Winnipeg Jets Prospect Report: Vesalainen slow to start AHL season

Between a summer of roster moves, an unexpected absence and a couple of guys who couldn’t come to terms on new contracts, there was a lot of opportunity for young players to make their mark at Winnipeg Jets training camp in September.

Defenceman Ville Heinola and centre David Gustafsson did just that, pushing their way on to the team. Heinola, the team’s first pick last June, showed he could be part of the solution on the blue line, where the club lost Jacob Trouba, Ben Chiarot and Tyler Myers over the summer, then had to deal with Dustin Byfuglien’s decision to step away from the game.

Gustafsson, a second-round pick in 2018, forced his way through a door that was slightly ajar up front thanks to the uncertainty around Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine before they inked new deals and the fact Bryan Little sustained a concussion in the team’s final pre-season contest.

While it’s unlikely both Heinola and Gustafsson will stick around all season, they’ve each done well during their limited NHL runs.

Not everybody in the pipeline has been raising their stock this season, however. With that in mind, let’s have a look at how the top five prospects in the Jets system have fared out of the gate.

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Kristian Vesalainen, LW
Team: Manitoba Moose (AHL)
8GP | 0G | 2A | 2PTS

One year ago, it was Vesalainen who nosed his way on to the big club with a strong camp. He couldn’t repeat that performance this season, however, and is struggling on a Moose team that is a dreadful 1-7-0 so far. The 20-year-old Finn was Winnipeg’s first pick (24th overall) in 2017, so hopes remain high for a prospect with size, speed and skill. This figures to be his first full year in North America and clearly there’s more adjusting to be done.

Dylan Samberg, D
Team: University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs (NCAA)
6GP | 0G | 4A | 4PTS

At six-foot-four and well over 200 pounds, Samberg has an enviable frame. Now in his junior season, the 20-year-old Minnesotan appears poised to push to new offensive highs. There’s little doubt Samberg — selected 43rd overall in 2017 — will eventually play at the highest level, but it will be interesting to see how much offence he can ultimately incorporate into his game.

Declan Chisholm, D
Team: Peterborough Petes (OHL)
13GP | 1G | 17A | 18PTS

Drafted late in 2018, Chisholm is really starting to look like a fifth-round find. The 19-year-old has registered at least one point in each of Peterborough’s games this year and ranks fourth in OHL scoring by defencemen.

Logan Stanley, D
Team: Manitoba Moose (AHL)
5GP | 1G | 1A | 2PTS

Stanley was always going to be a long-term project. The 18th overall pick from 2016 moves quite well considering his monstrous six-foot-seven frame. He’s in his second year with the Moose and the 21-year-old should log all kinds of ice time this season as the Jets try to determine exactly what they have in this unique prospect.

Mikhail Berdin, G
Team: Manitoba Moose (AHL)
6GP | 3.21 GAA | .898 SP

Berdin, 21, deserves some credit just for hanging tough in the Moose crease this year, as he’s faced at least 35 shots in three of his six starts. The six-foot-two Russian, who came over to play in the United States Hockey League as an 18-year-old, was drafted in the sixth round in 2016 and put up an impressive .927 save percentage with the Moose last year during his first pro season.


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