Roslovic proving he belongs

Young gun feeling more comfortable with big club

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Jack Roslovic knows he still has plenty to learn in his pursuit to be an everyday NHL player. But even though he understands the inevitable bumps that come with such a steep learning curve, he has proven to be a quick study in the two months he’s been up with the Winnipeg Jets, playing key minutes on one of the team’s top lines and looking every bit like he belongs.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/03/2018 (1731 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Jack Roslovic knows he still has plenty to learn in his pursuit to be an everyday NHL player. But even though he understands the inevitable bumps that come with such a steep learning curve, he has proven to be a quick study in the two months he’s been up with the Winnipeg Jets, playing key minutes on one of the team’s top lines and looking every bit like he belongs.

“I definitely felt he stood out to me in training camp,” veteran Bryan Little, who centres a line with Roslovic and Mathieu Perreault on his wings, recalled after Thursday’s practice.

“He’s young and he’s only going to get better, but the speed is the first thing you notice. He’s got a lot of poise and just patience with the puck that not a lot of young guys have.”

Trevor Hagan / The Canadian Press Winnipeg Jets' Jack Roslovic has proven to be a quick study in the two months he’s been up with the Winnipeg Jets.

After tearing up the American Hockey League with the Manitoba Moose for the first half of the season, leading the team with 35 points (15 goals, 25 assists) in 32 games, Roslovic, 21, was recalled by the Jets on Dec. 30. He hit the ice a week later for his second NHL game — he made his debut this past season in a 5-4 win over his hometown Columbus Blue Jackets — and he has remained in the lineup ever since.

At first, the Jets were hoping he could add some scoring punch to the fourth line, while also taking advantage of playing against lesser competition by working on his defensive game. Hovering around 10 minutes a night, which was a stark contrast to the heavy minutes he was earning with the Moose, Roslovic took the transition in stride.

“It was a challenge to get your feet wet. They always say that this league isn’t much different, but it’s a lot different,” said Roslovic, who was selected by the Jets in the first round — 25th overall — in the 2015 NHL Draft.

“The speed of the game and the way people play, it’s a lot more structurally sound in a lot of ways, which is hard to play against. You’ve got to do the right things every shift and every time you get the puck and every time you’re defending a rush or you’re in the defensive zone.

“As far as reads go, it’s a lot harder, but once you get your feet wet and once you get comfortable, it’s pretty easy.”

With more experience came an increase in confidence and opportunity. By his eighth game, with Mark Scheifele down with a serious shoulder injury, Roslovic was promoted to the top line with captain Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine. He’d make the most of his shot, tying the game midway through the third period with his first NHL goal. The Jets would go on to defeat the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in a shootout.

Roslovic remained there for the next four games, scoring two more goals and averaging more than 16 minutes of ice time. When Scheifele returned from injury on Feb. 9, Roslovic dropped back to the fourth line and his minutes were trimmed. What didn’t dip, though, was his production. He chipped in two assists over the next three games and was moved back up the lineup to where he is now, alongside Little and Perreault on the second line.

“If you stick to what you’re good at and what your line is best at, then you’ll be successful,” said Roslovic, who won a gold medal with the U.S. at the 2017 World Junior Championships.

“There is a reason why we’re together: we can all skate, we can all make plays and when we’re flying around and chipping in and going north, we’re really dangerous.”

Since the move, Roslovic has a goal and two assists in six games. His line had a particularly tough outing in a 6-5 loss to the Nashville Predators, where they were on the hook for two goals against and contributed none.

Roslovic doesn’t view his development in terms of goals and assists, but what he can glean from each time he’s out on the ice. Against the Predators, it was the taste of a playoff-like atmosphere, something he, like most of his teammates, will be completely new to this season. The Jets and Predators are considered among the legitimate Stanley Cup contenders this year, and could meet one another in the playoffs.

“It’s a really different style of hockey and that was just a taste of it,” Roslovic said.

“It’s good that I get to come in here and kind of tune up for it and do a couple of regular-season games. I’m excited and a lot of the young guys are excited and eager to get ready.”

Of course, there will be much to learn between now and April, and in the years to come. What’s clear, though, is Roslovic will no doubt play a key role in the Jets’ future.

“Right where he’s at now is the place he’s trying to hang onto. I like him on the wing,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said.

“If the centre ice is available for him maybe a couple of years from now, you get an injury and we’ll slide him in and if he flourishes there, we might consider leaving him there.

“He’s not a grinder, but for a guy with good hands and quickness he can win enough battles on the wall, get in and get on the puck. His real challenge — and Nashville wasn’t his A-game — is to be able to drive every single night.”

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

History

Updated on Friday, March 2, 2018 7:42 AM CST: Edited

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