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30 in 30: Hellebuyck, Ehlers among Jets' top prospects

by Patrick Williams / Winnipeg Jets


WINNIPEG -- Solid scouting and player development are the two pillars on which the Winnipeg Jets are building their organization.

After inheriting a farm system bereft of talent in 2011, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has rebuilt the prospect base slowly and methodically.

"I don't want to see [Cheveldayoff] change the organization's draft-and-develop approach," Jets coach Paul Maurice told Jets TV on July 3. "I like the young players we've got. We're building something here."

Here is a look at the Jets' top five prospects, according to NHL.com:

1. Connor Hellebuyck, G

How acquired: 5th round (No. 130), 2012 NHL Draft

Last season: St. John's, AHL: 58 GP, 28-22-5, 2.58 GAA, .921 save percentage

Hellebuyck, 22, has risen quickly from a fifth-round draft pick who was viewed as something of a project to a potential long-term answer in goal.

With two seasons of NCAA experience, Hellebuyck (6-foot-4, 185 pounds) adapted quickly to the American Hockey League. He was the starting goaltender at the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic.

After his first pro season ended, Hellebuyck represented the United States at the World Championship and helped the U.S. team win finish third.

Hellebuyck might need one more season in the AHL to fine-tune his game, but it would not be surprising if he pushes his way into the Jets' goaltending picture this season.

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

2. Nikolaj Ehlers, LW

How acquired: 1st round (No. 9), 2014 NHL Draft

Last season: Halifax, QMJHL: 51 GP, 37-64-101

The Jets have been very public about their desire to not rush prospects, but they really could use Ehlers in their lineup this season to help offset the losses of several veterans.

Ehlers, 19, dominated offensively with Halifax last season and led the QMJHL in playoff scoring with 10 goals and 21 assists in 14 games.

However, in order to earn an NHL roster spot, Ehlers will need to prove he can be a dependable two-way player and responsible away from the puck.

Ehlers (6-foot, 168 pounds) will need to bulk up in order to handle the NHL. He has made adding muscle and size a priority this summer but will need time to adjust to a bigger frame.

"I can improve on everything," Ehlers said in July at Jets prospects camp. "It's going to be tough coming here and trying to get that spot on the team. I want to make the team this [season]."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

3. Joshua Morrissey, D

How acquired: 1st round (No. 13), 2013 NHL Draft

Last season: Prince Albert/Kelowna, WHL: 47 GP, 13-25-38

Winnipeg has potential openings on the left side of its blue line. But in an ideal situation for the Jets, Morrissey (6-foot, 195 pounds) should be able to use his first full AHL season to adjust his puck-moving style to the pro game.

Morrissey won a gold medal with Canada at the World Junior Championship and Kelowna went to the Memorial Cup final.

"It was a whirlwind of a season," the 20-year-old said. "My conditioning is a lot better now. I'm really committed to my diet. Overall I think it was a great [season] for me."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

4. Andrew Copp, C

How acquired: 4th round (No. 104), 2013 NHL Draft

Last season: Michigan: 36 GP, 14-17-31

Much like goaltending, the fourth line has been a long-time issue for the Jets. But Copp, 21, could be a solution. He appears much larger than his listed size (6-foot, 188 pounds) and is capable of playing the sort of grinding, defensively responsible style that helped another young player, Adam Lowry, earn a roster spot last season.

"I'm trying to not worry about that too much," Copp said. "I'm just doing the best I can to put myself in a position to make the team out of camp."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

5. Joel Armia, RW

How acquired: Trade with Buffalo Sabres, Feb. 11, 2015

Last season: Sabres, 1 GP, 0-0-0; Rochester/St. John's, AHL: 55 GP, 12-21-33

Armia is 22 years old and has NHL-caliber size (6-foot-3, 192 pounds). After the 2013-14 season, when he scored seven goals as an AHL rookie, he had 10 goals in 33 games with Rochester before the trade. After the trade, he scored two goals in 21 games with St. John's.

Armia, who was part of the trade that sent forward Evander Kane to Buffalo, was the 16th pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

Author: Patrick Williams | NHL.com Correspondent

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