This morning, the Winnipeg Jets released their roster for their annual rookie camp, and the Young Stars Classic tournament that goes along with it. The Winnipeg Jets compete in this tournament every year, and have had a fair amount of success, the tournament is of course more about scouting than winning, but the players and their fans alike enjoy seeing a few W’s.
This year’s tournament in Penticton, B.C. takes place between September 11th-14th. The same teams will be participating as the past; along with Winnipeg, the Canucks, Oilers, and Flames, will all send rookie teams to this showcase. The tournament is always entertaining and a good start to the season, but here are a few other story lines to watch next week.
Ehlers is the Jets highest rated prospect and is expected to have a role on the NHL team this season. Since the end of his season in Halifax, much has been made of his weight gain. Ehlers gained 15 lbs before the Jets development camp in July, and by his own admission it changed his game a little bit. Ehlers did not look as fast or dynamic as usual but the skill was still obvious. This will be fans first look and the Danish sensation since that camp and the question mark remains about his weight.
He probably needed some weight, having been 160 lbs when he was drafted, but he cannot have that at the sacrifice of what makes him a special player. Ehlers needs to be quick and agile to play the game the way he is expected. This will be a great chance to watch him and see if he used the last few months to become more accustomed to this extra weight, or if this becomes a bigger problem for the Jets forward.
Josh Morrissey and the Crowded Blue Line
The Winnipeg Jets Blue line is a subject that will be discussed at length in the following month or so before the season. The Jets currently have 11 defense men on their NHL roster, as well as a strong corps in the AHL that is looking to make the jump. This will especially affect the Jets former first round pick, Josh Morrissey. Morrissey is moving into his first season of professional hockey, and has been clear that his intentions are to make the NHL team. That seems a lofty goal with the competition at the moment, but Morrissey has proven he has the skill to be a top NHL defense man, maybe not this year, but not far down the road either.
Morrissey was a huge contributor to team Canada’s gold at the World Juniors last year and was by far the best player at the Jets summer development camp. Most likely, Morrissey will be forced to play in the AHL this season, and while his spot is pretty much assured, the rest of the prospects playing in this tournament will be trying to put up big performances in hopes of getting one of the few open AHL spots.
Though the spots on the Jets defense are over crowded, there are still a few openings on the roster for third and fourth liners. There are a few players on this roster that are in contention for that spot, and even more that could put themselves into contention with a good showing. Andrew Copp leads the charge, Capp spent some time on the big clubs roster last season, scoring his first NHL point in his only game. He has the inside track at the fourth line center spot right now. Other guys to watch include Jimmy Lodge, Ryan Olsen, and Brendan Lemieux, all of whom have a chance to see action with the big club.
A few long shots from this years draft picks include, Jansen Harkins and Michael Spacek. It is unlikely this year will be their time, but good showings go a long way, and games in the AHL this season are not out of the question for any of these players. With the AHL team, the Manitoba Moose, playing not only in the same city, but also the same building, you can expect a lot of crossover between the two.
The Jets prospect whose future is perhaps the most intriguing is Connor Hellebuyck. Hellebuyck has garnered all kinds of attention this off-season due to his play last year. He was great for the AHL affiliate St Johns Ice Caps, and absolutely unbelievable for team USA at the World Championships. Hellebuyck proved he could be a top tier goaltender against the best of the best in the world at that tournament, and since has been listed as one of the top, if not the best goaltending prospects in the league.
Hellebuyck will look to push last years incumbents, Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec, for a spot with the Jets. It is unlikely that he will fit in at the start of the year, but if there is an injury or either goaltender has a hiccup during the season Hellebuyck could get his chance in the NHL. This is a tournament that can have huge impacts on many careers, and these Jets prospects will be looking to show that they are the ones that deserve the next big break. It should be a fascinating couple weeks for Jets fans.
All games will be broadcast live on the Jets website, as well as on TSN 1290 radio.
View the entire Jets roster for the Young Stars tournament here.
Born and raised Winnipeg sports fan and contributor with The Hockey Writers.