Discuss among yourselves, hockey fans: Is Andrew Ladd a top tier National Hockey League left winger?
The answer, of course, is open to debate. But for the purposes of furthering our little discussion, consider the following informational nuggets:
- Ladd finished fifth in scoring among NHL left wingers with 46 points (18 goals, 28 assists) in 48 games;
- He led the Winnipeg Jets in scoring and his four game-winning goals tied for the team lead.
- Only 17 players in the entire league finished with more points than him in 2013.
- He has been part of two Stanley-Cup championship teams -- with Carolina in 2006 and Chicago in 2010 -- serving a role as a checking forward/support player and has since morphed into a top-line winger in Winnipeg.
Now, we bring all this up today as part of the second installment in our 'Jets At The Draft' series, and our look at what the organization has along the left flank. And Ladd, as captain, the team's leading scorer and the left winger on the top line with Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler, offers up a solid place to start.
Interestingly, it was back in late March when the fine crew at NHL.com polled 10 writers and television personalities as to which players belonged in the top-eight at each position. NHL.com's elite eight left wingers included: 1. Daniel Sedin, Van.; 2. Zach Parise, Minn.; 3. Thomas Vanek, Buff. 4. Alex Ovechkin, Wash. 5. Patrick Marleau, S.J., 6. Marian Gaborik, CBJ; 7. Bobby Ryan, Ana. and 8. Patrick Sharp, Chi.
And not only was Ladd not listed among the eight, he wasn't among a group of 12 other LWs who picked up at least one vote.
All of this isn't to criticize the poll -- Ovechkin was voted fourth best but still managed to capture the Hart Trophy -- but to point out that for all the holes the Jets' lineup features, Ladd anchors what arguably might be the deepest position on the team's thin depth chart.
The 27-year-old captain continues to find layers in his game that might not yet be appreciated in the bigger NHL markets. But couple his still-burgeoning game with the young talent that is Evander Kane -- who did garner one vote in the NHL.com poll -- and the Jets have two legit stars on their left side.
The other two left wingers with the big club were both acquired in-season -- Eric Tangradi via trade, James Wright as a waiver-wire pick-up -- and occasionally flashed a combination of skill and size that might be lacking in offensive production, but still worth a longer look as the Jets make the switch to the Western Conference in 2013-14.
There is also an intriguing, if not somewhat still mysterious, top level prospect down on the farm in Ivan Telegin, the 21-year-old Russian who's 2012-13 season with the St. John's IceCaps was limited to just 34 games because of a concussion. All this coming after an off-season hand injury -- the details of how it happened remain sketchy -- that kept him from the team's development camp in Winnipeg a year ago.
"His speed is outstanding," said IceCaps' head coach Keith McCambridge. "But the thing that jumps out with Ivan is he kind of haphazardly uses his speed. There wasn't a lot of structure to his game. He didn't know when to skate in areas, when to use his speed to get pucks. I felt bad for Ivan because as the season went on he was starting to make some really good strides and I was happy with where he was in his development and then he had a concussion after battling that hand injury earlier in the season.
"I liked where he was getting to but I'm disappointed as a coach I didn't get the chance to work with him for a whole season. But there were some real positive signs, some good foundation building blocks to Ivan's game. It's just a matter of realizing he's young and getting him steered in the right direction."
But it's here where things get really thin for the Jets: After Telegin there are only three other left wingers signed in the system inked to NHL deals -- Jason Gregoire and Carl Klingberg, neither seen as NHLers right now, and collegian Jordan Samuels-Thomas.
So, left wing might not be at the very top of the Jets' wish list as they head to Newark for this Sunday's draft... but it might be dang close.
LEFT WING -- WHAT'S IN THE SYSTEM:
- ANDREW LADD: Was everything and then some for the Jets this past season. Wore the 'C', led them in scoring and almost -- ALMOST -- willed them into the post-season.
Ladd FYI: Age: 27. 2013 numbers: 48GP, 18G, 28A.
Contract: Three years remaining on current deal ($4.5 million salary in 2013-14; cap hit is $4.4 million).
- EVANDER KANE: Of all the discussions about the development of Kane's game, remember this: he already has 80 goals in 261 games and doesn't turn 22 until August. Still streaky, Jets fans saw more glimpses this past season of his ability to take over games. Now management wants to see more glimpses more often.
Kane FYI: Age: 21. 2013 numbers: 48GP, 17G, 16A. Contract: Five years remaining on current deal ($4.5 million salary in 2013-14; cap hit is $5.25 million).
- ERIC TANGRADI: He's already with his third NHL organization -- drafted by Anaheim, traded from Pittsburgh to Winnipeg -- but the Jets landed him thinking a change of scenery would help. His just-average skating was obvious many nights, although his size -- 6-4, 221 -- still makes him a good piece in the Western Conference.
Tangradi FYI: Age: 24. 2013 numbers: 41GP, 1G, 3A. Contract: Restricted free agent (salary in 2013: $726,000)
JAMES WRIGHT: His value doesn't show in his offensive numbers. He's a solid penalty killer and versatile energy player.
Wright FYI: Age: 23. 2013 numbers: 38GP, 2G, 3A.
Contract: One year left on current deal (salary/cap hit of $650,000)
- IVAN TELEGIN: Injuries, including a concussion, limited his first pro season to just 34 games with the IceCaps... Has good size at 6-3, 198 and world-class speed... Was a prolific junior player, averaging more than a point per game with Saginaw and Barrie of the OHL... Likely needs to spend a full season in St. John's to further develop his game.
THE ICE CAPS
(left wings under NHL contracts)
- JASON GREGOIRE: He's been hindered both years in St. John's by injuries. Has good hands in tight -- he had 10 goals in 60 games -- but coaches are concerned about his quickness.
- CARL KLINGBERG: The organization keeps waiting and waiting for the big Swede to take another step. He has NHL speed, but lacks finish and a sandpaper element to his game to be an effective third or fourth liner in the bigs.
IN THE SYSTEM
(draft picks or players under NHL deals)
- JORDAN SAMUELS-THOMAS: Seventh-round pick in 2009 is coming off a solid season for Quinnipiac of the ECAC with 17 goals and 29 points in 43 games as the Bobcats advanced all the way to the NCAA championship before falling to Yale.
THE NHL'S BEST
By comparison, a look at some the NHL's top left wings (ranked by 2013 scoring):
- ALEX OVECHKIN, WASH.: 48 GP, 32G, 24A
- CHRIS KUNITZ, PITT.: 48 GP, 22G, 30A
- TAYLOR HALL, EDM.: 45 GP, 16G, 34A
- HENRIK ZETTERBERG (C/LW) DET.: 48 GP, 11G, 37A
- ANDREW LADD, WPG.: 48GP, 18g, 28A
Other notable left wings: Matt Moulson, NYI; Rick Nash, NYR; Thomas Vanek, Buff.; Zach Parise, Minn.; Daniel Sedin, Van.
This is the second in a series. Tomorrow: Part 3 -- right wing.
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