Of the seven Canadian NHL franchises, no one will be monitoring the World Junior Hockey Championship more closely than the Winnipeg Jets.
They have six prospects playing in the tournament; three Canadians, one American, one player from the Czech Republic, and one from Denmark. They include two first round picks, two second round picks, and two fourth round picks.
Winnipeg Jets Have The Most At Stake In WJHC
One player could be their goaltender of the future, second round pick Eric Comrie of Canada, currently playing with Tri City of the WHL. He sits as the backup goaltender on Team Canada, but is just one bad game from Zach Fucale away from taking the reigns.
There are two centers, fourth round pick Chase De Leo of the United States, and second round pick Nic Petan of Canada. Both play for Portland of the WHL.
Fourth round pick, defenseman Jan Kostalek of the Czech Republic plays for Rimouski of the QMJHL.
But it is their two first round picks, defenseman Josh Morrissey of Canada who plays for Prince Albert of the WHL and surprisingly, left winger Nikolaj Ehlers of Denmark who plays for Halifax of the QMJHL that they will be keeping their closest eyes on. It is rare that a Danish player has ever been ranked so highly.
A good tournament by these players can really give Jets fans hope for an exciting future. Future training camps will be highly competitive as these young players try to crack the Jets current roster.
None of the other Canadian NHL teams have as much at stake in this tournament as Winnipeg does. Calgary only has one player in the tournament and Montreal has the next highest to Winnipeg with four, including Fucale, and the captains of the Swedish, Finnish and Slovak teams.
It will not mean anything unless these players make the Jets roster in the future, but in terms of top prospects being good enough to play in the world’s most important junior hockey tournament, it means that the Winnipeg scouting staff has done its work well.
This year Winnipeg has played like a team on the way up. They are currently sixth overall in the Western Conference. If they manage to hang on to their current playoff spot, it will be the first time since the Jets left Atlanta that they will make the playoffs.
The Atlanta Thrashers had a dismal history. In their 14-year existence, they only made the playoffs once and were swept by the New York Rangers. No wonder solid roots were never put down there. They moved to Winnipeg after the 2010-11 season. This is the best showing the Jets-Thrashers have done since that playoff year.
And in this 2015 World Junior Hockey Championship, if all their prospects shine, it could mean that the Jets best years will not be now, but tomorrow.