Ready for the big leagues

Taking a look at the three rookies in the Winnipeg Jets lineup

Graphic by Caroline Norman.

There is little doubt in most people’s minds that the Winnipeg Jets have a bright future with a number of high-level prospects coming through the system. With players such as Michael Frolík, Lee Stempniak, and Jiří Tlustý leaving during the offseason, new players have an opportunity to try and crack the lineup.

Nikolaj Ehlers, Nic Petan, and Andrew Copp did just that.

Ehlers – who’s 19 years of age – was drafted by the Jets ninth overall in the 2014 NHL entry draft and is thought to be one of the best prospects the team has. He has blazing speed and a quick wrist shot that can beat any goalie in the NHL.

The biggest question mark surrounding Ehlers was his defensive game – something that Jets head coach Paul Maurice made note of early in the season.

“So, can he play well enough defensively? He’s shown, really from day one, that he has a real interest in it. He understands that he needs to do that to play at this level and he’s made some good defensive plays,” Maurice told the Winnipeg Free Press.

Ehlers had plenty of success during his playing career with the Halifax Mooseheads, posting 86 goals and 119 assists in two seasons (2013-2015). It’s now all about getting stronger and more accustomed to the faster NHL game.

Nic Petan is a very crafty player who fell in the 2013 draft to the Jets 43rd overall in the second round. He was a big time player for Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship in 2013-14 and 2014-15, and will look to be the same for the Jets in the future. In 14 games for Canada he put up 16 points and always seemed to come up with a clutch play for the squad.

Petan’s willingness to do anything for his team – including blocking a shot in game one against Boston – is a winning formula for a rookie trying to stay with the big club, something Maurice noted.

“[Blocking shots is] good on the bench. That’s the enthusiasm of youth and especially for a real skilled guy […] Those things, that’s great currency in the room for him,” Maurice told the Free Press.

At six feet tall and 203 pounds, Andrew Copp is the most physically gifted out of the three rookies. In high school, Copp was a quarterback and he is well suited for the physicality of the heavy Western conference.

“It’s also probably why he’s not afraid to go into the corners […] He’s probably been in some tougher areas,” Maurice told the Free Press in reference to Copp’s time as a QB.

In three seasons for the University of Michigan Copp posted 67 points, and while he isn’t a flashy player like Ehlers or Petan, he has the size and strength to be a productive and effective bottom-6 forward.

Ehlers, Petan, and Copp are just the beginning of what looks to be a bright crop of future stars for the Jets for years to come.