With the Jets (seriously, can you believe I just typed that?) getting ready to take to the ice in a little less than a month, I thought it would be worthwhile to make a list of what prospects I will be closely watching over the course of the next season. I typically like to follow the lower end guys, just to see who might be flying under the radar and ready to take someone’s job, but with this being the first year really paying attention to these players; I am going Top 10 for 2011-12.
I ranked the prospects based solely on my own feelings as how they should fit into a list of 10. The criteria used were very simple, namely what kind of potential/talent does the player have and how will that potential/talent be applied at the NHL level. Additionally, they had to be under 23 years of age and without a significant number of games played at the professional level (in North America).
Kyle’s Top 10 after the jump.
The Top 10:
- Mark Scheifele– No real surprise here. The first actual Jets first-rounder in nearly a generation, Schiefle showed the Jets’ brass enough for them to ignore more famous options (Sean Couturier) and select this Barrie Colt 7th overall. He decided against the college route to try and fast-track his development, and has showed very well in recent international competitions. He is a player on the rise, and it might not be long before we see him at the MTS.
- Jason Gregoire– Gregoire, who will turn 23 this winter, gets the benefit of the doubt from me here because I have seen him so much. A strong two-way winger with a plus shot and good skating ability, I would not be the least bit surprised to see Gregoire spend a good portion of this season in the NHL. He as a few years clearance on some of the other prospects, and plays a pro-style of game and is likely very adaptable to any role Claude Noel might give him.
- Paul Postma– Playoff series are won by teams that have players of Postma’s ilk in their lineup. Once a long-shot to make the NHL (as are most 7th rounders), Postma has done yeoman like work to improve his defensive game while retaining the offensive prowess that got him drafted in the first place. He makes a great first pass and is adept at running the power play. Like Gregoire, he will be 23 this winter and those few extra years give him a leg up on some of the other contenders on this list. I would foresee him being perhaps a 5-6 guy on the Jets who contributes to the power play without hurting you at evens.
- Carl Klingberg– I have been very high on Klingberg since first seeing him play at the World U-18’s in Fargo a few years back. A Swedish power forward with a penchant for big hits, Klingberg is a beast on the forecheck and can really create a lot of room for his linemates. I feel pretty guilty putting him at #4 on this list, but he is not likely to produce great numbers at the NHL level. That said, he is a very valuable prospect going forward and will play in the NHL very soon.
- Patrice Cormier– A very wise old coach once told me his favourite players were those guys who could find the line, go right up to it and put a couple toes across, but never actually cross the line. Cormier strikes me as the type of player who plays the game right on that edge but may be prone to making a quick foray to the other side just to see what is it like. Though people will decry this type of player, I would bet the same people would still want that player on their team. Cormier is a tough as nails center who likely won’t score much (his numbers to date back this up), but will give the opposition fits and allow his teammates to “play bigger”. Having an unpredictable player like this on the team gives Coach Noel a good option to send over the boards when the game is down and dirty.
- Ivan Telegin– This big winger (6’3), who was recently acquired by the Barrie Colts, is blessed with a great set of hands and has shown a desire to improve his game. After a so-so rookie year in the OHL, Telegin produced at better than a point-per-game clip with Saginaw this last season, all while keeping his head above water in the +/- department. He has the option of returning to junior, where he could line up with Scheifele, or moving on to the professional ranks. It may be worthwhile to the Jets to attempt to foster some chemistry between Telegin and Scheifele, but if the Russian winger shows well at camp, there may be no point to returning him to the OHL.
- Vinny Saponari- I keep talking about interesting Jets prospects, and Saponari is no different. A former Boston University player who was let go from the team for a drinking incident and subsequently denied a transfer to Boston College, played with the Dubuqe Fighting Saints of the USHL this winter and will enter Northeastern University this fall. The 6’1, 200 pounder from Georgia, Saponari will be leaned on heavily to produce in what will be his junior season. He posted big numbers for Dubuque last year after having a solid sophomore season at BU. Saponari has offensive talent and will be a very interesting player to follow. Hopefully he can put his dismissal behind him and move forward as a prospect.
- Eric O’Dell- I previously wrote about O’Dell in a Prospect Pulse and noted his playmaking abilities. After a strong year in junior and the overcoming of a potential heart problem, O’Dell should figure prominently in St. John’s to start the year. Playmaking aside, O’Dell has also shown talent as a goal scorer and a team can never have too many of these guys in the system. A former second rounder, O’Dell may be a year or two away from challenging for a spot, but keep a close eye on him at the AHL level.
- Zach Redmond- Though Redmond is currently 23, I have given him an exemption and allowed him onto the list because he has yet to play a professional game. Coming out of the unheralded Ferris State program in Michigan, Redmond possesses a big shot and was team captain for the Bulldogs. Able to play in any role, Redmond can make a nice first pass and will not hurt you defensively. It is unclear what his upside will be at the pro-level, but he should challenge for a top 4 role with the Ice Caps this season and be able to showcase both aspects of his game.
- Julian Melchiori- A former 3rd round selection, Melchiori spent last season with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL after deciding to take the major junior route instead of attending U.Mass-Lowell. Though he didn’t put up big numbers for Kitchener (1-18-19), he did get noticed for how well he moves and skates for a player of his size (6’4, 210) and is included on this list for that reason. Big and mobile defenders do not grow on trees, so Melchiori has the potential to turn himself into a valuable commodity.
Honorable mentions go to Daultan Leveille and Adam Lowry. Spencer Machacek, Arturs Kulda and Ben Maxwell missed the cut do to age limits and/or professional games played.
Again, I want to stress that this list is based solely on my own thoughts and prejudices and is a way for me to share who I will be keeping an eye on this winter.
Please leave your thoughts in the comments or hit me at on Twitter @ickylek