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A whole whack of Zach

Jets need Bogo to up his game and lift the defence with him

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No one will look at the Winnipeg Jets defensive corps and immediately think Big Three reincarnated. There are no Savards, Lapointes or Robinsons among this crew.

But as we begin the fourth part in our Jets at the Draft series -- an examination of what the club has at centre, right- and left-wing, defence and goal heading into this week's draft in Philadelphia -- the club's D does have some intriguing pieces.

There is the young, up-and-coming star in Jacob Trouba and a heart-and-soul type in Mark Stuart. There is the crafty Toby Enstrom and a power-play specialist in winger/defenceman Dustin Byfuglien. There are a couple of reclamation projects in Keaton Ellerby and Grant Clitsome, both waiver-wire pickups, a veteran plugger in Adam Pardy, who is an unrestricted free agent and the offensively-gifted Paul Postma, who is still scrapping for more minutes.

And then there is Zach Bogosian, who might just be the biggest key to making this whole group transform into something beyond average.

The Jets have seen flashes from their young rearguard, who doesn't turn 24 for a couple of weeks, but already has 352 games under his belt. Still, he's also worn out the carpet to sick bay, having missed 59 games over his three years in Winnipeg.

Yes, just when it seems the teachings of Charlie Huddy and his own maturation have him on the cusp of something great, he pulls up lame again, having twice visited the disabled list last season.

Consider, too, the two men chosen ahead of him in the 2008 NHL Draft -- Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty -- are already superstars and a pair of defencemen selected after him, Alex Pietrangelo and Erik Karlsson, have become anchors for their teams and it's clear why the Jets -- and their faithful -- have such high expectations for the young American.

Oh, and then there's this: The Jets think so highly of Bogosian they have him locked up through the 2019-20 season -- longer than any other player.

Now, while Bogosian may be at a bit of a career crossroads -- does he transform into a star or not? -- there are other questions with the rest of the Jets depth chart that could lead them to call out a defenceman's name with their first pick in this week's draft for the third consecutive year after Trouba in 2012 and Josh Morrissey in '13.

Clitsome is coming off major back surgery, Pardy -- as mentioned above -- is a UFA while Ellerby is a restricted free agent.

Is Byfuglien just a power-play D-man?

Is Morrissey ready to become an NHLer at age 19 and which of the impressive crew that helped lead St. John's to the Calder Cup final is ready to take the next step?

NHL GMs will insist having options and depth along the blue-line is absolutely huge. What GM Kevin Cheveldayoff would like is for the team's top two pairings to settle -- they have a number of candidates for the third duo -- and a healthy Bogosian would be a monumental step in that direction.

 

This is the fourth in a five-part series. Tomorrow: Part 5 -- Goaltending.

 

DEFENCE

What's in the Jets system (not incl. Dustin Byfuglien, listed at LW):

 

Jacob Trouba: He made mistakes in his rookie year, but he also showed so much upside it left observers drooling at his still-untapped potential. Led all NHL rookies in ice time (22:26), occasionally flashed a mean streak and is still filling out his frame.
Trouba FYI: Age: 20. 2013-14 numbers: GP: 65; G: 10; A: 19; Pts: 29.
Contract: Two years remaining on entry-level deal that pays him $894,167 per year.


Toby Enstrom: His size and durability are forever being questioned -- he did play all 82 last year -- but what is often overlooked is he makes his D partner better, he is positionally sound is and effective with his stick. What the Jets would like is more offensive pop: He had 44 and 41 points in his last two years in Atlanta, but had 30 last season.
Enstrom FYI: Age: 29. 2013-14 numbers: GP: 82; G: 10; A: 20; Pts: 30.
Contract: Four years remaining with a $5.75 million cap hit per season.


Zach Bogosian: So much to like here on paper: size, skill, strength, leadership. But he hasn't been healthy enough to really take a next step from good to dominant.
Bogosian FYI: Age: 23. 2013-14 numbers: GP: 55; G: 3; A: 8; Pts: 11.
Contract: Six years remaining with a cap hit of $5,142,857.


Mark Stuart: This is what we wrote about Stuart last year... and we won't change a word: Ideally, he's not a Top 4 D-man, but is one of those vital core guys every squad craves. Blocks shots, offers leadership and a grit that is lacking from this D corps.
Stuart FYI: Age: 30. 2013-14 numbers: GP: 69; G: 2; A: 11; Pts: 13.
Contract: Four years remaining at $2.625 million.


Keaton Ellerby: Former Florida Panthers first-rounder seemed to rediscover his game with more minutes in Winnipeg. Still prone to the occasional ill-timed miscue, but his minutes also jumped to just under 14 per game.
Ellerby FYI: Age: 25. 2013-14 numbers: GP: 51; G: 2: A: 4: Pts: 6.
Contract: Restricted free agent (cap hit last season was $735,000).


Adam Pardy: He is what he is -- a third pairing/depth guy who can give decent minutes. Those kind of D-men can be undervalued, but working against him is the depth in the organization, his contract status -- unrestricted free agent -- and the fact he is 30.
Pardy FYI: Age: 30. 2013-14 numbers: GP: 60; G: 0; A: 6; Pts: 6.
Contract: Unrestricted free agent (earned $600,000 last year).


Grant Clitsome: Was solid at the end of the 2013 lockout season, but needed back surgery last December and then missed the final 46 games. Ideally, another 5-6/third pairing player.
Clitsome FYI: Age: 29. 2013-14 numbers: GP: 32; G: 2; A: 10; Pts: 12.
Contract: Two years remaining at $2,066,667.


Paul Postma: Weird blod-clot malady in his leg robbed him of a chance to really cement a spot with the big club. Was starting to earn the trust of new coach Paul Maurice when the season ended.
Postma FYI: Age: 25. 2013-14 numbers: GP: 20; G: 1; A: 2; Pts: 3.
Contract: One year remaining at $712,500.

 

THE ICECAPS

Zach Redmond: Was superb in the IceCaps' run to the final. Appeared in 10 games with the Jets (1G, 2A) and had 24 points in 40 regular-season games in St. John's. Intelligent with the puck, but also an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Will O'Neill: Very productive for St. John's in the playoffs with 16 points in 18 games and his game seemed to grow with the pressure.

Ben Chiarot: Many in the Jets organization are thrilled with his development. Played in his first NHL game this winter and the call-up was well deserved. Good size at 6-3, 222 and was named the IceCaps' top D-man.

Brenden Kichton: Fantastic rookie season saw him named to the AHL All-Rookie Team and honoured as the IceCaps' top rookie. Had 10 goals and 48 points in his first year as a pro.

Julian Melchiori: Missed the last three games of the regular season and then didn't dress for a single playoff game. Jets' brass like him, as he's been called up before.

Kris Fredheim: Was on an AHL contract this season; former Vancouver Canucks draft pick who is now 27.

Jordan Hill: Another on an AHL deal, Hill played in 68 games for the IceCaps and was a shot-blocking beast.

Cody Lampl: Depth guy in St. John's. Played in 38 games during the regular season; none in the post-season.

 

IN THE SYSTEM

(draft picks or players under NHL deals)

Cody Sol, Ontario Reign: Spent most of the year in the ECHL so he could get more minutes. Huge dude at 6-6, 242.

Aaron Harstad, Colorado College: Played in all 37 games, ranked second in the conference in blocked shots.

Brennan Serville, University of Michigan: Just finished his third year with the Wolverines. Not a scorer (one goal in three seasons); third-round pick by the Jets in 2011.

Peter Stoykewych, Colorado College: Academic All-Conference, alternate captain, shot-blocker and a Winnipeg product.

Marcus Karlstrom: AIK J20 (Swedish SuperElit): Had 10 goals and 27 points in 44 games this year; seventh-round pick in 2013.

Jan Kostalek, Rimouski Oceanic: Czech just finished his second season in the QMJHL. Played for his country at the 2014 world junior hockey championship.

Tucker Poolman, Omaha Lancers/North Dakota: The Jets' fifth-round pick in 2013 was USA Hockey's top junior player of the year. Set a career high in points with 41 (15G, 26A), was a member of the USHL all-star team and is headed to UND this fall.

Arturs Kulda: Played well for Latvia at the Olympics, but is now a KHLer. Has spent the last two seasons overseas making good money and the Jets will move on.

 

THE NHL'S BEST

By comparison, a look at some the NHL's top defencemen (ranked by 2013-14 scoring):

1. Erik Karlsson, Ott: GP: 82; G: 20; A: 54; Pts: 74.
2. Duncan Keith, Chi: GP: 79: G: 6; A: 55; Pts: 61.
3. Shea Weber, Nash: GP: 79: G: 23: A: 33: Pts: 56.
4. Victor Hedman, TB: GP: 75; G: 13: A: 42; Pts: 55.
5. P.K. Subban, Mtl: GP: 82; G: 10; A: 43; Pts: 53.

Other notable defencemen: Zdeno Chara, Bos; Drew Doughty, L.A; Alex Pietrangelo, St.L; Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Ariz; Keith Yandle, Ariz; Ryan Suter, Minn.

 

TOP DEFENCE PROSPECT

Josh Morrissey, Prince Albert Raiders/St. John's IceCaps

His skating is exceptional, his intellect and hockey smarts are off the charts... Finished with 28 goals and 73 points in 59 games with the Raiders before heading to the IceCaps, where he saw his minutes increase through their Calder Cup run... Was a WHL First-Team All-star... Former WHL Scholastic Player of the Year... Played in more than 100 games last season with the Jets (pre-season), Raiders, Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships and St. John's... Wants to add more bulk to his 6-0, 185-pound frame but is steadfast in his goal to try and make Jets' roster in the fall -- just as Trouba did a year ago.

 

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 24, 2014 D4

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