Every month throughout the NHL season we’ll be updating you on the development of key Winnipeg Jets prospects with up-to-date stats, videos, analysis and scouting reports.
The Winnipeg Jets’ pipeline has created so much buzz in the past couple years you’d swear there was a loose connection somewhere.
But everything is definitely in the right place.
The Jets’ sharp drafting is already paying dividends this season with the arrival of Danish whiz Nikolaj Ehlers. After spending the past two seasons playing major junior hockey with the Halifax Mooseheads, Ehlers is having a serious impact in Winnipeg, registering four goals and nine points in 16 games thus far.
Nic Petan has also cracked the Jets roster and while his debut hasn’t been quite as impressive as Ehlers’, there’s no doubt he’s got an offence-filled future in the league.
And those two are just the start.
The most intriguing prospect in the system, partially based on the position he plays, might be goalie Connor Hellebuyck. To be kind, the Ondrej Pavelec years haven’t always been a treat for Jets fans and while Michael Hutchinson has had his moments, he’s no sure thing. But fear not ‘Peggers, because there’s big-time hope on the horizon in the form of Hellebuyck.
Connor Hellebuyck: G, Manitoba Moose, (AHL) No. 37
Drafted: Fifth round, 130th overall, 2012
Season to date: 8 GP/2-5-1/2.12/.938
Last year, as an AHL rookie, Hellebuyck turned in a respectable .921 save percentage in 58 games. He capped the season off by playing brilliant hockey for Team USA at the World Championship, posting a 1.37 goals-against average and an obscene .948 save percentage in eight contests.
The 22-year-old has carried that sublime play over into this year, registering a 2.12 GAA and .939 save percentage through eight games on a Manitoba Moose team that isn’t very good.
At six-foot-four, Hellebuyck boasts the big frame goalies are expected to carry these days, which is just another reason to believe—beginning sooner rather than later—he’ll be the stud netminder the Jets have long searched for.
Here’s a little sample of his work:
Kyle Connor: LW, University of Michigan, (NCAA) No. 18
Drafted: First round, 17th overall, 2015
Season to date: 6GP/3G/4A/7P/+3
Keep the American kids coming. Connor, 18, is a lanky winger with scoring touch who was drafted out of the United States Hockey League last June as a late 1996 birthday. Thus far, he’s adapted to the college game beautifully, registering more than a point-per-game as a Michigan native playing for the Wolverines.
Make that a proud Michigan native.
As these highlights prove, Connor has the moves to get in prime scoring areas and the touch to finish when there.
Jets fans will soon get a chance to see his handiwork when Connor suits up for Team USA at the World Junior Championship in Finland.
Chase De Leo: C, Manitoba Moose (AHL), No. 19
Drafted: Fourth round, 99th overall, 2014
Season to date: 11GP/0G/5A/5P/-2
Why not make it a Yankee sweep? The California kid isn’t exactly tearing up the ‘A’ in his rookie campaign, but to be fair, neither is anybody else on the Moose. Despite failing to find the back of the net yet, De Leo’s five assists still rank him third in team scoring.
Though not big at five-foot-10, De Leo had the chops to register 39 goals in each of his final two seasons with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. He also gained a ton of big-game experience with the Hawks, never playing fewer than 17 playoff games a season during his four years there (he recorded 53 points in 59 post-season contests the past three springs).
This year is all about adapting to the pro game and while the results aren’t overwhelming yet, De Leo is worth keeping an eye on.
Other players of note:
Josh Morrissey, D, Manitoba Moose (AHL): A staple on Canada’s WJC blueline the past few years, Morrissey has yet to register a point through 11 games as an AHL rookie. Give him some time.
Jack Roslovic, C, Miami (Ohio) University (NCAA): In addition to Connor, the Jets also snagged Roslovic in the first round of last June’s draft (25th overall). The pivot has had a sniping start to his college career, netting six goals—to go along with three assists for nine points—in 10 outings.