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Development Camp wraps up with scrimmage at Bell MTS Iceplex

Team White beats Team Blue 5-2

by Mitchell Clinton @MClinton007 / WinnipegJets.com

Before they all went their separate ways for the summer, the 32 players at Winnipeg Jets Development Camp put bragging rights on the line at Bell MTS Iceplex.

Split into Team White and Team Blue, the players wrapped up the week long camp with a 50-minute scrimmage broken up into two halves.

Brendan Lemieux and camp invitee Jared Spooner each scored twice, while 2017 first round pick Kristian Vesalainen added a single in a 5-2 win for Team White.

2014 seventh round pick Matt Ustaski and Skyler McKenzie (seventh round pick in 2017) scored for Team Blue.

"It's good for the young guys to learn and play with pro guys if they haven't before. For us, it's just measuring up in the middle of the summer," said Lemieux. "It's a good test to just kind of hone in, and not have a six month summer where you haven't played in some kind of scrimmage at a high level.

Video: DEV CAMP | Brendan Lemieux

"This week was really about learning the tools that the coaches were teaching us, which were very specific. Today was about trying to implement them. As a group we tried to do that, and use some of the tools that they taught us this week."

For Vesalainen, like all the Jets selections at the 2017 NHL Draft, this week was a bit of a whirlwind after a life-changing weekend in Chicago. But the 18-year-old soaked in as much as he could.

"I like the city. It was nice to be here and learn all about the organization," said Vesalainen. "I think it went pretty well. The biggest part was getting to know the Winnipeg Jets more."

The focus all week was on skills that make a big difference in the intensity of an NHL game. Head coach Paul Maurice was on the ice for all practices this week, and said the coaching staff ensured every player had numerous opportunities to work on puck retrieval and puck possession fundamentals.

Video: DEV CAMP | Kristian Vesalainen

"Those are the things that are probably the biggest change for young players when they get to the pro level," said Maurice. "Defencemen get far more pressure put on them with a great amount of speed. Your ability to break the puck out is critical to beat teams. For forwards, getting on the puck and hanging on to the puck with big, strong, and very fast men on you.

"Rarely do they get a chance to do it over and over again. We had a high repetition week with these kids. (It's) skill development, but not toe-drag development - skill development within the components of the game."

Overall, Maurice liked what he saw from the prospects this week, but was cautious about giving any full evaluations at this point in their development.

Video: DEV CAMP | Nelson Nogier

"These kids change month by month. The player we see in training camp next year, and the player the next year, there are a number of guys that look so much different than they did a year ago," said Maurice. "I'm pleased with it, need to see them in a scrimmage with a bit higher pace and see that growth."

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The Winnipeg Jets announced on Friday that the team had placed Mark Stuart on unconditional waivers.

"In a lot of ways I'm happy for Mark. He's been such a great pro for this team. We all know, not just in the locker room, but the battles on the ice and in the community," said Maurice. "He's earned an opportunity to play somewhere else. I'm hopeful for him that he gets that chance."

Stuart was with the franchise when it relocated from Atlanta in 2011, and had 53 points in 390 games over the course of seven seasons.

Video: DEV CAMP | Paul Maurice

But Nelson Nogier, who played his first 10 NHL games at the end of the 2016-17 season, will remember Stuart's welcoming presence in the dressing room.

"I can't thank that guy enough for helping me out while I was up there. From the day I stepped into that dressing room for my first call up, he took me under his wing," said Nogier. "He showed me the ropes and how to handle myself when I'm under some pretty high-pressure situations. There are leadership qualities in him too that I tried to soak in while I was up there."

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