Might be time for Jets to incorporate some teenage talent
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:
All-Access Digital Subscription
$1.50 for 150 days*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Pay $1.50 for the first 22 weeks of your subscription. After 22 weeks, price increases to the regular rate of $19.00 per month. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled after the first 22 weeks.
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/09/2014 (3010 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Nik Ehlers spotted the sparkling loonie instantly, centred on the floor in front of a Winnipeg Jets backdrop in a dressing room at the MTS Iceplex.
A TV cameraman had placed the coin there as a marker for the interview subjects requested by the media after the first day of Jets rookie camp, just a few hours before the lot of them were to board a plane and head to Penticton, B.C., for the Young Stars Tournament.
Striding through the throng of reporters, the Jets prospect — drafted in the first round last June — bent down to grab the dollar when he was abruptly interrupted.
“No, no, no, no,” began a reporter. “That’s the spot you are supposed to stand on. You can’t mess with that. Rookie mistake.”
Chuckles ensued as Ehlers flashed a just-messing-with-ya grin.
It was a scene that spoke of the 18-year-old Dane’s confidence in front of the camera. This after he had flashed more of the same skill that wowed the Jets before they called out his name on draft day and then had reconfirmed at the team’s Development Camp in July.
And it also stokes up a question worth asking with main training camp on the immediate horizon: could Ehlers or Josh Morrissey, the club’s first-round pick in 2013, or Nic Petan or Scott Kosmachuk, legitimately push for work with the big club as teenagers?
“I want to play. I want to give everything I have to make the team this year. But I’m not the one making the decision,” said Ehlers Thursday. “The only thing I can do is give my best every single day, every single practice, workout, game. That’s what I’m going to do.
“They drafted me because they see, in a few years maybe, I can play in the NHL. I’m not going to come here and change my style that I play. I’m going to play my game like all the other guys on the team.
“I want to make it that far (to main camp). I want to see what it’s going to be like. But it’s my first camp here and I can’t really say what’s going to happen. I guess we’ll just see.”
The Jets are in an intriguing — many fans would say “frustrating” — stage in their rebirth here in Winnipeg. Clearly they remain committed to their draft-and-develop blueprint, now three years into the plan. And yet little was done this summer to augment a roster that includes players now in the prime of their careers such as Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom, Brian Little, Michael Frolik, Mark Stuart and Evander Kane.
There is a commandment about not rushing prospects, but last season both Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba worked through some freshman-type mistakes before becoming key contributors by January-February.
And so excuse Ehlers and Morrissey if they aren’t openly asking, why not us? Both may have some maturing to do, both physically and mentally, but their hockey sense and skills are off the charts.
St. John’s IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge spoke glowingly Thursday of Morrissey’s off-ice game as much as the skills he flashed on it during last year’s run to the Calder Cup final.
“There’s aura or presence when he comes into a room,” said McCambridge. “To me, that’s a building block for leadership and he has that.”
Morrissey, who put on about 10 pounds this summer and is now at 190 or so, played in 112 games last season with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, Canada’s world junior squad and the IceCaps.
Asked what he took from last season, what he might have learned, Morrissey grinned and said: “I know I can play 112 games (including Jets pre-season games) and still be standing.
“I was able to learn, especially in St. John’s, to feel comfortable. Once I got into a few games and started playing, I felt that I belonged. My confidence just grew and kept growing.
“I’m coming in wanting to make the team. I’ve put in the work this summer and over last season. I feel my pro opportunity last year really helped me as a player and to feel more comfortable.
“I’m coming in with my goal being to make the Winnipeg Jets this year. I’m going to do everything I can every day to make the team.”
Petan would say the same thing. Ditto Kosmachuk and Adam Lowry, all of whom have the same kind of quiet confidence and right-now expectations.
And, of course, there’s Ehlers, who has already proven to be a very quick study. Example: while trading places in front of the media throng, Ehlers offered Morrissey a key piece of advice.
“Don’t steal the coin.”
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @WFPEdTait
Could Nik Ehlers and Josh Morrissey, or any of the team’s other young prospects, make the Winnipeg Jets as teenagers?
According to the NHL, there were 20 Calder Trophy-eligible players who played at least one regular-season game last season prior to their 20th birthday.
*NHL’s top rookie
Updated on Friday, September 12, 2014 7:51 AM CDT: Replaces photo, adds table