70 GAA – .912 SSV%
- Manitoba Moose (AHL): 30 GP – 2.89 GAA – .897 SV%
Mikhail Berdin started the season on loan to SKA St. Petersburg. In 14 games, he posted a 2.70 GAA and a .912 SV%. Following his return to North America, he appeared in 30 games with the Moose. On top of an eight-game winning streak, he had a 2.89 GAA along with a .897 SV%. With another season under his belt, we shouldn’t be surprised to see this flashy goaltender make his NHL debut in 2021-22.
9 – Simon Lundmark – D – 2019, 51st Overall
- Linkoping HC (SHL): 47 GP – 2 G – 8 A – 10 PTS
Simon Lundmark isn’t an offensive defenceman, but he managed ten points in 47 games with Linkoping HC of the SHL. He is a smooth-skating, puck mover who has great positioning and defensive reads. While he lacks offensive potential, he tends to make up for it in his own end. Drafted 51st overall in the 2019 Draft, he has yet to make his North American debut. He officially signed his ECL on April 9, 2021, and we will see him in a Moose jersey this fall.
8- Declan Chisholm – D – 2018, 150th Overall
- Manitoba Moose (AHL): 28 GP – 2 G – 11 A – 13 PTS
After dominating the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) for several seasons with the Peterborough Petes, Declan Chisholm made his professional debut with the Moose this season. He scored his first AHL goal in his first game against the Toronto Marlies and went on to put up 13 points in 28 games before his season was unfortunately cut short. He is expected to play a full season with the Moose in 2021-22; he is a project player capable of becoming an NHL defender in the future.
“Skyler he can’t play. There’s no way he’s gonna come back for the last seven games so we shut him down. And Chisholm the same thing. We just shut him down. He’s not gonna be ready before the end of the season.”Pascal Vincent, Moose Head Coach
7 – Leon Gawanke – D – 2017, 136th Overall
- Eisbären Berlin (DEL): 6 GP – 0 G – 2 A – 2 PTS
- Manitoba Moose (AHL): 26 GP – 1 G – 6 A – 7 PTS
Leon Gawanke was also selected late in the NHL Entry Draft but could become a steal. He began last season with Eisbären Berlin in the DEL, where he had two assists in six games. In February, he returned to North America to begin the AHL season and registered seven points in 26 games, along with an awful minus-13 rating. Additionally, he was a part of Team Germany at the 2021 IIHF World Championships in Riga, Latvia, where he scored two goals. All in all, he will return to be one of the Moose’s top defenders next season.
6 – Kristian Vesalainen – LW/RW -2019, 24th Overall
- HPK (Liiga): 10 GP – 4 G – 4 A – 8 PTS
- Manitoba Moose (AHL): 6 GP – 1 G – 5 A – 6 PTS
Kristian Vesalainen has been a popular name among Jets’ prospects over the last few years. The speedy, flashy Finnish forward started the season with HPK in the Finnish LIIGA where he totaled eight points in 10 games. In February, he found himself on the Moose where he played six games recording six points. After an impressive start, he was called up to the Jets’ taxi squad where he dressed for 12 games recording a lone assist. He found some ice time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens where he played four games with no points. He will need more ice time to get his development up to par, but he has a tremendous offensive upside that has yet to be fully unleashed. He will likely split next season between Winnipeg and the Moose.
5 – David Gustafsson – C – 2018, 60th Overall
- Tingsryds IF (HockeyAllsvenskan): 16 GP – 7 G – 10 A – 17 PTS
- Manitoba Moose (AHL): 22 GP – 7 G – 12 A – 19 PTS
- Winnipeg Jets (NHL) 4 GP – 0 G – 0 A – 0 PTS
David Gustafsson totaled 19 points in 22 games with the Moose last season and his speed and skill were on full display every game. He is a hard-working, two-way forward who has a high hockey IQ and is a team player. He appeared in four games with the Jets last year but was unable to find the scoresheet. Rest assured, he is a player who will make the Jets’ roster out of camp next season.
4 – Dylan Samberg – D – 2017, 43rd Overall
- Manitoba Moose (AHL): 32 GP – 1 G – 6 A – 7 PTS
After winning back-to-back NCAA Frozen Four Championships with the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Dylan Samberg was ready to make his pro debut. He has become one of the Jets’ top defensive products outside of Logan Stanley and Ville Heinola. He stands at a towering 6-foot-4 and 216 pounds and is a big-bodied defenceman who is not afraid to use his power to deflate offensive chances by opponents.
Samberg recorded seven points in 32 games with the Moose last season, not a bad start to his rookie campaign. With the Jets defensive core slowly getting upgraded, he has the potential to crack the roster in 2021-22.
3 – Chaz Lucius – C – 2021, 18th Overall
- USNTDP Juniors (USHL): 12 GP – 13 G – 5 A – 18 PTS
- U.S. National U18 Team (USDP): 13 GP – 13 G – 7 A – 20 PTS
During the 2021 Draft, the Jets targeted another dominating forward and chose United States Hockey League (USHL) star Chaz Lucius 18th overall. He is an explosive offensive player who has quick hands, intelligence, and a pro release that makes him a goal-scoring threat whenever he is on the ice. Lucius will join a plethora of young talent coming through the Jets’ system. He registered 18 points (13 goals, five assists) in 12 games with the United States National Development Program (NTDP). He will make his NCAA debut next season with the University of Minnesota Gophers.
2 – Ville Heinola – D – 2019, 20th Overall
- Lukko (Liiga): 19 GP – 1 G – 13 A – 14 PTS
- Manitoba Moose (AHL) 19 GP – 4 G – 7 A – 11 PTS
- Winnipeg Jets (NHL) 5 GP – 0 G – 0 A – 0 PTS
Ville Heinola will be one of the Jets’ top defenders in the next couple of seasons. The Finnish defenceman has already seen some NHL action; he played eight games in the 2019-20 regular season and recorded five points.
Starting last season on loan to Lukko of the Liiga, Heinola starred as one of their top defenders and registered 14 points in 19 games. Before returning to North America, he suited up for Team Finland at the World Juniors where he tallied four assists and took home a bronze medal. He was in the starting lineup for the opener against the Ottawa Senators, but after just one game, he was sent down to the Moose. He finished the season with the Moose totaling 11 points in 19 games.
Heinola has the chance to crack the Jets’ starting lineup next season, and I can’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be playing a full season in Winnipeg. He has all the tools to become a top defender in the NHL.
1 – Cole Perfetti – C/LW – 2020, 10th Overall
- Manitoba Moose (AHL): 32 GP – 9 G – 17 A – 26 PTS
When Cole Perfetti was drafted 10th overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Jets fans had a new star player to be excited about. He is a pure threat on the ice, he has incredible offensive awareness and a high hockey IQ that allows him to move effortlessly around the opposition.
Before playing in the AHL this year, Perfetti suited up for Team Canada at the World Juniors where he had six points in seven games and helped take home a silver medal. His talents were on full display last season in Manitoba, where he starred in his rookie campaign registering 26 points in 32 games. He has legitimate skills that could land him a spot in the Jets’ starting lineup as early as next season. There is a lot to be excited about when it comes to Perfetti.
Born and raised in Kamloops B.C. and a die hard fan of the Kamloops Blazers, hockey has always been apart of my life. Now, I am looking to get into the sports media world and make it a career. I will be covering the Winnipeg Jets for The Hockey Writers.