Another season has gone by for the Winnipeg Jets without a Stanley Cup Championship. Unfortunately, the Jets might lose a few roster players this off-season and perhaps some of their prospects in their farm system can fill in.
With Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers potentially not sticking around, the Jets need some defensive help. Plus, the Jets will likely be losing Kevin Hayes on July 1st, so there might be a need for some offensive reinforcements.
Let’s take a look and see who the top reinforcements might be.
2018-19 Top 10 Winnipeg Jets Prospects
1. Sami Niku – Defense – Manitoba Moose (AHL) & Winnipeg Jets (NHL)
HT/WT: 6’1”/194 lbs
Drafted: #198th overall in the 2015 draft by the Winnipeg Jets
Last season, Niku split his time between the Winnipeg Jets and their AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose. He appeared in 30 games for the Jets. In his time with the Jets, he tallied 1 goal, 3 assists, a 44.1 CF% and a 13:55 ATOI. Unfortunately, his possession metrics at even strength aren’t great, but keep in mind with a low ATOI that it’s hard to judge a player on his CF%.
While he was in the AHL, he played in 20 games with the Moose. He tallied 3 goals and 9 assists. That’s not too shabby. Niku has proven that he can be an offensive threat and that he could potentially fill in for Jacob Trouba (if he’s dealt).
In addition, Niku is a crafty passer, he’s got a blast of a slap-shot, he’s a gem at cross-ice passing and his puck-handling is NHL ready. The slight issue with Niku is his speed. He needs to get faster. If he wants to get more minutes in Winnipeg, he’s got to go zone to zone at lightning speed.
2. Leon Gawanke – Defense – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
HT/WT: 6’1”/198 lbs
Drafted: #136th overall in the 2017 draft by the Winnipeg Jets
The Berlin, Germany native has been an absolute joy to watch. He’s been playing in the QMJHL with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and as every season goes by, he shows that he’s trending in the right direction. This past season, he had a major improvement in the offensive zone. In 62 games played, he registered 17 goals and 40 assists. In his previous season, he had 4 goals and 28 assists in 62 games. It’s safe to say that Gawanke’s game is on the rise and he could be in Winnipeg soon enough.
Gawanke is exceptional at faking out his opponents and making them believe that he’s ready to fire a slap-shot. But, instead, he fakes them out and elects to pass. He’s got soft and crisp passing, great vision and he could a solid power-play quarterback.
3. Kristian Vesalainen – Left Wing/Right Wing – Manitoba Moose
HT/WT: 6’4”/207 lbs
Drafted: #24th overall in the 2017 draft by the Winnipeg Jets
Kristian Vesalainen initially was given a shot to stick around in Winnipeg last season, but he wasn’t truly ready. He was sent down to the Manitoba Moose and played 22 games in the AHL. In his stint in the AHL, he tallied 4 goals and 9 assists. After his stint in the AHL, he was loaned to Jokerit (KHL). During his 31 games with Jokerit, he was outstanding. He proved that he still had the offensive tool-kit that Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was truly impressed by.
While Vesalainen has had struggles in sticking around in North America, he is a gifted winger. He’s a two-way forward and is always hunting for the puck. Even in the offensive zone, he’ll pounce on is opposition and poke check to steal the puck. He’s also got a cannon of a shot and his skating is stellar. His cross-overs, inside edge and outside edge work are impressive.
4. Nathan Smith – Centre – Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (USHL)
HT/WT: 6’0”/176 lbs
Drafted: #91st overall in the 2018 draft by the Winnipeg Jets
The Floridian has blossomed into a solid forward prospect. Smith played high school hockey and midget hockey in the Tampa, Florida area. It wasn’t long before scouts across the United States learned about him. In 2017, he joined the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL. Last season, he tallied 18 goals and 35 assists in 59 games played.
Since joining the RoughRidgers, he proved to be an offensive threat. He’s got a pass-first mentality and loves to go right up to the net. He’s most effective at creating scoring chances when he parked a few feet from the crease. The only issue with Smith is that he needs to get faster. If you are going to play center in the NHL, you need to be speedy. You need to be the first into the offensive zone and you need to get back to the defensive zone at a rapid rate.
5. Austin Wong – Centre – Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)
HT/WT: 5’11”/190 lbs
Drafted: #218th overall in the 2018 draft by the Winnipeg Jets
Austin Wong is still far from skating at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, but he’s developing in the right direction. In his last season with the Okotoks Oliers (AJHL), he played in 47 games and tallied 62 points. He played eight fewer games last season than the season prior and registered eight more points.
Next season, Wong will be playing for Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard has one of the best development programs in the northeast and he’ll have a chance to continue to grow into a solid centreman.
In addition, Wong does a great job of evading his opponents with his fabulous puck-handling skill-set. He loves to be the first man into the offensive zone and has a solid wrist shot.
6. Logan Stanley – Defense – Manitoba Moose (AHL)
HT/WT: 6’7”/231 lbs
Drafted: #18th overall in the 2016 draft by the Winnipeg Jets
Logan Stanley’s offensive play regressed a bit in the AHL, but he’s still a warrior. He’s a tank. Stanley has proven to be physical and he’s not afraid to deliver an open-ice hit. But, at the same time, he’s a power-play specialist and has a great shot. His playing style reminds me of Dion Phaneuf. Both defenseman won’t shy away from laying out a hit, but they can also be dominant in the offensive zone.
As mentioned above, Stanley lost a touch in the AHL in terms of his offensive production. In 73 games played, he registered 6 goals and 16 assists. While Stanley’s production dropped in comparison to his numbers with the Kitchener Rangers in 2017-18 (15 goals and 27 assists), he’s facing tougher competition. So, who knows, perhaps Stanley might shine yet again next season with Manitoba. Don’t write him off just yet.
7. Mason Appleton – Centre/Right Wing – Manitoba Moose (AHL)
HT/WT: 6’2”/201 lbs
Drafted: #168th overall in the 2015 draft by the Winnipeg Jets
The Green Bay, Wisconsin native is ready for the NHL. Last season, he split his time between the Jets and the Moose. But, he’s proved that he’s ready to be with the Jets full-time. In 40 games played with the Moose last season, he posted 15 goals and 17 assists. The offensive production is there and if Hayes doesn’t stick around in Manitoba, Appleton might be the stopgap.
Appleton has great speed, a pass-first mentality, and superb vision. He’s a danger to his opponents. With his bag of tricks, he can shred you again and again. Plus, he’s a great poke checker and has an eye for loose pucks.
8. Michael Spacek – Centre/Right Wing – Manitoba Moose (AHL)
HT/WT: 5’11”/187 lbs
Drafted: #108th overall in the 2015 draft by the Winnipeg Jets
Michael Spacek is coming off of his second full season with the Moose and continues to improve. This past season, he played in 74 games and tallied 10 goals and 31 assists. That’s a slight improvement on his performance in 2017-18 with the Moose, in which he tallied 38 points in 70 games.
Spacek loves to plant himself right in front of the net-minder. He loves to draw the net-minder off his game. Also, Spacek can’t be slowed down in traffic. Even in a 3 on 1 situation, you can trust him to evade his opposition and use his speed to maneuver out of traffic quickly. He’s also a great puck carrier and if he continues to develop at this rate, he could turn into a solid top 9 forward.
9. Giovanni Vallati – Defense – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
HT/WT: 6’2”/198 lbs
Drafted: #153rd overall in the 2018 draft by the Winnipeg Jets
Vallati just finished his third full season in the OHL and his first with the Oshawa Generals. The move to Oshawa from Kitchener has done Vallati well. Since joining the Generals, he’s quickly become more of an offensive threat. Last season, in 68 games played, he posted 11 goals and 37 assists. When you compare that to his 2017-18 numbers, you’ll see that Vallati nearly doubled his production.
Plus, Vallati is a wizard on the power-play. He’s a pass-first defenseman and his vision is impeccable. The only slight issue with Vallati is that his offensive positioning needs to improve. Sometimes, Vallati tries to step into a forward role and needs to be more cautious about getting out of position.
10. Declan Chisholm – Defense – Peterborough Petes (OHL)
HT/WT: 6’1”/190 lbs
Drafted: #150th overall in the 2018 draft by the Winnipeg Jets
The Bowmanville, Ontario native is coming off of a great third season with the Peterborough Petes. In 67 games played, he managed to tally 5 goals and 43 assists. It seems that in every season, he continues to improve and add to his offensive tool-kit.
Like Vallati, he’s got a pass-first mentality. He’s always looking for the optimal play to create scoring chances. But, when he is shooting, he often creates exceptional scoring chances by aiming his shots at the goaltender’s pads. He looks to create rebound goals for his teammates. Plus, Chisholm isn’t a slouch in the other zones. In the neutral zone, he’s always looking for the optimal pass to create the perfect zone entry.