Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 07/10/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
It was after the first session of Winnipeg Jets' Development Camp Wednesday morning when two of the team's brightest lights -- Scott Kosmachuk and Nik Ehlers -- gathered some pucks together between the faceoff circles.
Along with three other prospects in Ryan Olsen, Jimmy Lodge and Axel Blomqvist the quintet began an impromptu showdown with Jason Kasdorf minding the net.
It was in the ensuing 10 minutes or so that Kosmachuk and Ehlers, in particular, flashed the kind of skill that would leave any NHL management type drooling. Shots went top shelf and in, stick side and in over and over again. And the dekes were just as -- to use the hockey vernacular -- "filthy."
Of course, there's a danger in reading anything into five teenagers just messing around after practice. But as Paul Maurice said Tuesday, imagining these pieces blended in with the current crop of Jets players is what coaches -- and media -- spend the summer doing.
So, knowing full well the Jets roster could change between now and the opening of training camp via trades or free agency, we started wondering which of the players gathered at the development camp might be most NHL ready right here and now.
After all, the Jets have some holes on their depth chart to fill.
So with that in mind, what follows is a look at three players who could push for work sooner than later:
HEIGHT: 6-5; WEIGHT: 205; AGE: 21
LAST YEAR (St. John's Icecaps): GP: 64 G: 17 A: 16 Pts: 33
ACQUIRED: Selected by the Jets in the third round (67th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft.
HOW HE MAKES THE BIG CLUB RIGHT NOW: There has been a buzz about Lowry since the team first drafted him. He's got the size and mental aspect to being a pro nailed, but also has battled injuries. With Bryan Little, Mark Scheifele, Mathieu Perreault and Jim Slater at centre, the centre position looks full on the depth chart. But while the general consensus is the big Calgarian needs another season, or part of one, in St. John's, there is also some room on the left side of the depth chart.
ODDS OF HIM CRACKING THE JETS' LINEUP THIS FALL: 25-to-1
LOWRY SAYS: "This season helped me tremendously and having that whole year at pro and playing against men. I want to have a big summer and give myself every opportunity to push for a spot this fall. Ultimately it's their decision, but I'm going to make it as hard on them as possible. Obviously I'm going to try my best and work as hard as I can to make the Jets, but if I'm back in St. John's I know there's lot of areas of my game I can improve on."
HEIGHT: 6-0; WEIGHT: 180; AGE: turns 21 today.
LAST YEAR (St. John's Icecaps): GP: 72 G: 9 A: 33 Pts: 42
ACQUIRED: Selected by the Jets in the third round (91st overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft.
HOW HE MAKES THE BIG CLUB RIGHT NOW: Would bring a grit/pest component to the Jets' forward lines that could use a little of that element. Both Chris Thorburn and Anthony Peluso can play the tough-guy role, but Lipon also had 89 points in his last year as a junior. Some pieces might have to be moved around for him to land a spot, but it's not like his skill set necessarily needs more maturing. What you see now as an AHLer is likely what you'll get as an NHLer.
ODDS OF HIM CRACKING THE JETS' LINEUP THIS FALL: 50-to-1
LIPON SAYS: "I still have some offensive skill, I can score and pass, but if I do play in the NHL one day it's going to be in a third-line, fourth-line role. I think if there's an injury I could play a second-line role as well, but I enjoy the hitting part of the game and I enjoy fighting, too. When they describe me as a 'sandpaper' guy it means that when there's a scrum there's always a guy looking for me because probably hit somebody on the last shift. I'm not a guy to back down.
"Last year I was thinking, 'I could make it...' and then I go to St. John's and was completely satisfied with that. Then throughout the year you string together a good month and you wonder if you might get a call-up. You have to always be pushing to get called up. And now that an opportunity might be there, you have to think, 'I can do this.' "
HEIGHT: 6-0; WEIGHT: 189; AGE: 20.
LAST YEAR (Guelph Storm): GP: 68 G: 49 A: 52 Pts: 101
ACQUIRED: Selected by the Jets in the third round (70th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft.
HOW HE MAKES THE BIG CLUB RIGHT NOW: The kid can flat-out score and that much was evident even last year during the pre-season with the Jets. Might be best for him to spend his first year as a pro in the AHL, but if Dustin Byfuglien was moved back to defence or even flipped to the left side as a forward, there could be room for a sniper in the top nine.
ODDS OF HIM CRACKING THE JETS' LINEUP THIS FALL: 100-to-1.
KOSMACHUK SAYS: "Obviously going into next season it's going to be a lot tougher. Everyone is bigger, stronger, more skilled and you're not going to be one of the top guys in the league. I've changed gyms this summer and so I'm training with some guys at the next level. They can kind of give me a bit of a taste. You have to stay positive, keep working hard and keep a good head on your shoulders. You don't want to assume anything, but you work your hardest and look for the results.
"I definitely want to work on my physical attributes, getting bigger and stronger and (learn about) living a pro lifestyle."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 10, 2014 D1
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