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Top-10 Jets Prospects Playing with the Manitoba Moose

A look at the top 10 prospects playing for the Jets farm club.

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As the Manitoba Moose prepare for their home opener tonight, we look at the top 10 Jets prospects who are currently on the AHL roster…

The Top-10 Manitoba Moose Prospects

Age as of December 31, 2017

F Kyle Connor               21
F Jack Roslovic             20
G Eric Comrie               22
D Sami Niku                  21
F Michael Spacek         20
F Brendan Lemieux     21
F Jansen Harkins         20
F Chase De Leo             22
D Nelson Nogier           21
F Mason Appleton        21

LW Kyle Connor: While many expected the soon-to-be 21-year-old to crack the Jets’ opening night lineup, the Jets opted to send Connor back to terrorize the AHL a little more. Last year, the dynamic winger scored 25 goals in just 52 games, including 17 goals in the last 20 games played. So far this season, he has 2 goals and an assist through the Moose’s first 2 games. There’s no question that Connor has the skill to play in the NHL one day – his speed is near-elite, he has a sniper’s shot, and he’s extremely dangerous off the rush – but with Jets’ coach Paul Maurice insisting on using just two scoring lines, along with two checking lines, there wasn’t room for Connor to start the NHL season. As with most young forwards, he needs to continue to get stronger in order to win more puck battles, and learn how to read the play better in defensive zone coverage. Aside from that, it’s just a matter of gaining more confidence, and getting a proper opportunity in the NHL with players who will complement his skill set.

All video courtesy of Jets Prospects 

C Jack Roslovic: It was roughly this time last season that the organization made the decision the keep the 19-year-old Roslovic with the Moose rather than send him to the OHL, and the powerhouse London Knights. While it was mildly surprising at the time, Roslovic ending up leading the team in scoring with 48 points, and being named an AHL all-star. Now in his second AHL season, Roslovic is biding his time with the Moose, honing his skilled, heady game which is making great progress in all three zones. A tremendous skater, with good vision and an underrated shot, he can make crafty plays in the offensive zone, skate the puck with ease through the neutral zone, and break up plays effectively in the defensive zone. He’s also used frequently on the penalty kill, where he’s gaining valuable experience. This season, he has 3 points through the first 2 games. There’s a spot for Roslovic somewhere in the Jets’ top-9 in the years to come, most likely in the 2018-19 season. Time and money are both on the Jets’ side, as the 20-year-old is still on the first year of his entry-level contract.

G Eric Comrie: Now entering his third year in the AHL, Eric Comrie is the guy who’s looking to “take the next step”. In this case, that means improving his numbers, and making the playoffs for the first time in his pro career. Last season, Comrie posted a 19-26-2 record, along with a 2.96 GAA and .906 save % – numbers which had some asking whether Comrie truly had NHL potential. In watching Comrie play most of the past two seasons at home, it’s clear that he has a lot of talent, a great intellect for the game, and a tremendous work ethic. What he hasn’t had in these past two seasons is a defence which can prevent high-danger chances. Comrie has frequently been hung out to dry over the past two seasons, facing over 30 shots in 59 of the 87 games which he played from start to finish. (He was pulled or came in in relief in 10/97 appearances). This season, the Moose have a deeper, more talented blueline than in the years past, with only 1 rookie expected to play big minutes – 21-year-old Sami Niku, who is a rookie in name only after playing the last 3 seasons in the top professional league in Finland. Comrie’s numbers should improve based on the quality of team in front of him, but by the same token, he will be judged more harshly if they don’t improve by leaps and bounds. He has said that making the playoffs are a major goal of his this season, and has also talked about how a Calder Cup playoff run has helped other young goalies make their push to the NHL. Expect him to spend all of this season with the Moose, and perhaps most of 2018-19 as well. Note that goaltenders who start their pro careers at age 20 are not waiver-eligible until they’ve played 4 professional seasons, meaning that Comrie can’t be taken off waivers until the fall of 2019, (as Malcolm Subban was taken this fall by Vegas, from Boston).

D Sami Niku: If you’re looking for a fabulous skater who can move the puck, then you’ve come to the right place. A gold medalist for Finland at the 2016 World Juniors (alongside Patrik Laine), it’s hard to believe that Niku was once a 7th round pick (2015), which in draft terms is an afterthought. The main knock against him was size, as he weighed around 170 lbs on draft day. While he’ll certainly never blow anyone away with size and strength, he’s 6 feet tall – the same height as Josh Morrissey – and is now listed at 194 lbs. His offensive game has also progressed nicely – last season, he finished 7th in scoring among Finnish league (Liiga) defenders. Niku has opened the season with 2 assists in the first 2 games. With the Moose expected to use Julian Melchiori and Peter Stoykewych as their “shut-down” pairing, Niku won’t have to match up against the AHL’s best, but he should still have the opportunity to play big minutes. He’s easily the most dynamic defender on the Moose, but he’ll need some time to get adjusted to a faster pace of play, as well as living in a new country.

C/RW Michael Spacek: This slick Czech playmaker is entering his first full season in the AHL after a brief 4-game debut in the spring. He’s coming off a dominant season in the WHL where he put up 85 points in just 59 games, good for 1.44 points per game. The hallmarks of his game are great puck control, patience and vision, which he uses to create chances for others. While slightly undersized at 5’11, he’s pretty strong on his skates – in his very first Moose game, he absorbed a hit in open ice and knocked his opponent down while maintaining control of the puck. While his skating is good, given his lack of size and reach, it’ll need to improve a lot more in order to create space to make plays at the NHL level. Another knock against him is that he doesn’t shoot enough, even though he has a pretty dangerous shot. With higher-end prospects like Connor and Roslovic ahead of him on the depth chart, Spacek has plenty of time to develop his game with the Moose. The transition from the CHL to the AHL is usually a big step, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can establish himself as a top-6 forward at the AHL level in his rookie year. So far this season, he has 1 assist through 2 games.

LW Brendan Lemieux: After a disappointing rookie year in the AHL, Lemieux is looking to bounce back and establish himself as an early call-up option for the big club. Expectations were pretty high for Lemieux last season, as he was coming off a junior career which saw him score 73 goals in his last 102 regular season games in the OHL. Unfortunately, he started last season on the IR, and came into the lineup playing on a pretty ineffective 4th line. He got a bit of momentum going late in the year, only to end the year again on the injured list. In all, he posted just 12 goals and 7 assists in 61 games, playing mainly in a middle-6 role. He also took 130 penalties in minutes – tops on the Moose – in what is increasingly considered a negative category. Lemieux’s strengths are his shot, his ability to tip pucks in front, and the energy he brings on the forecheck which helps create turnovers. However, it was evident last year that he needed to get trimmer and quicker in order to skate at the AHL level, and that he needed to pick his spots better in his agitating style. The early returns are good – reports from training camp are that Lemieux did indeed look quicker; he only has 1 penalty through 2 games, and he’s posted a goal and 2 assists.   

LW Jansen Harkins: A second round pick in 2015, Harkins had a strong junior career, with 208 points in his last 203 games in the WHL. He also had a very nice debut for the Moose in the spring, with 2 goals and 2 assists in 4 games. The son of a pro hockey player – Todd Harkins played pro for 10 years, including 48 games in the show – Harkins’ strengths are hockey sense, vision, and passing ability. He’s also a tireless worker on and off the ice, and very mature (mentally) for his age. His weaknesses are athletic in nature – he has average size and strength – 6’1, 190ish – and slightly below average skating. The good news is that his weaknesses can be worked on, and with his work ethic, it’s likely that he’ll be a very different player in two or three years’ time. If he can add an extra gear or two, he has third line potential down the road. Harkins hasn’t played yet this year due to injury.

C/W Chase De Leo: Now in his third season in pro hockey, 22-year-old Chase De Leo is considered a leader on this club. After an excellent rookie season in 2015-16 where he led the Moose in goals (19), and was second in points (40), he regressed last year, with just 14 goals and 32 points. A versatile player at the AHL level who can play any position and in any situation, De Leo is probably best suited to the wing in the NHL, as his size (5’8 or 5’9), and lack of reach would make it difficult for him to defend big centres. And while he’s quick at the AHL level, he’ll need to add another step to create space for himself at the next level. Now in the last year of his entry-level contract, the time is now for De Leo to establish himself with the organization before several young(er) prospects pass him on the organizational depth chart.

RD Nelson Nogier: Nogier had a promising beginning to his pro career last season, playing bigger  minutes for the Moose as the season went on, and getting into 10 NHL games without looking out of place. At 6’3, Nogier is a lanky, right-handed defender with speed and good hockey sense on the defensive side of the puck. He’s limited in terms of puck skills, but he did show an ability to use his speed to jump into the rush at times. Unfortunately, his progress will be put on hold, as Nogier is out 4-6 months with a shoulder injury. Organizationally, there’s some depth on the right side, with Trouba, Byfuglien, Myers, and rookie, Tucker Poolman.

RW Mason Appleton: After a year in the USHL and two seasons in the NCAA, 21-year-old Mason Appleton is in his inaugural season of pro hockey. In 35 games last season, he led his team in goals (12) assists (19), and points (31). The 2015, 6th round draft pick has a “projectable” frame at 6’2, 200, and a pretty decent set of hands, particularly on the playmaking side. With the improved depth of the Moose roster, Appleton is likely to play bottom-6 minutes unless the organization runs into injuries. He has no points through the first 2 games this season. 

**Note**: While players like JC Lipon and Julian Melchiori may be depth options for the Jets this season, they’re too old to be considered prospects.

Moose Roster

2016-2017 Stats:

(In the event that a player played in multiple leagues, stats are displayed from the league where the most games were played, excepting those who played Canadian University Hockey)

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