Welcome to the second edition of the Winnipeg Jets Prospects Report. This will be a recurring segment throughout the 2021-22 season that follows the prospects in the Jets’ system.
Most leagues are now one month into their season. In the second edition of the Jets Prospects Report, we’ll look at Seattle Thunderbirds captain Tyrel Bauer, Finnish power-forward Henri Nikkanen, Swedish sensation David Gustafsson, and fan favourite Cole Perfetti – who got to play a couple of NHL games.
Seattle Thunderbirds captain Tyrel Bauer was selected 164th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. The 6-foot-3 defensive-defenceman is in his second season as a captain of the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Thunderbirds. In a shortened season last year, Bauer recorded seven points (two goals, five assists) in 23 games but was the quarterback on the blue line.
Bauer is off to a moderate start this season, posting three points (two goals, one assist) in 10 games, including a crucial game-winner just a couple of weeks ago. He is a big right-shot defenceman, and all signs indicate that he will play a major role in the lineup.
David Gustafsson was selected 60th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft. The 21-year-old is a crafty, hard-working, two-way center who can be used in almost all situations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he split time between Tingsryds AIF in the HockeyAllsvenskan and the Manitoba Moose. Playing in his hometown, he registered 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 16 games, and when the American Hockey League (AHL) announced their return to play protocol, he flew back to North America to suit up for the Moose. He recorded 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 22 games, proving again that he is just one step away from joining the Jets full-time.
In the past couple of seasons, Gustafsson has played 26 games with the Jets, with one goal. That shouldn’t dictate expectations. He has been successful at every level he has played throughout his young career. He has six points (two goals, four assists) in seven games this season, and we will likely see him in a Jets uniform again at some point in 2021-22.
Finnish power-forward Henri Nikkanen was selected 113th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft. The 20-year-old has good vision and solid playmaking skills. In 2020-21, Nikkanen played a full season with his hometown Mikkelin Jukurit in the Finnish Men’s League (LIIGA), where he registered 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 47 games. He represented Finland at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships, where he had three points (two goals, one assist) in seven games, capturing a bronze medal.
This season, he switched teams after signing a two-year contract with the Lahti Pelicans, where he has six points (four goals, two assists) in 18 games. While the season is still young, Nikkanen should surpass his point totals from 2020-21. He will be under contract with the Pelicans through to 2022-23.
Perfetti and The Moose
Fan favourite Cole Perfetti was drafted 10th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft after putting up an astonishing 111 points (37 goals, 74 assists) in 61 games with the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Perfetti made his AHL debut last season with the Moose, where he totalled 26 points (nine goals 17 assists) in 32 games. He also represented Team Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships, where he finished with six points (two goals, four assists) in seven games and took home a silver medal.
This season, fans hoped Perfetti would crack the Jets’ opening-night roster, which he did, making his NHL debut on Oct. 13 against the Anaheim Ducks. He was pointless in a 4-1 loss. Perfetti played in one more game against the San Jose Sharks before being reassigned to the Moose. He has three points (two goals, one assist) in four games with the Moose and should have another dominant season.
The Jets’ Pipeline
Many players in the Jets’ pipeline will make the jump not only to the AHL but also the NHL. Perfetti and Gustafsson will likely see more NHL ice time this season, while Nikkanen will polish his game throughout the campaign, and Bauer should have a season for the books as he enters his final WHL season.
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 and St. Louis Blues for The Hockey Writers. Follow along on Twitter @itscrdavies for more hockey content!