The last two first-round drafts for the Winnipeg Jets were on full display in the American Hockey League last night. Also, a hometown kid made a big splash in his first professional game. Finally, the Western Hockey League (WHL) is gearing up to start play and one of its top teams has named its leadership group.
Ville Heinola & Cole Perfetti Lead the Way
Things are going pretty well for hockey fans in Winnipeg these days. The Jets are currently sitting in third place of the NHL’s very entertaining North Division. At the AHL level, the Manitoba Moose have won three of their first five games.
The Jets’ top picks of each of the last two NHL Entry Drafts, Heinola (20th overall, 2019) and Perfetti (10th overall, 2020), played huge roles in Manitoba’s 3-2 overtime win over the first-place Laval Rocket on Monday.
After scoring his first career AHL goal in the first period, Heinola was set up for the game-winner in overtime by Perfetti after the duo played a little switcheroo. This was Perfetti’s first professional assist and his first point since scoring a goal on opening night versus the Toronto Marlies.
“(Heinola and Perfetti) have been part of the offense since the first game,” said Moose head coach Pascal Vincent. “They’ve been able to create, even in tight and there’s a battle. They’ve been able to create some offense but to be able to produce at key times, that’s a skill as well.”
Things appear to be heading in the right direction for the Jets organization.
Carson Meyer Nets Two in His Pro Debut
The column usually focuses on prospects taken very early in the draft, but there are always plenty of late-round picks who have a great story. One of those is Meyer, who made his professional debut with the Cleveland Monsters last night.
Cleveland, which is about 140 miles away from Columbus, and is the second-farthest city away from home Meyer has ever played in. He was born in Powell, OH, just 14 miles north of Columbus. He played for the Ohio Blue Jackets AAA program in the T1EHL, which has produced NHLers Connor Murphy, Sean Kuraly, Jack Rosolvic and Kole Shorewood.
After two seasons in Nebraska, playing for the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League (USHL), he returned to his home state and split his college career between Miami University and Ohio State. Along the way, he was selected by the Blue Jackets in the sixth round (179th overall) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
He made his professional debut Monday night and had an immediate impact in the Monsters’ 7-3 win at the Rockford IceHogs. He showed off a very nice shot to beat Matt Tomkins for his first AHL goal early in the first period.
Later in the second period, he blasted a shot off a faceoff win that got through Tomkins and trickled over the goal line for his second tally on the night.
It certainly would be fun to see Meyer play with his hometown Blue Jackets one day. Who knows? With a few more games like this one, it may happen sooner than later!
Edmonton Oil Kings Name Captains
The WHL’s U.S. Division will begin its 2020-21 season on March 19. The Oil Kings are kicking things off this weekend and announced their leadership group for the upcoming season.
Forward Scott Atkinson will wear the “C” on his sweater for the second straight season. He is just the third player in team history to be captain for more than one season. Defenseman Matthew Robertson and forward Jake Neighbours will serve as full-time alternate captains, while forward Dylan Guenther will serve as an alternate captain for home games and defenseman Ethan Cap will serve as an alternate captain for road games.
“The character that he brings to our group,” head coach Brad Lauer said about Atkinson. “He did a great job for us last year and we didn’t see any reason we would want to change. He brings the qualities and values we believe that make a strong leader and what he does in the room and away from the rink with our guys is important.”
Atkinson, undrafted, is entering his overage season with the Oil Kings. He has 30 goals and 70 points in 175 WHL games. Robertson was selected by the New York Rangers in the second round (49th overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Neighbours is coming off a 23-goal, 70-point season and was taken in the first round (26th overall) by the St. Louis Blues in last October’s draft. Guenther is a top-rated prospect heading into the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and Cap is another overage player entering his fifth season with the team.