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Prospects are good

Keeping up with Scott Kosmachuk, a Jets' bright spot in OHL

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DALLAS -- They are drafted as teenagers full of both promise and questions. The Winnipeg Jets, like every one of their NHL rivals, understand the risk in this the moment they call out a kid's name on draft day.

And so, in that regard, the Jets view Scott Kosmachuk in much the same way they do rookies in the show such as Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba and those in St. John's such as Adam Lowry and Brenden Kitchon.

"All these young guys," began Jets' assistant GM Craig Heisinger this week, "are still finding their way. And that's what it's all about: Them getting to know us and us getting to know them."

Well, here's what the Jets already know about Kosmachuk -- just a few days ago named the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Week after picking up nine points (six goals, three assists) in three games -- the kid can flat-out score.

"He's got a different game to him," said Heisinger. "He's got a little bit of rat in him, he's got some finish to him. His game is evolving. Is what he is in junior what he's going to be as a pro? We're not 100 per cent sure on that because sometimes the guys that are successful have to change their game.

"But his game is certainly going in the right direction. He had a good season last year and he's got to build on it."

Kosmachuk is the focus of our first Prospect/Down on the Farm Report of the 2013-14 season that checks in on some of the Jets' draft picks and others in the system.

A 19-year-old Toronto product already in his fourth season with the Guelph Storm, Kosmachuk was selected by the Jets in the third round (70th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft. He's rifled 14 goals in 14 games this season after posting consecutive 30-goal campaigns as a 17- and 18-year-old.

"Our team overall has had a great start," said Kosmachuk in a telephone interview with the Free Press this week. "We've got high expectations. Everyone on the team is playing well right now and we're all working well together. And, for me, my line (with Zack Mitchell and Hunter Garlent) just has great chemistry right now. Things are just clicking."

Kosmachuk, considered by many to now be the best right-wing prospect in the Jets' system, attended both the team's development camp in the summer, followed by the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, B.C., and main training camp with the big club. He scored a dandy goal in the Kraft Hockeyville exhibition game in Belleville and used the whole experience of being with the Jets as a springboard into his scorching OHL start.

"You come back from a main NHL camp and you're playing at a higher pace than if I was back in Guelph," said Kosmachuk. "It's fast, you have to make quicker decisions and everything is just done at a higher speed. The guys are stronger, more skilled. It was just a different level.

"So all that helps your confidence a lot. Just to get the shot to get out there, the fact that they had the faith in you to play and compete in an exhibition game. Some of the guys I talked to (other NHL prospects) didn't even get to play in one.

"And getting to wear that Jets jersey for the first time in Penticton... a lot of the boys thought that was pretty cool. Then being in the dressing room in Belleville with all the guys that are actually on the Jets team... that was surreal. That's definitely the right word for it, 'surreal.' "

Kosmachuk said the Jets asked him to work on becoming a more effective player all over the ice, not just in the offensive zone, and to continue developing as a player, both mentally and physically.

"This year was our first year to get to know him through development camp and the rookie tournament," said Heisinger. "He did fine at those things, he's off to a good start."

Yeah, you could say that.

"We're having so much fun right now as a team," said Kosmachuk. "Our coach (Scott Walker) always talks about that, the having fun. But he also said it's a lot more fun when you're winning and we're doing that, too." Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 26, 2013 C6

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