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Winnipeg Jets

Updates on some Winnipeg Jets prospects and the 2022 NHL Draft Class

Lots of insight on Jets prospects.

Last week on Winnipeg Sports Talk Scott Wheeler of The Athletic joined Andrew “Hustler” Paterson for some Jets talk (watch video here). The two began their chat about the organization being at a tipping point with the uncertainty surrounding Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois and how it may be the end of an era.

However, Scott sees Winnipeg as fairly well positioned in terms of the youth that are coming. He began by extolling the virtues of 2020 1st rounder Cole Perfetti.

“I’ve been, since he was 16 years old, a huge believer in Cole Perfetti. I think he’s going to be a point per game player in the league and a true sort of star winger. We’ll see whether it happens for him at centre and all that. Big, big believer in Cole.”

He then moves to the Jets first rounder from 2021 Chaz Lucius who signed a pro deal with Winnipeg last summer after one year of college at the University of Minnesota. He played some pro games with the Moose (12GP 2G 3A) before he was assigned to play junior with Portland of the WHL. He would play six games with the Winterhawks where he scored five goals and added 10 assists before his season concluded with the need for surgery in February.

“I like Chaz a lot. Obviously the health issues with Chaz are concerning and they are reoccurring and of different varieties now too. That’s something he is going to have to sort of overcome, he’s going to have to stay healthy and get back on track.”

Next up was the second selection by Winnipeg in the first round of the 2022 draft in Brad Lambert. Like Lucius, Lambert started the season with the Moose of the AHL (14GP 2G 1A) before being assigned to Seattle of the WHL where he put up 17 goals and 21 assists for 38 points in 26 games for the Thunderbirds during the regular season. He added six goals and 20 assists for 26 points in 17 playoff games as Seattle defeated Winnipeg to become WHL Champions.

“He’s had a really, really nice run. He’s been a hugely important piece of the team I believe are the Memorial Cup favourites in Seattle.”

He thereafter spoke about the first first rounder in 2022 by Winnipeg in University of Michigan forward Rutger McGroarty. He had a solid freshman year in Ann Arbor with 18 goals, 21 assists for 39 points in 39 games.

“Strong freshman year at Michigan.”

He went on to say how these four players could be “good, solid top nine NHL players”. Spoke about how Winnipeg has hit on the mid teens draft picks.

Added these thoughts about 2019 1st rounder Ville Heinola who spent most of the 2022-23 season in the AHL with Manitoba where he had four goals and 33 assists for 37 points in 48 games in addition to playing ten more with the Jets.

“I still think Ville Heinola is going to join that group and become an everyday sort of number four, number five defenceman kind of thing.”

Hustler asked Scott for additional insight into Lambert/McGroarty and about 2022 2nd rounder Elias Salomonsson who is a right shot defenceman out of Sweden playing for Skelleftea AIK in the Swedish Hockey League. These comments were very interesting given he is a prospect most folks here in North America haven’t had a chance to watch him play before.

“Salomonsson is a real interesting one. I had a chat with one of his coach’s over in Sweden last week for a different story I was doing on Axel Sandin Pellikka and in that process just really got chatting about Salomonsson and they just wanted, both, both the folks within the organization wanted to just wax poetic. They felt that before he got injured he was one of their best defencemen in the SHL last year. The quote that he used was a good one and I am paraphrasing here but he told me basically ‘I’ve seen good players become great players. I’ve never seen average players become great players as quickly as Salomonsson did last year’, and sort of said they didn’t even have even luke warm expectations for him. They were kind of down on him and then he was tremendous before some injury troubles sort of got in the way of his season. So he’s going to be a big, big part of the World Junior team on home ice in Sweden, in Gothenburg this coming December. They’re going to have a really strong blueline, that Swedish blueline from top to bottom will be impressive, it will be the strength of that team and I expect him to be a big part of that. So that’s a nice boost. He’s a kid who played really well in junior in the early years of his career, always played above his age group was coming into his draft year, believed to be sort of a true top prospect. And then didn’t fall off but became kinda that second tier, second round type prospect where he was ultimately picked. For him to now regain some of that cache and some of that status that he had prior, is a really positive step for him and a positive step for the Jets pool. There’s definitely reason for optimism with Elias.”

Then he added some thoughts on Lambert:

“The speed and the skill we’ve all seen it. I know it wasn’t consistent in the AHL but he was put in a tough position. Last summer from a conversation I had with Lambert for a Q & A that I did with him, last summer was really his first year training. He came over and stayed in Aurora (Ontario) which is actually where I’m from and trained with Gary Roberts at St. Andrews College and it was really the foundation of him trying to sort of build something for himself. If you’ve seen him he’s a pretty skinny kid. He’s a tall kid but he’s a pretty skinny kid still, really athletic but there’s a lot that’s still going to change about him, his body, his game. I think spending the second half of this year playing at the junior level, playing with his peers, getting really feeling good about himself again I think was the right thing for him and I expect he’s going to score some big goals in the Memorial Cup and be sort of a timely, key contributor there. He doesn’t dominate games at the WHL level in terms of every shift and all over the puck and that kind of thing but his skill flashes four or five times a game and it sort of opens your eyes. That’s who he is. He’s going to play with speed and skill. I think he’s going to frustrate some coaches along the way. I know he’s a competitive, fiery kid too though and I know he wants to prove people wrong in terms of rounding out his game a little bit. I am really interested to see where he takes it and what kind of career he might have because I think it can go in one of several directions.”

Lastly was McGroarty:

“Rutger is just going to be a good player. That’s who he is. He’s a good player. He’s been a good player at every level. He’s strong on his stick, he’s got the pro frame already. He’s a super charismatic kid that coaches love. He’s just one of those guys who is just going to be a solid NHL winger. I don’t think he’s going to have the sort of first line upside that Cole Perfetti has for example, but I do believe he’s going to be a really well-rounded scoring winger in the middle six there and kinda be a 40, 50 point player and be key a contributor to a good team. So I’ve got a lot of respect and admiration for Rutger.”

He went on to say that McGroarty will be at the top of the Jets power rankings in terms of quotability and his ability to communicate.