The Moose are back for a second season of AHL hockey in the city. Become familiar with this squad as we break down the 2016-17 Manitoba Moose roster.
This year’s edition of the Manitoba Moose should be a fascinating team to watch. While last year’s Moose graduated three prospects – Joel Armia, Connor Hellebuyck, and Josh Morrissey – this year’s squad looks to contribute several more in the coming years. There’s 21-year-old goaltender Eric Comrie, 19-year old centre Jack Roslovic, and 20-year-old left-winger Brendan Lemieux – all of whom have bright futures but haven’t yet suited up for the Jets. Then you have a group of more experienced forwards, like 21-year-olds Nic Petan and Chase De Leo, 22-year-olds Andrew Copp, Marko Dano, and Scott Kosmachuk, and 23-year-old J.C Lipon – all of whom got into game action with the Jets last season, and are looking to make the jump to the NHL full-time in the next year or two.
One thing that will be clear from the start is that the quality and depth at forward doesn’t remotely resemble what the team had last year – this year’s squad blows it out of the water. The Moose are also set in goal with a rising star in Eric Comrie, a recently demoted NHL’er in Ondrej Pavelec, and another young goalie waiting in the wings in the ECHL – Jamie Phillips. But like the parent club, this Moose team does have an achilles heal, and it’s on the back-end, where they lack the quality prospect(s) who could reasonably be expected to play in the Jets’ top-6, and certainly don’t boast a player who has the promise of a top-4 talent. (Though d-men do have a way of surprising you at times).
Below is a brief summary of each Moose player, and a glimpse at their future in the organization:
Eric Comrie <— click to view stats
Don’t let the numbers from last year fool you: Eric Comrie is a tremendous goaltending prospect. A second round pick in 2013, and a former Canadian World Junior goalie, Comrie was good to outstanding for most of last season, playing behind a very young, banged up Moose team that was a bottom-dweller for the majority of the season. While Connor Hellebuyck has gotten most of the attention as the Jets’ goaltender of the future, some believe that Comrie might be a more talented goalie – although Hellebuyck has the clear edge in size (6’1 vs. 6’4). In spite of Ondrej Pavelec’s presence on the Moose roster, Head Coach Pascal Vincent has made it clear that Comrie will continue his development this season as the Moose’s #1 goalie. In 1-2 seasons, you can expect Comrie to be pushing his way onto the NHL roster.
Suffice to say, this probably isn’t what Ondrej Pavelec envisioned when he signed a five-year extension with the Jets back in 2012. But despite his $4.75M salary, and $3.9M cap hit, the Jets decided to waive Pavelec and make him the back-up goaltender for the Manitoba Moose. Now Pavelec will play out the last year of his deal and await a mid-season trade – perhaps the Jets can deal him to a team facing an injury to their starter (Jets would retain salary or take a large contract back). Otherwise, Pavelec will become an unrestricted free agent next summer and look to start fresh elsewhere.
A 7th round pick for the Jets in 2013, Phillips progressed well over his time in college hockey with Michigan Tech, being nominated for the Mike Richter award as top NCAA goaltender in 2014-2015. He turns pro this year and will join the ECHL’s Tulsa Oilers as the starting goalie.; if and when Ondrej Pavelec has been moved, Phillips will become the number 2 goalie with the Moose. At this point, it’s very difficult to project his potential at the NHL level, but it’ll be worth keeping an eye on his progress.
The youngest player (19) on the Moose roster, Roslovic is a first round pick (25th overall) in the 2015 draft. He played last season with the University of Miami (Ohio), where he led the team in scoring in just his freshman year with 26 points in 36 games. A well-rounded offensive talent, he combines excellent vision, passing and hockey sense with slick puck handling, good finishing ability, and a smooth skating stride. He projects as the Jets’ future second line centre behind Mark Scheifele, but not until he fills out his 6’1 frame, and adjusts to the pace of play in the NHL. Expect Roslovic all of this season with the Moose, but don’t be surprised if he gets a sniff of the big league as soon as next season.
A left winger cut from the same cloth as his father Claude (who – fun fact – is now an NHL agent), Brendan Lemieux is a gritty player who scores goals and annoys the opposition. He showed a strong nose for the net in each of his last two OHL seasons, scoring 41 goals in 57 games, and 32 goals in 45 games. He joined the Moose at the end of last season, scoring 2 goals and adding an assist in 5 games, and looking very much like a pro right out of the gate. With a glut of uber talented wingers on the big club already (Laine, Ehlers, Connor, Wheeler), Lemieux figures to be in the mix for a third line role at some point in the next year or two. He’ll need to improve his skating and fitness in order to reach the next level, but that’s par for the course for most 20 year olds.
A 22-year-old centre with a solid frame and good smarts on and off the ice, Jets fans will be familiar with Copp, as he played 77 games for the team last year, scoring 7 goals and 13 points in a 4th line role. While some were disappointed with his demotion to the minors, favouring him over both Adam Lowry and Alex Burmistrov, it never hurts to have a little extra seasoning in the AHL, and this may be an opportunity for Copp to develop his offensive game more than he would by playing a 4th line role in the NHL. He should be one of the first players called up should injuries strike, and he still has a future as a checking line centre with the Jets.
Acquired in a trade-deadline deal for former Jets’ captain Andrew Ladd, Dano is a former first round pick of Columbus Blue Jackets back in 2013. An offensive winger with a very good shot, Dano is a darling of the analytics community, who believe his “quiet effectiveness” – his corsi numbers are better than many in the Jets’ current lineup – has been overlooked by Jets management. After spending most of last season in the NHL, this 22 year old winger is entering a crucial time in his development: if he comes in and puts up big numbers in the AHL, it’ll be clear that his place is in the NHL; if he doesn’t tear it up, there may be someone else in the organization that leapfrogs him and takes his place.
Just one year after making the Jets’ roster out of training camp, Petan has become a victim of the numbers game in Winnipeg, as younger players like Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor have eaten his lunch. Petan played 26 NHL games last season, earning 2 goals and 6 points, while he put up 32 points in the AHL in just 47 games. A former WHL scoring sensation (322 points in his last 188 WHL games), Petan has elite vision, passing, and hockey sense, but is hampered by his size – he’s generously listed at 5’9, 180. He brings a lot of the same traits as current Jet Mathieu Perreault, especially composure on the powerplay, but with the logjam of forwards in the Jets’ organization, it’s unclear what will become of Petan between now and the time that his entry-level contract expires in 2018. Like Dano, this is a big season for Petan to assert himself as too good for the AHL.
A former teammate of Petan’s with the Portland Winter Hawks of the WHL, De Leo had a very good rookie season with the Moose last year, scoring 19 goals and 40 points in 73 games. He’s a hardworking centre with a great shot and good skill, who, like Petan, is limited by his size (5’9, 185). The Jets love De Leo’s attitude – he’s a very confident, poised young guy who always stays positive, but with the lack of size and reach, he’s going to need to add a lot of speed if he’s going to be able to create chances for himself at the NHL level like he can in the AHL. Going into his second pro season, there’s no rush for De Leo to make it to the NHL level. Except him to be one of the top Moose scorers this season.
Kosmachuk is an intriguing talent for the organization. He’s a great shooter with a underrated passing ability who at times looks like an NHL talent, and at other times, is virtually unnoticeable. He was quiet for the first half of last season, but his game really picked up after he was paired with centre Nic Petan partway through the year. Then in March he got into 8 games with the Jets, adding 3 points and looking dangerous at various points. Kosmachuk has enough talent to get another look in the NHL, but at this point, he doesn’t offer a lot outside of his offensive ability. This is a big year for Kosmachuk – until he shows that he can dominate the AHL, it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to score enough to stick in the NHL.
Howden is a local product from Oak Bank, Mb, who is a 1st round pick of Florida back in 2010. Now 24 years of age, he’s the veteran of 92 NHL games split over 4 pro seasons. A good skater who stands 6’2, 190, he’s a good depth option for the Jets’ organization, but if he has strong NHL aspirations, he may have chosen the wrong organization, as it’ll be tough for him to get to the NHL full-time with the Jets’ glut of young forward talent.
Lipon is a gritty, hard working forward who battles hard every shift and shows good finishing ability at the AHL level. And after being the last forward cut from Jets’ camp last year, and getting into 9 NHL games last season, Lipon must have felt that his career was on the right track. Unfortunately, like Howden, Lipon is now stuck in a numbers game in the organization, and it doesn’t appear that he’s going to come out on top. While he’s an excellent two-way forward in the AHL, he lacks the size, skill, and skating ability to contribute much at the NHL level. Now in his 4th pro season, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be able to surpass other young players in the organization like Copp, Dano, Lemieux, Roslovic, Petan, and others.
Lodge is a skilled forward who looked overwhelmed for much of last season. A former scorer in the OHL, Lodge was held goalless for the first 42 games, before exploding in his 43rd game of the year, scoring a hat trick out of nowhere. He picked up right where he left off, with 3 goals in two pre-season games, playing on a line with skilled prospect, Jack Roslovic. Going into his second pro season, Lodge isn’t the same caliber of prospect as the players ahead of him on this list, but it will be still be interesting to monitor his development this season.
After spending the last 4 seasons with the Jets after being claimed off waivers from St. Louis in 2012, Peluso became a victim of the numbers game and will play out the last season of his one-way NHL contract with the Moose. One of few remaining heavyweights in the NHL last season, Peluso will bring his grit and muscle to the AHL and will “protect the youngsters”, if you subscribe to that theory.
In the last year of his NHL entry-level contract, Olsen is entrenched as the Moose’s 4th line centre. A good skater with size, Olsen has thus far been unable to establish an offensive presence at the AHL level. With the tremendous forward depth in the organization, he may not have an NHL contract next year unless his play improves dramatically.
Entering his second professional season, Blomqvist split last season between the AHL and the ECHL. At 6’7, 220, Blomqvist has intriguing size, but his hands and skating haven’t been able to catch up just yet. With the new organizational depth, Blomqvist may struggle to get into the lineup unless there are a lot of injuries on either the Jets or the Moose.
Fronk is a skilled Czech winger who has a dynamic quality to his game. He is a good puck handler with a wicked wrist shot, which he used to score 6 goals in 33 games, despite playing exclusively on the 4th line, with no PP time. Unlike all of the players above him on this list, Fronk doesn’t have an NHL contract – he’s on an AHL-only deal. At 22, Fronk soon needs to prove that he can be an effective AHL player if he ever hopes to get an NHL entry-level contract, whether it be from the Jets, or another team.
The newly named Moose Captain, Cormier is in his 7th pro season and has signed an AHL contract, meaning he is not considered a call-up option for the Winnipeg Jets. Cormier is a hard-working player who is trusted in all situations at the AHL level, but who lacks the skating ability and hockey sense to play at the NHL level. He will bring size, grit, and leadership to this young group.
Glennie was the 8th overall pick by Dallas in 2009, but was unable to crack the NHL, playing just 1 game in 2009. After taking last year off of hockey, the Winnipegger has come to the Moose on a PTO (Professional Tryout Offer), and will be here until at least December. He will provide depth for the organization, and he brings versatility up front, playing centre and right wing.
A graduate of Robert Morris University, Denham joined the Moose late last season and put up 1 goal and 3 assists in 9 games. At 6’4, 220, Denham is a big winger who has decent finishing ability. He’ll need to work a lot on his skating in order to be considered an NHL prospect, and at 24 years of age, he’d certainly be a late bloomer.
6’1, 210 and loaded with heart, Kramer is a good team guy who led the Moose in fighting majors last season. Unfortunately, his role with the team is now in jeopardy with Anthony Peluso in the fold. He will be a depth winger for the Moose this season.
Melchiori is a big defenceman (6’4, 210), who skates fairly well for his size, but has limited puck skills. A third round pick by Atlanta in 2010, he’s going into his 5th season of pro hockey. He played 11 games with the Jets last season and didn’t look out of place, and chances are he’s the first call-up on defence if the Jets run into injuries. In terms of potential, he’s probably reached his ceiling as a call-up option – he hasn’t been able to add any offence at the AHL level, and he simply doesn’t move the puck well enough to earn a regular spot.
Kichton is basically the opposite of Melchiori – a very smart, offensive defenceman who lacks size (5’10, 185), and whose skating may not be good enough to make up for his deficiencies in strength, reach, etc. He led the Moose in scoring last season with 41 points in 68 games, and had a late season call-up to the Jets but wasn’t able to dress for a game. Now entering his 4th season in the AHL, Kichton may be nearing a crossroads in his career – now in his mid-20’s, this is roughly the age where many high-end AHL players who aren’t able to crack the big league (often called “tweeners”), consider going to Europe to earn more money.
A 4th round pick in 2013, Kostalek was named the top defenceman in the QMJHL in 2015. However, like many young Moose players, last season was a rough transition to the AHL for Kostalek – he played 52 games, adding 9 points, but sat a few games in the press box, and missed several more due to injury. Kostalek is an all-around defenceman who does everything fairly well – a good skater with decent size (6’1, 200), who moves the puck well and makes good decisions, but who doesn’t wow you in any particular way. Kostalek is one of only two Moose defenceman who is playing on an NHL entry-level contract, and at 21, he’ll probably be their youngest everyday d-man. (Nelson Nogier is 20, but may sit a few games in the press box). Defencemen tend to take longer to develop than forwards, so this season will be very interesting for Kostalek, who still holds some NHL potential.
The youngest defenceman (20) on the Moose roster, Nogier was a 4th round pick in 2014. A big defenceman who skates well, Nogier has limited puck skills and has certainly not been a darling for those in the analytics community who assess Jets prospects. He’s a stay-at-home defenceman if there ever was one, but if he doesn’t improve his passing and decision making, it’s hard to see him having any type of career at the NHL level.
A 7th round draft pick by Atlanta back in 2010, Stoykewych is a local boy who turned pro last season with the Moose. A decent skater with a large frame (6’3), he has limited offensive ability but makes good decisions with the puck. He made good progress throughout the season, starting the year as a depth defender, and ending it in the top-4. While he’s old for a prospect (24), he’ll be interesting to watch in his second pro season.
Similar to Stoykewych, Baker is an older prospect (25) who has only played one season in pro hockey. And while he went undrafted, there’s a small chance that Baker could be a late bloomer, as he skates well for a player who’s 6’5, 225. He only played 9 games for the Moose last season, but he was impressive in a few of those outings. He’ll be worth keeping an eye on this season.
Signed to a 1-year, 1-way deal on July 1 for $600,000, Strait is a 28-year-old, defensive defenceman who has drawn the ire of many Jets fans as a regretful signing. His offensive game his been virtually non-existent at every level he’s played at (NCAA, AHL, NHL), and that isn’t likely to change now. He’ll play a top-4 role for the Moose and provide some leadership to a young group.
A big, 25-year old d-man who went undrafted, Czuczman has played 13 NHL games, 9 ECHL games, and 124 AHL games since leaving college in the spring of 2014. Like Strait, he most recently played in the New York Islanders organization, but they didn’t think enough of him to give him a qualifying offer this summer. He’ll provide depth for the organization, but isn’t likely to figure into the team’s long-term plans.
The captain of the Norfolk Admirals (ECHL) last year, he’s also a former St. John’s Ice Caps defender (2013-2015) who got into 8 games last season for the Moose. He signed a PTO this week and will provide depth for the Moose.