Jets set? Far from it

Here's an overview of the camp hopefuls

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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- They continued tacking toward their youth movement, declining to sign four unrestricted free agents in the off-season.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/09/2015 (2620 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — They continued tacking toward their youth movement, declining to sign four unrestricted free agents in the off-season.

Ten days into their 2015-16 training camp, the Winnipeg Jets continue to hold auditions for as many as four forward jobs and the candidates have made it highly competitive.

That has potentially rewarded the organization’s brain trust, which decided its system should get first crack at trying to fill the holes. Hindsight — though we’re not quite behind it yet — says it was the logical move, and there have been enough quality bids to at least say this path was worthwhile.

Ann Heisenfelt / The Associated Press Winnipeg Jets right-winger Nikolaj Ehlers storms in on net to rifle a shot that is deflected by Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk Sunday in St. Paul, Minn.

Of course, regular-season results will have more to say about that than pre-season games, so final assessments are surely months away.

The Jets have three more pre-season games this week to help with their decisions and preparation for the 82-game schedule.

Minds may have been made up in some cases, but not all. Here’s a mid-term progress report on those bidding for the roster:

 

Nikolaj Ehlers

Age: 19

Update: The team’s 2014 first-round pick has been placed in some plum spots in the pre-season, with experienced and offensive players for most of his time. It’s in deference to Ehlers’ skilled upside and speaks loudly to what the Jets likely have in mind to start the season. His audition on the right wing has gone well, not spectacularly, but improving a little with each outing all the way back to the rookie tournament in Penticton, B.C. He started Sunday’s game with Adam Lowry and Mathieu Perreault for the second straight time. Only an absolutely awful week ahead keeps him off the team now.

 

Andrew Copp

Age: 21

Update: He was placed under the gun early in the pre-season, getting action in the first three starts. He’s been hard enough on the puck and good with his reads, enough to figure he’s close to earning that fourth-line centre’s job to start the season. One of the key areas the team will be watching in the short term is if he can improve his faceoff performance, which is always a tough element of the game for rookies.

 

Nic Petan

Age: 20

Update: Is a centre but, is getting consideration at left wing, where he played at the world junior last winter. His ability to see the ice and do things with the puck enhance his chances greatly, but it will be his willingness to make plays along the wall and reliability when the Jets don’t have the puck that determines his fate. Some think he’s wasted on, or not a fit for a fourth line, but head coach Paul Maurice declared late last week Petan can be a fourth-liner and the Jets can afford to have a smallish player in this role if he’s diligent enough. Moved around lines in Sunday’s loss in Minnesota.

 

Matt Halischuk

Age: 27

Update: The veteran left-winger is a known quantity, an admired teammate. In the past, he’s proven versatile in his role as the 12th or 13th forward, able and ready to fill in. His readiness and his patience speaks to his professionalism and he’s exactly the kind of player you’d like in this role — seen but not heard. Halischuk will be the safe keep for the Jets again this season. There is almost no risk in him, but it would appear there’s not a great amount of upside.

 

Matt Fraser

Age: 25

Update: Got his second pre-season look Sunday against the Wild, starting with Patrice Cormier and Joel Armia. Fraser’s first outing in Edmonton was noticeable, his second less so. Signed in the off-season, likely for depth. It will be work ethic and responsibility that determines his spot to start the season. Looks like he’s in tough to make it.

 

Joel Armia

Age: 22

Update: Buffalo’s first-round pick of 2011 has had two North American seasons now and his new organization, the Jets, wants to see elements or consistency and progress if he’s to stay with the big team. Armia has exhibitied an above-average skill set but the right-wing puzzle in camp at the moment might be too difficult to change, especially if that’s the position Ehlers ends up in. If Armia doesn’t stay to start the season, expectations will be higher than in the past in the AHL.

 

Thomas Raffl

Age: 29

Update: The Austrian left-winger was clearly not in camp on a lark; he’s got plenty of game and size. For someone who has not played on the smaller North American rink in the last decade, his camp has probably been better than expected. He played out of position Sunday on the right side. It would be hard to make the case that Sunday’s game furthered his cause much.

 

Brendan Lemieux

Age: 19

Update: Buffalo’s second-round pick of 2014 has not disappointed. He’s got an edge and a great understanding of how things work at a higher level than junior. Of all the combatants for positions, however, Lemieux’s age may work against him no matter how gritty’s he’s been. A return to junior won’t be a slight on how he’s doing. Given the crowded picture, it may not be the right time for the young left-winger.

 

JC Lipon

Age: 23

Update: Lipon has the advantage of two pro years where he has clawed and scratched for all he has gained. He’s an energy player with an on-ice attitude. He has many backers in the organization but the tough thing today to figure out is where he fits, if Chris Thorburn is to be the fourth line’s right-winger.

 

Anthony Peluso

Age: 26

Update: With a minor camp injury, he played his first game of the pre-season Sunday in Minnesota and looked a bit rusty. Peluso is the only player the team has in the real heavyweight category and it’s unknown at this point if the Jets are willing to go without a player in this role. Our guess is it’s too early for them to do without, which probably bodes well for Peluso. His work ethic and advances in skills will be essential, because few teams can afford a roster spot for someone who can play only a couple of minutes. He’d require waivers to go to the Moose, which was the method the Jets used to pick him up from St. Louis in 2013.

 

Patrice Cormier

Age: 25

Update: Cormier has been hampered by injuries early in his career and has never just jumped off the page. Having been present for the Sunday outing in Minnesota isn’t likely to have helped his cause. That said, Cormier is an excellent faceoff man and a very sturdy, big-bodied forward who never seems to hurt the team.

 

Ryan Olsen

Age: 21

Update: He’s had one pro year and has grown. Olsen played again Sunday but that game is unlikely to have been much of an asset. The big centre has advanced his cause within the organization. The trend is most important in his case. He has size and moves well on his feet and is not afraid to put himself in harm’s way. At the moment, he’s got more battling to do to be in the team’s top four centres.

 

Scott Kosmachuk

Age: 21

Update: The right-winger started off his pro career with 14 goals in the AHL last season, making progress as the season progressed. His rookie tournament and camp have been somewhat flat and he hasn’t been heard from much. That he wasn’t included Sunday in Minnesota or last Friday in Winnipeg likely holds a message. See above in terms of the right-wing spot being a tough one to crack right now in this organization.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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Updated on Monday, September 28, 2015 9:38 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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