Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rookie Watch: Winnipeg Jets

Each day until September 15th TPS will take a look at one team from the Eastern conference and one club from the West, spotlighting a rookie or two to watch for this season. This afternoon we explore the freshmen candidates of the Winnipeg Jets.

A new city, a new country and a new name. There will be a prospect or two of the former Atlanta Thrashers who will be hoping a change in scenery might result in a change in opportunity as well. Certainly a completely new coaching staff and management team opens the door to all sorts of possibilities in Winnipeg.

One change might be that after three straight years of seeing their 1st round pick step immediately into the line up, Mark Scheifele might be sent back to junior and that's not a bad thing - it's a sign that the team is getting deeper and harder to crack.

Carl Kilngberg, Atlanta's 2nd round pick in 2009, is in North America and looking to stay around longer than he did last year. He actually played a single game for the Thrashers in 2010-11 and 8 more for the AHL affiliate but spent most of the season in the SEL. The big guy doesn't put up much for offence but he's a forechecking demon with speed to burn - most expect he'll be a checking line, role playing, penalty killing forward in the NHL and there's nothing wrong with a guy who excels in those departments.

Former Rimouski Oceanic captain and member of Canada's WJC team, Patrice Cormier (top) played 21 NHL games last season. Atlanta gave up Ilys Kovalchuk for a package of assets but Cormier was the biggest single piece coming back to the Thrashers. Will the Jets feel as strongly as the management team in Atlanta did or will his QMJHL baggage come with him to Winnipeg. This could be an interesting year for Cormier, especially if he doesn't live up to expectations early on.

Paul Postma was a late bloomer in the WHL but in his final year of eligibility with the Calgary Hitmen, the blueliner performed well enough to get league MVP consideration. He recorded 84 points in 70 games that year, more than in the previous 3 seasons and 200 games combined. Folks wondered if he could take that to the next level and he has. 29 points as a rookie was bumped to 45 points last year and now Postma stands as good a chance as anyone to forcing his way onto the roster at some point this year.

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