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Jets prospects look to make playoff impact

by Andrew Wilkinson / Winnipeg Jets

It’s the end of March which means that the CHL Playoffs and NCAA Div.1 Men’s Hockey Championship are about to get underway.

The QMJHL, OHL and WHL playoffs begin this week and culminate at the MasterCard Memorial Cup taking place May 19-29th in Red Deer, AB. While across the border the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee has selected the 16 teams that will be participating in the 2016 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship. The four regional winners will then advance to the Men’s Frozen Four on April 7th and 9th at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.

Here are your starting dates:

• 2016 WHL Playoffs : Friday, March 25th

• 2016 OHL Playoffs : Thursday, March 24th

• 2016 QMJHL Playoffs : Friday, March 25th

• 2016 NCAA Div. 1 Championships : Friday, March 25th

The 2015-16 CHL/NCAA Div 1 season started with 15 Jets prospects in action, but as the playoff season starts just eight remain in a quest for the ultimate prize. Here is your quick primer on each of them.

2016 NCAA Division I

Kyle Connor, Left Wing – University of Michigan

Drafted by the Winnipeg Jets - Round 1, 17th overall, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

2015-16 Stats: 36GP - 35G, 34A- 69pts
Opening game opponent: University of Notre Dame

Recently completing a historic freshman year at the University of Michigan, Kyle Connor has put up some impressive numbers including 35 goals and 69 points in just 36 games this season.

Those totals propelled him to become the leading scorer in NCAA Division 1 hockey averaging 1.92 pts/game. In addition to many honours including being named as the Big Ten Player of the Year, and freshman of the Year he is also a finalist for the Hobey Baker award, given to the top player in NCAA hockey. This past weekend contributed to every Wolverines goal as Michigan beat the Minnesota Golden Gophers 4-3 to win the Big 10 title.

"Kyle has great instincts," said Michigan Coach Red Berenson. "He has such good offensive instincts. He knows where the puck's going to go. He's kind of like a Gretzky-type player. He knows where the puck's going to go, and he's jumping in that hole.”

Erik Foley, Left Wing – Providence College

Drafted by the Winnipeg Jets - Round 3, 78th overall, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

2015-16 Stats: 35GP - 7G, 12A- 19pts
Opening game opponent: University of Minnesota-Duluth

Another true freshman, Erik Foley has found his way and success in the second half of his season for the defending national champion Providence College Friars. Recently promoted to the top line and skating along a pair of seniors, Foley has flourished with seven goals and 19 points. In addition to getting more time on the power-play units, Foley had points in six of the past eight regular season games for the Friars.

Tucker Poolman, Defenceman – University of North Dakota

Drafted by the Winnipeg Jets - Round 5, 127th overall, 2013 NHL Entry Draft

2015-16 Stats: 36GP - 4G, 18A - 22pts
Opening game opponent: Northeastern University

This season has given Jets fans a window into some of the high-end skills that prospect Tucker Poolman possesses. Poolman is not only known for his shutdown defensive style – which is a result if his size, reach and strong skating ability but when called upon can also call upon his offensive game which includes leading rushes or using his booming shot from the point.

OHL

Brendan Lemieux, Left Wing – Windsor Spitfires

Drafted by the Buffalo Sabres - Round 2, 31st overall, 2014 NHL Entry Draft

Acquired from the Buffalo Sabres in a trade on February 11, 2015.
2015-16 Stats: Barrie Colts: 11GP - 9G, 5A - 14pts
Windsor Spitfires: 34GP - 23G, 25A - 48pts
First Round Opponent: Kitchener Rangers

After starting the season in Barrie, Lemieux was traded to Windsor in December, which provided a fresh start. Known for his grittiness and physical play, the six-foot-one, 210-pound Lemieux also brought scoring ability putting up over 1.4 pts/game in his second half of the season.

“It’s improved our roster tremendously,” Spitfires head coach Rocky Thompson said of the deal for the 19-year-old Lemieux.

WHL

Michael Spacek, Centre – Red Deer Rebels

Drafted by the Winnipeg Jets - Round 4, 108th overall, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

First Round Opponent: Calgary Hitmen
2015-16 Stats: 61GP - 18G, 36A - 54pts

Michael Spacek has made a big impact with the Red Deer Rebels in his first season adjusting to the WHL. Since committing to the Rebels after a season with HC Pardubice, a Czech Republic men’s team, he has put up strong numbers finishing fourth in team scoring. Spacek possesses offensive skill and a good work ethic which Red Deer hope will help them as they are the host of this year’s Memorial Cup.

Nelson Nogier, Defenceman – Red Deer Rebels

Drafted by Winnipeg Jets - Round 4, 101st overall, 2014 NHL Entry Draft

2015-16 Stats: 69GP - 4G, 17A - 21pts
First Round Opponent: Calgary Hitmen

Nelson Nogier has put up another strong season for the Rebels playing a consistent, hard-nosed, stay-at-home style while finishing with an impressive +27 rating. His big body (6’3”, 209lbs) will be an invaluable defensive piece as the Rebels look to make a deep run into the WHL playoffs and culminate at the 2016 Memorial Cup.

Jansen Harkins, Centre – Prince George Cougars

Drafted by the Winnipeg Jets - Round 2, 47th overall, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

2015-16 Stats: 69GP - 24G, 33A - 57pts
First Round Opponent: Seattle Thunderbirds

Known for his complete skill set, Jansen Harkins finished another successful season with the Cougars finishing 4th in team scoring. The 6’1”, 187 lb centre has good acceleration and shows great composure on the ice. The Cougars will be looking for Hansen to help lead them past a tough first round opponent in top ranked Seattle.

Matteo Gennaro – Centre – Calgary Hitmen

Drafted by the Winnipeg Jets - Round 7, 203rd overall, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

2015-16 Stats:
Prince Albert Raiders: 42GP - 12G, 12A - 24pts
Calgary Hitmen: 28GP - 6G, 13A - 19pts

First Round Opponent: Red Deer Rebels

After being traded from Prince Albert to Calgary in January, Matteo Gennaro - a 6’3” 191-pound power forward - added an offensive spark up the middle for the Hitmen in the second half of the season. The Hitmen finished 4th in the WHL Western Conference and will be looking to Gennaro to continue to add secondary scoring along with his physical play.

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