BELLEVILLE ON - The wait is over. Hockey is back.
The Winnipeg Jets' prospects will begin their three game 2019 Rookie Showcase Tournament schedule tonight against the Ottawa Senators' prospects.
After a long travel day on Thursday, head coach Pascal Vincent is eager to see what this group of young men will have to offer.
"Looking at Ottawa's lineup they have six guys who played in the NHL last year (Vitaly Abramov, Drake Batherson, Logan Brown, Alex Formenton, Max Veronneau and Erik Brannstrom) and that's exactly what I was hoping for because we are going to test our guys," said Vincent after the morning skate.
"Now I can't guarantee what the final score is going to be, but we want to see how our guys can deal with that kind of adversity and talent. So I'm really excited."
Video: ROOKIE CAMP | Pascal Vincent
While players like 2019 first round pick Ville Heinola and 2018 second round pick David Gustafsson will be playing their first games in a Jet uniform, it will be another shot for Kristian Vesalainen and C.J. Suess. Both Vesalainen and Suess played at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton - the duo will form the top line along with Sergey Popov.
"Well hopefully those guys (Suess and Vesalainen) will take the lead," said Vincent.
"That's what we expect from them and that's what we told them. But you never know. This is the fun part about this game, you just never know. There might be one guy who could come out of nowhere and take the lead. C.J., Ves, the older guys should be our leaders for now."
Suess along with Vesalainen will be assistant captains for the Jets for this tournament. This isn't the first time wearing a letter for the 25-year-old Suess as he wore the "C" as a junior in 2016-17 and as a senior in 2017-18 with the Minnesota State Mavericks in the NCAA.
"It means a lot," said Suess when asked what being a leader meant to him.
"It means the coaches have a lot of trust in me and it means I have to try my best to really set an example for everyone else and hopefully they follow along."
Video: ROOKIE CAMP | CJ Suess
Suess' first AHL season was a frustrating one for the Forrest Lake, Minnesota product, missing a large chunk of the 2018-19 season with injuries. It was an unfamiliar situation after he played in 127 consecutive contests to close out his college hockey career.
"Had a good start (to the season) and it kind of got cut short," said Suess who missed who had 12 points in 26 AHL games.
"But I kind of shook it off and really refocused on myself and really on this season and had a good summer."
Mikhail Berdin didn't make the trip to Ontario due to an injury sustained over the summer so Adam Carlson was called up on Monday as Berdin's replacement. Carlson has played in 90 professional games in both the ECHL and AHL since the 2016-17 season and signed with the Moose this summer.
Video: ROOKIE CAMP | Adam Carlson
Here are the lines and defence pairings the Jets will start with Friday night against Ottawa.
You can catch all three of the Jets games this weekend streaming at 6 PM CT on TSN.ca, the TSN app and on TSN direct with no blackout restrictions.