The annual Young Stars tournament in Penticton, B.C. wrapped up Monday, with the Jets finishing the tournament with one win during their three games.
Admittedly, the Jets were outplayed through most of the first two games, before a wild third period against Vancouver on Sunday got the Jets a come from behind win sealed by the shootout.
But we’re not here for the results, we’re here for the players.
The Jets had a fun roster to track, with three first rounders and four second round picks playing. They also had reigning OHL and WHL goaltenders of the year, Dom DiVincentiis and Thomas Milic playing in net, respectively.
Here are thoughts on the players that stood out, and a few notes on some others.
Nikita Chibrikov, W, 50th overall in 2021
Chibrikov was noticeable the entire tournament, but especially that final game against Calgary, where he scored a goal and an assist.
He comes as advertised. He’s an undersized, skilled winger with above average puck skills – perhaps the best that I saw in a Winnipeg sweater this tournament. He looks like a player that can be both playmaker or shooter, displaying a comfort with the puck both off the rush (he was hard to handle once he got going), and an ability to handle the puck in smaller, tighter areas.
Overall, he impressed against his age group, and his five foot nine frame wasn’t noticeable, other than his lower center of gravity. He’ll be interesting to track with the Manitoba Moose going forward.
Brad Lambert, C, 30th overall in 2022
Brad Lambert is one of the easiest players to pick out in a tournament like this, because he’s a dynamic skater and the puck seems to find him.
Lambert was a zone entry machine, efficiently transporting the puck through the opposition’s blue line regularly. He has good skill, but the skating is his real tool. He also showed bravery and a willingness to shoot, even trying a between the legs shot after an aggressive cut to the net from the left side of the goal. It’s always a good sign for a player who has the puck on his stick a lot to be aggressive towards the net. There’s no need to get too cute.
Like the rest of the team, he improved as the tournament went on.
But Lambert has his critiques, and, based on what I saw, they’re well founded. He can overhandle the puck, causing needless turnovers. He made some poor decisions around the Jets bluelines also resulting in turnovers, and was occasionally floating in the defensive zone more than defending.
With all that being said, you love the speed he brings, like his hands and willingness to shoot, and hope that as he continues to mature as a man and hockey player, he can improve his decision making and reads.
Colby Barlow, LW, 18th in 2021
Colby Barlow wasn’t terribly noticeable in this tournament, and given that the age of players range from 17-22, that’s not a massive surprise, especially given his skill set. Put bluntly, he looked like a junior aged player.
But that’s not to say there weren’t things you could like about his game.
He capitalized his chances as a finisher, scoring a goal in front after a brilliant set up by Daniel Torgersson. He also scored in the shootout in Sunday’s victory against Vancouver. Barlow also generated a few shots on net, showing off one of his better tools. His shot will definitely play against men.
He also showed composure with the puck, and a willingness to hang on to find a play, or carry the puck through the neutral zone. The issue was after those positive displays of patience and poise, once he gained the zone, the play died a little too often.
Overall, it was a decent showing for a player like Barlow, who – at first glance anyway – will need to be helped out by playing with skilled players who can get him the puck or allow him to crash the net.
He is not a flashy player, and he’ll be an interesting player to track from afar in the OHL as he tries to build on his 46 goal season last year.
Chaz Lucius, C, 18th in 2021
Chaz Lucius would be the player I was most disappointed by this tournament. I’ve watched him a bit at recent World Junior tournaments – where he scored nice, handsy goals around the net – but this was my first time really getting a look at him with the purpose of evaluation.
The reality is, when I look back at my notes, there just weren’t a ton of them on number 51, who could have been considered the top line center on the team.
He did do well working with teammates, working a few give-and-gos and teaming up on the forecheck to win the puck. You can see Lucius’ skill and how soft the puck is on his stick, and his ability to handle it in tight areas was apparent. There just wasn’t a ton of outcome from those moments.
I’ll be looking forward to tracking him this year with the Moose and getting a more complete view of the player.
Daniel Torgersson, W, 40th in 2020
Daniel Torgersson was a solid winger in the tournament. He doesn’t stand out, as he doesn’t move around the ice super well. But he had one very heady, against the grain backhand pass behind the net to set up Colby Barlow for a goal, and made a few solid plays.
This was my first time seeing him play, and it looks like he makes good reads regularly and works well with teammates. I’ll be looking to track him with the Moose more this season.
Elias Salomonsson, D, 55th in 2022
Salomonsson was a player I was keen to track this tournament, as he had a great season in the Swedish Hockey League last year. It was a positive draft + 1 season for a second rounder.
But admittedly, I’m still getting better at noticing the details and nuances of a defenseman’s game from an evaluation point of view. I find it much easier to evaluate and notice forwards.
Regardless, Salomonsson just looks like a good hockey player. I had notes on quite a few different scenarios for him; defending the net aggressively, pressuring well on the penalty kill, making a few good outlet passes, and dumping the puck in intelligently without forcing it.
After playing 25 games in the Swedish Hockey League next year, we’ll see how Salomonsson handles the smaller ice surface in the AHL. But his impression at the Young Stars tournament was a good one.
Daniel Zhilkin, C, 77th overall in 2022
Daniel Zhilkin was a player that impressed me.
He is a nicely sized at center at six foot two that just seems to get it.
He’s a good problem solver, who, when finding the puck in challenging situations (such as a puck recovery in the defensive zone or a broken play in the neutral zone), seems to end up maintaining possession and keeping the puck on a Winnipeg Jets stick.
Zhilkin also showed skill with the puck, transporting it comfortably with poise. He was around the net a lot, and he scored the shootout winner in game two against the Canucks.
Overall, Zhilkin looked good. He scored 29 goals and 56 points in the OHL last year split between the Guelph Storm and Kitchener Rangers, and will be looking to prove himself at the pro level this season.
Thomas Milic, G, 151st overall in 2023
Thomas Milic came as advertised. I don’t spend a ton of time focusing on goaltenders during these tournaments, but Milic played extremely well while facing a high shot volume. He made 17 saves alone in the first period against Vancouver.
All Milic has done is win, but questions about his size (he’s six feet tall) and the fact that his entire WHL career was spent on a loaded Seattle Thunderbirds team will persist.
Graduating to the pros this season, this is where Milic will truly have to start proving the doubters wrong. But early returns look good on a 5th round pick. I also like that he was drafted as a 20 year old, making him a bit ahead of Dom DiVincentiis developmentally.
Dom DiVincentiis, G, 207th overall in 2022
Dom DiVincentiis also played very well, particularly in game one against Edmonton where Winnipeg was outplayed. He made 33 saves in that 3-1 loss.
He made an amazing cross crease, desperation save save, and otherwise looked like a good goaltender who had to respond to a high work load just to keep his team in it. And he did.
DiVincentiis will report back to the North Bay Battallion this year, where he’ll look to build on last year’s breakout 36 win and .919 save percentage season.