The Winnipeg Jets will surely have some open lineup spots when they start their 2020-21 training camp. I am going to take a look at three prospects who are unlikely to lock down any of those spots.
The Jets’ organization – like all other National Hockey League teams – has seen players like Patrice Cormier and Chase De Leo come and go while playing the majority of their careers in the American Hockey League, unable to make a permanent jump to the NHL.
The Manitoba Moose currently have guys like JC Lipon and Cameron Schilling who also seem to be stuck in the AHL and unlikely to ever play full-time in the NHL. But for this article, I am going to take a look at three “high-profile” guys who are unlikely to make the jump next season and for two of them, possibly not ever.
Michael Spacek – C/RW
Michael Spacek has suited up for 193 games for the Moose over his AHL career and has yet to get a shot in the NHL. Back in November, the 22-year-old was briefly called up to the Jets but was reassigned to the Moose after a couple of weeks and didn’t appear in any NHL games.
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Spacek was producing similar numbers this season compared to his past years before the NHL and AHL paused their seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was putting up 0.45 points per game this season compared to the 0.55 points per game in the 2018-19 season which saw him hit a new career-high with 41 points in 74 games played.
The biggest thing holding Spacek back from making the Jets in the future will be where he fits into the lineup. He reminds me of Nic Petan and unfortunately, his fate can become the same as what Petan went through while he was with the Jets’ organization.
Much like Petan, Spacek is a smaller, skilled forward and a role on the fourth line is not ideal for the Czech forward. The Jets’ top-six is filled with young stars who will be around for a while (an exception being Blake Wheeler, who is currently 33 years old) and I do not see a spot for Spacek on the third line either.
Logan Stanley – D
Taken 18th overall by the Jets in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and now in his second full season with the Moose, defenceman Logan Stanley still has high hopes of making the NHL. In my opinion, the 6-foot-7 defender still has a lot to work on and is likely a few more seasons away from making the jump to the big club.
Of course, that projection is if everything goes to plan and he keeps taking the progressive steps in his game to get to the NHL. He has taken some big strides recently but he still needs to be able to play at the fast pace of the NHL. His quickness, foot speed, and puck handling have needed the most improvement over the years and whether he is able to translate that to the next level remains to be seen.
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On top of Stanley being a few seasons away from the NHL at the earliest as I mentioned earlier, the Jets have a strong group of young prospects of could very well make the jump before Stanley. Dylan Samberg comes to mind right away; of course, the Jets have yet to sign him. Ville Heinola and Declan Chisholm are both very promising prospects with Heinola likely being ready to play full-time in the NHL next season.
This could be a very similar situation to that of Spacek where Stanley just does not have anywhere to fit into the lineup even if he happens to be ready sometime down the road.
Kristian Vesalainen – LW
Finnish forward Kristian Vesalainen – taken 24th overall by the Jets in 2017 – came to the organization with a high ceiling and high hopes. While both of those still remain high, you cannot help but be discouraged with how his 2019-20 campaign has turned out.
Vesalainen struggled in Jets training camp and those struggles continued in the first few months of the AHL season after he was reassigned to the Moose back in September. His game – although still streaky and inconsistent – has seen improvements as of late which should bode well for the 20-year-old when he enters Jets training camp for the 2020-21 season.
In my opinion, however, I do not think it will be enough and we are likely to see another season of AHL hockey for Vesalainen.
With that said, Vesalainen’s situation is much different than Spacek and Stanley. Vesalainen could very well prove me wrong and make the jump as early as next season but even if he does not, he is only one or two more seasons away and he will have a future in the NHL.
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Those things are very uncertain for Spacek and Stanley and we could very well be witnessing the next Lipon and Schilling in the making.