It’s finally here.
After slogging through a long four month layoff since Winnipeg Jets hockey (it’s been 141 days since their game 5 defeat to Vegas in April, but who’s counting), starving Jets fans can finally get some semblance of real hockey.
No, it’s not the regular season. Heck, it’s not even the preseason. But this year in particular, Winnipeg has some intriguing talent on their Young Stars roster that makes this worth checking out a game or two for.
The puck drops tonight at 6pm central.
All games can be streamed at the Official Winnipeg Jets website.
Before we get to the fun, this is the full schedule for the weekend:
- Winnipeg vs. Edmonton, Friday, September 15th, 6:00pm CT
- Vancouver vs. Winnipeg, Sunday, September 17th 4:00pm CT
- Winnipeg vs. Calgary, Monday, September 18th, 12:00pm CT
Let’s get to it. Here are 5 interesting players suiting up for the Jets in Penticton.
Colby Barlow, LW, 18th overall in 2023
Colby Barlow is Winnipeg’s newest shiny draft toy, and many curious eyes will be watching him in this tournament. He’s coming off a marvelous draft season where he scored 46 goals.
Barlow’s tools are obvious. He’s six feet tall with a high level of compete and a heck of a release. He’ll hit, get to the dirty areas, and overall play a complete game. He’s considered to have a high floor due to his ability to impact all 200 feet of ice at the junior level, the questions will be about how he processes the game and finds space against men.
Finally, it’s one thing to have a great shot. But you have to be able to find spaces to use it at the pro level.
For now, though, and at least at this tournament, Barlow should get plenty of opportunities to rip some pucks on net and let everyone know that he has a top six future in the NHL ahead of him.
Chaz Lucius, C, 18th overall in 2021
Chaz Lucius ranks high on this list for interest-wise because he’s the oldest of Winnipeg’s four recent first round picks, and in theory, the closest to playing NHL games. Lucius’ junior eligibility is gone – and he already became a one-and-done college player by signing his entry level contract – so he is now officially in the pro ranks for the Winnipeg Jets organization.
That caveat to that is he’s had a really hard time getting games in, partly due to Covid and largely due to injury. He played just 18 games split between the AHL and WHL’s Portland Winterhawks last season (though he did score 5 goals in 7 World Junior games), after playing 24 games during his post-draft college season.
Playing 42 total games over two years is hardly ideal for a young, developing player.
But Lucius must do what he must, which is continue to use his good hockey sense and sharp hands to produce goals and points. He profiles more as a goal scorer to me, particularly when he’s fishing around the goalmouth for tap-ins and quick plays.
Step one for Lucius will be to stay healthy.
Step two will be to continue to show why he was a mid first round pick, and make good on the appealing attacking tools that he has.
Elias Salomonsson, RHD, 55th overall in 2022
Elias Salomonsson, by many accounts, seems to have taken significant strides over the latter half of last season and that has continued into this off season.
I admittedly haven’t seen him play, and am looking forward to getting a first look at him.
But the intrigue for me is twofold:
- It sounds like he is a well-rounded, two-way D that does a lot well
- If he hits, the 2022 draft (where they also selected Rutger McGroarty and Brad Lambert) could end up becoming a massive jolt for the organization’s refresh
At 6 feet tall, he has enough NHL size with good skating to help a team. That fact he’s right handed only helps.
Brad Lambert, F, 30th overall in 2022
From and entertainment perspective, Brad Lambert could very well be at the top of this list. After he joined the powerhouse Seattle Thunderbirds last year, I watched him last year play against the lowly Victoria Royals in the WHL last year.
He was impossible to miss, transporting the puck from end-to-end at an elite rate while also setting up teammates for quality chances.
At this tournament, Lambert should be one of the better players – and possibly best skaters. It will be up to him to continue to show his abilities against his peers, while also chipping away at his well-earned reputation of not always showing up consistently.
I’m looking for a big few games from Lambert in Penticton.
Nikita Chibrikov, W, 50th overall in 2020
Nikita Chibrikov has made his way across the pond to start his North American pro career, and comes with reasonable levels of intrigue.
At 5 foot 9, he’s undersized for the NHL, meaning he’ll have to prove a lot of doubters wrong on the uphill battle to an NHL future that awaits.
He’s played 51 games in the KHL over the past three seasons, scoring two goals and two assists. But younger players rarely get a ton of opportunity in the KHL. So the more telling stats to me, are the fact that two years ago he scored 15 goals and 31 points in 28 MHL games (the Russian junior league), and followed that up last season by dominating the VHL (the Russian version of the AHL) with 8 goals and 18 points in just 12 games, before scoring two points in 31 games for the big club.
Chibrikov seems to be an elusive and crafty playmaker with good puck skills, and he’ll be fun to watch against similar aged North American competition.