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The Monday Manitoba Moose Report

Catch up with all the latest Manitoba Moose news.

Kick start your week with the Monday Manitoba Moose Report, which fills you in on the latest news about the Jets AHL farm club.

(1) Moose Week in Review

The Moose played two games this week, and the games stood in stark contrast to each other. Thursday’s game was an underwhelming, 6-2 loss to the league’s top club, the Toronto Marlies, where the Moose were outscored 5-0 through two periods, and completely out-chanced and out-played throughout. Then on Saturday the Moose played perhaps their best game of the season, with a thrilling 6-5, OT victory over those same Marlies. Nic Petan scored the OT winner during 3-on-3 play, while Chase de Leo scored 2 goals, and J.C Lipon added 1 goal and 4 assists:

At this stage of the season, the Moose are well out of the playoff conversation, but the good news is that there’s always motivation for young players who are looking to step up to the next level – and the young players have been the only ones carrying this team in their 12 wins. Eric Comrie, Chase de Leo, Brenden Kichton, and J.C Lipon have been the most consistent players on the team, while Nic Petan has been a big contributor at times, and Josh Morrissey and Scott Kosmachuk have shown flashes of talent, especially in the past few months. Jiri Fronk has also been a nice surprise for the Moose – undrafted and unsigned by NHL teams, Fronk has 5 goals on the year in just 20 games, while getting virtually no time on the powerplay, or in the top-6.

Jiri Fronk

Several veterans on this club need new contracts in the off-season, and after the debacle of this season, you can bet that there will be significant roster turnover. Odds are that most of the guys like Cormier, McWilliam, Melchiori, Albert, Raffl, Harrison, and Fraser – most of whom have either suffered through injuries or have otherwise performed poorly – will not be around next season.

(2) Winnipeg Jets Prospect Pulse

A brief summary of the most notable Jets prospects playing in the CHL, the NCAA, and throughout Europe:

Kyle Connor

If you read last week’s post, or if you’ve been following Jets amateur prospects at all, you’ve already heard a thing or two about Kyle Connor. With 44 points in 25 games, he’s tied for the NCAA scoring lead, and is exceeding all possible expectations for the 17th overall pick in last year’s draft. There was at least one person who saw this coming – Craig Button had huge expectations for Connor a year ago, when he ranked Connor as the 6th best prospect in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. While his skill is undeniable, the one question for Connor in terms of turning pro is his physical maturity. While he stands 6’1, he was only around 175 pounds on draft day, so he may not be ready to translate his NCAA success onto the NHL stage. However, if he continues to impress, the Jets may push him to turn pro this off-season, as they did with Jacob Trouba after his dominant season back in 2012-2013.

Brendan Lemieux

After an early-season head-shot got him suspended for 10 games, and a trade took him from Barrie to Windsor, Brendan Lemieux has calmed down a bit and focused on playing hockey. His penalty minutes are down, and his goal totals are up, with 28 goals through  32 games, including 19 in just 21 games with Windsor. At 6’1, and already 210 pounds, Lemieux has the size and grit required to play at the pro level, and he may have the scoring touch to contribute in a secondary scoring role as well. He will turn pro next year, and will start the year with the Moose if he’s unable to crack the Jets’ lineup.

Jack Roslovic

While he’s not dominating the NCAA like Kyle Connor, Roslovic is having a very strong freshman year. He is leading his team in goals and points, and he ranks 4th in the NCAA in scoring among 18-year-olds. When you evaluate his 21 points in 27 games, you need to appreciate two things – not only is scoring far more difficult in the NCAA as compared to the CHL, but as an 18-year-old, Roslovic is frequently facing players who are as many as five years older than him. The typical age range in US College hockey is 18-23, whereas in the CHL, it’s mainly 16-19; so when an 18 or 19 year old, drafted prospect is dominating the CHL, that is merely expected (i.e, Brendan Lemieux), whereas when an 18-year-old, NCAA  freshman is more than holding his own, that should be celebrated as a success. Roslovic will likely spend at least one more year in the NCAA, and may be part of the US World Junior team next Christmas.

Michael Spacek

A fourth-round pick in last year’s draft, Spacek plays with the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL. He is having a strong rookie season, with 44 points in 42 games, which places him second in team scoring, and fifth in scoring among all WHL rookies. (Third on a points-per-game basis). He scored two goals this weekend in a comeback victory over Moose Jaw, including the winner in OT, and he also played for the Czech Republic at the World Juniors this year, tallying 5 points in 5 games. While he isn’t big (5’11, 185), or incredibly fleet of foot, he has good hands, a creative mind, and a good shot, and has the potential to be top-6 forward in the NHL if he adds more size and speed.

Jansen Harkins

After an impressive 17-year-old season saw him post 79 points in 70 games, and be selected in the second round of the draft, Harkins had a poor start to the year, with just 6 points in his first 13 games, and a -9 rating. To make matters worse, a few of Harkins’ teammates actually got off to hot starts, so it’s not that he fell victim to a poor team effort. The good news is that Harkins has picked up his play after those early season jitters, posting 39 points in his last 39 games, including 18 of his 19 goals on the season. Harkins was billed on draft day as a smart, hard working player who could be a scorer in junior but who projects as a middle or bottom-6 forward at the NHL level; with his offensive regression this year, that scouting report is sounding pretty accurate. Harkins has one more year left in junior before he turns pro in 2017-2018.

Sami Niku

Those who follow the draft closely were pleased when the Jets picked Niku with the 198th pick in last year’s draft. Prior to being drafted, Niku had already played pro hockey in Finland’s top league (Liiga), and on Finland’s World Junior team in 2015. That pick is starting to look better all the time, as Niku is currently leading all U-20, Liiga defencemen in scoring with 10 points in 34 games, and the vast majority of those points came after Niku came back from the World Junior Championships, where he helped Finland win the gold medal. While he has a slim build at 6′, 175, Niku is a very fluid skater who makes smart decisions in all zones. He turns 20 next year and, depending on his contract status, may have the option of coming to Winnipeg to play for the Moose, or continuing his development in Finland.

C.J Franklin

Franklin is a hard-nosed winger who is in his Sophomore year with Minnesota State in the NCAA. After a slow start to the year, Franklin has been on fire of late, recently recording a 5-game goal scoring streak, which saw him pot 6 goals, along with 3 assists. He is leading his team in goals, and is part of a successful squad who are in first place in the WCHA conference. Franklin – who turns 22 in March, may be looking to turn pro at the end of his college season. His upside is as a bottom-6 winger at the NHL level.

Other Jets’ prospects worth following:

Mason Appleton (F) – 19 points in 28 games (Freshman at Michigan State)

Erik Foley (F) – 13 points in 26 games (Freshman at Providence College)

Tucker Poolman (D) – 15 points in 24 games (Sophomore at the University of North Dakota)

Jamie Phillips (G) – 16-6-5 record, 2.00 GAA, .921 save % (Senior at Michigan Tech)

Pavel Kraskovsky (F) – 3 points in 39 GP (first full season with Yaroslavl Locomotiv, KHL; played for Russia at WJC)