When the Winnipeg Jets closed out their regular season against the Vancouver Canucks on April 18, it turned out to be a special night for not one but two of their prospects.

With the Jets resting the likes Vladislav Namestnikov, Adam Lowry and Mark Scheifele that opened the door for Brad Lambert (1st round, 2022) and Nikita Chibrikov (2nd round, 2021) to make their NHL debuts after solid seasons in the American Hockey League. Lambert was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team after finishing second in rookie scoring with 52 points (20G, 32A) and joined Kyle Connor and Mason Appleton as only Moose freshmen to reach 20 goals in the last decade.  Chibrikov recorded 47 points (17G, 30A) in his first year in North America.

The duo both recorded their first NHL points in the Jets 4-2 win over the Canucks. Lambert had an assist on Gabriel Vilardi’s goal in the first period and Chibrikov scored his first NHL goal in the third.

“Dream come true, for sure. Unbelievable feeling yesterday when I figured out that I was going to play. It didn’t feel real at first,” said Lambert.

“And then getting here and experiencing this along with Chibby and all these guys that made it so special. To be able to get a win as well feels awesome.”

VAN@WPG: Vilardi scores goal against Thatcher Demko

The Russian forward’s goal turned out to be the game winning tally and Chibrikov said that it was his first GWG of the season.

“You know, it's like the dream, which you start from the first steps on the ice and live with this every day. Like I’m really excited and I'm happy to be here,” said Chibrikov.

“Thankful for the opportunity to the Jets. Thanks for the team. All stuff, like really happened for sure. Thanks, who helped me for all this way, like my parents, coaches, everybody.”

VAN@WPG: Chibrikov scores goal against Thatcher Demko

Naturally, Chibrikov was named the First Star of the game and Lambert grabbed Second Star honours. Jets head coach Rick Bowness was impressed with the debuts of both players.

“First of all, you give (Moose head coach) Mark Morrison and his staff a lot of credit for the job they’ve done. Lambert and Chibrikov, those two kids step in, and they look good. So, Mark is doing a fantastic job with the Moose getting those guys ready to go, and that’s on him and Arnie (Scott Arniel) and Brad (Lauer),” said Bowness.

“It’s a good game for them to break into because they didn’t have their A squad out there, and we didn’t, but they were able to get some ice time. We weren’t matching lines; we were just throwing four lines out there and they really felt comfortable out there. Again, give Mark and his staff a lot of credit, because those two kids were ready to step in and were ready to play.”


Speaking of first appearances, the Moose saw three players in Colby Barlow (1st round, 2023), Connor Levis (7th round, 2023) and Dylan Anhorn make their American Hockey League debuts in the month of April.

Barlow joined the team soon after the Owen Sound Attack were eliminated from the opening round of the OHL Playoffs by the Saginaw Spirit. Barlow scored 40 goals in just 50 games and finished with 58 points and the Jets first round pick then added three points (1G, 2A) in his three regular season games with the Moose.

“It was a great experience for me, I learned a lot. Went into some different situations on the ice in games and practice,” said Barlow at the Moose year end media avail.

“So just learned a lot about myself and what it’s going to take to stick here.”

Like Barlow, Levis joined the Moose after his junior team, the Vancouver Giants were ousted in the first round of the WHL Playoffs. The 19-year-old recorded 55 points (24G, 31A) in 65 games and played in two games with the Moose and did not manage to register his first point as a pro.

Anhorn signed a one-year contract for the 2024-25 season with the Moose in early April, and he joined the team for the remainder of the 23-24 campaign on an amateur tryout agreement. The 25-year-old defenceman recorded 33 points (6G, 27A) in 38 games with St. Cloud of the NCAA and was a Hobey Baker Award nominee. Anhorn registered his first AHL point with an assist on a goal from Carson Golder in Texas on April 20th. He also played in one of the two Moose playoff games against the Stars where Manitoba was swept in a best-of-three opening round series.

The Moose made some big steps in the last half of the season to grind their way to the fifth-place finish in the Central. Manitoba followed an eleven-game losing streak with a 20-10-1-1 record over their next 32 games. Their 20 wins were tied with Rockford for the most in the division over that time frame.

“We started off with a lot of young players especially down the middle (Lambert, Chaz Lucius, Danny Zhilkin and Henri Nikkanen). I think we had four young centremen that we had to overcome some issues there with defensive zone coverage and things. It’s always hard teaching new guys the systems and stuff,” said head coach Mark Morrisson.

“So, I think that was hard, but we got through it, and we ran into an eleven-game losing streak which I think everyone grew from. When we came out of it, I think we were stronger for it. I think we worked hard thought that time and it made us a better team.”


  • Defenceman Elias Salomonsson (2nd round, 2022) won the SHL championship with Skelleftea AIK defeating Rogle AK four games to one. The 19-year-old played 16 playoff games and recorded six points (1G, 5A).

“We all felt that it would be an important year for him to go back and play and develop and that he was going to have a big role. And he did and that was great. So, we’re looking forward to him coming over,” said Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.

“Obviously he’ll be here in development camp and then go from here. Where he fits in the grand scheme of things, that’ll be up to him.”

  • Rutger McGroarty (1st round, 2022) and Michigan came up short in the Frozen Four losing to Boston College 4-0 in the semi-finals. McGroarty announced on April 15, that he will be returning for his junior season with the Wolverines in 2024-25.

“We had great conversations there with his agent in the end, and I talked to him after. So, it’s a good thing. For a player like Rutger, not unlike what happened with Schief I think back when we sent him the second year back to juniors, these guys want to be part of making a difference, to be that leader,” said Cheveldayoff.

“And I think Rutger is looking for an even bigger role where he can help lead a team to that kind of greatness and help his development there.”

  • Jacob Julien (5th round, 2023) and the London Knights are OHL Western Conference champions after knocking out the Memorial Cup hosts, Saginaw in six games. London will face the Oshawa Generals in the OHL Final with the Knights having home ice advantage in the series. Julien has 13 points (7G, 6A) in 14 playoff games after having just seven points (2G, 5A) in 20 playoff games in 2023. In the Knights second round series against Kitchener, Julien scored back-to-back hat tricks and scored seven goals in three games.