Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. As we go through the summer of 2023, each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a look at one NHL team’s top prospects or other topical articles. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! You can find all the articles here as well as our extensive NHL Draft preview. Today, we look at the 2023 Winnipeg Jets Top Prospects.
For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or 25 years old. However, these are not hard or fast rules; we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
2023 Winnipeg Jets Top Prospects
1.) Rutger McGroarty
The Winnipeg Jets to prospect in 2023 is Rutger McGroarty. He gets himself into good positions and scores his goals from the home plate area. McGroarty is more than willing to play in the high-traffic areas and to take a hit to make a play. He gets open in and around the slot, setting himself up for a pass from a teammate. Once that pass comes, McGroarty can fire a wrist shot or snapshot on the net. He generates a lot of power as well. McGroarty’s shots feature a quick release that fools goaltenders. He can also use his size and strength to establish a position in front of the net. He causes havoc and distracts opponents in and around the crease. Once there, McGroarty uses his soft hands to pounce on rebounds and get deflections.
McGroarty has strong puck-protection skills. This helps him to be effective in the cycle game, controlling the puck down low and extending possession. He makes smart passes to keep the puck moving as well. However, he plays the safe key a little too often. McGroarty could work on being more creative and making more passes across the ice, to set up better-scoring chances. He also struggles in skating with the puck through the neutral zone. This is mainly due to his lack of speed. Instead of generating zone entries, he looks to move the puck to a teammate to carry the puck over the blue line.
2.) Colby Barlow
The next Winnipeg Jets top prospect entering 2023 is their first overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. Barlow is a pure goal scorer with good size, very good skating ability, and outstanding instincts. He has an excellent array of shots and gets them off with a quick release. Barlow also has the soft hands to score in tight to the net, deking goalies, banging in rebounds, and getting deflections. While goal scoring is his key trait, it’s certainly not the only one. Barlow is strong on the boards and in front of the net, winning battles with bigger and stronger opponents. He gets in quick on the forecheck, creating issues for opposing defenders. Barlow is also an outstanding defensive player, mature for his age and almost always in the right spot. He kills penalties, using his size and active stick to cut down passing lanes and create turnovers.
3.) Brad Lambert
Lambert is a dynamic skater. His stride is nearly textbook. It gives him excellent acceleration and top-end speed. Lambert marries his skating with outstanding puckhandling ability. He can make plays while moving at top speed. This helps him to carry the puck through the neutral zone, weaving through traffic and generating effective zone entries. On the rush, he is tough to contain and can beat defenders in one-on-one situations. Lambert also does a good job of controlling the puck in the offensive zone, working the cycle game and maintaining puck possession. However, his vision and decision-making could use some improvement. Lambert can wait a little too long at times to make a pass to a teammate, getting himself into trouble as he skates himself into trouble. Most of his passes are short quick passes to keep the cycle going, rather than a cross-ice play to set up a chance.
4.) Chaz Lucius
Lucius is a pure goal scorer. He has a very good arsenal of shots, as he is effective with his wrist shot, snap shot, slap shot, one-timer, and backhand. His shots are accurate and show good power. Lucius has quick hands. He is able to get his shots off extremely quickly. He also has the ability to quickly change the angle on his shot, fooling goaltenders. Lucius also has the ability to score in tight to the net, using those quick hands to elevate the puck quickly and into small open areas. His high-end hand-eye coordination allows him to tip in pucks and to pounce on rebounds. Lucius is a smart player, he finds open spaces on the ice and gets open to receive a pass from a teammate.
5.) Ville Heinola
The next Winnipeg Jets top prospect in 2023 is a special talent. Heinola has very good mobility. He has excellent agility, strong crossovers, and very good pivots. This skating ability allows Heinola to get around the ice effectively. Heinola is a very smart player. He reads the play well in both ends of the ice. Offensively, he starts the transition game with a good first pass. He also has the vision and poise with the puck to quarterback things from the point. Heinola is very creative and willing to put the puck through tight spaces to set up a teammate. He is also a very good stickhandler. Heinola can skate the puck out of his own end and make plays through the neutral zone. He also has the poise to handle the puck and the patience to wait for the opportunity to make plays at the point.
6.) Nikita Chibrikov
Chibrikov is a very good playmaker. He has excellent vision and anticipation, reading the play and anticipating the movements of his teammates and opponents. When a scoring opportunity presents itself, he finds his man and gets him the puck. He can pass the puck through tight lanes and can saucer the puck over sticks. With quick hands and good lateral agility, he can make a quick move to open a lane. Chibrikov protects the puck well. He can control the puck in the offensive zone and give his teammates time to get open. He is also good at carrying the puck through the neutral zone and creating effective zone entries.
7.) Elias Salomonsson
Salomonsson moves the puck effectively. He has excellent vision and passing skills, starting the transition game from his own end as well as quarterbacking the play in the offensive zone. He can make a tape-to-tape pass over a long distance when a forward gets behind the defence. His stickhandling is also strong. He marries this with his strong skating to carry the puck through the neutral zone and generate effective zone entries. However, there are some questions about Salomonsson’s decision-making. There are times he can skate himself into an area where he is trapped by multiple defenders and out of passing options. He also can try a bit too hard to make a play at times, leading to turnovers.
8.) Dmitri Rashevsky
Rashevsky is an excellent skater and playmaker. His speed makes him dangerous off the rush. He can beat a defender wide and drop his shoulder and cut to the net. As defenders back off to respect his speed, he uses his good vision and passing skills to set up teammates with a pass through the newly created lanes. Rashevsky can also get off a wrist shot with a quick release, using the defender as a screen. He also has the quick hands to make a slight move and create a passing or shooting lane when working in the offensive zone. He needs to do a bit better of working in the dirty areas of the ice and play less of a perimeter game at times.
9.) Danil Zhilkin
Zhilkin marries his skating ability with good hands. This allows him to carry the puck through the neutral zone and make plays off the rush. As defenders have to back off to respect his speed, it opens up passing and shooting lanes. His strong lateral movement allows him to weave through traffic and find open space. This generates efficient zone entries. He also does a good job of protecting the puck down low and working the cycle game. Zhilkin’s passing skills can be improved though. He is a bit of a risk-taker. This can lead to an excellent cross-ice pass to set up a teammate for a scoring chance. However, there are also times when he tries too hard to make a play and this leads to a turnover.
Zhilkin can also be a goal scorer. His wrist shot is powerful and accurate. It also features a very quick release. Zhilkin is able to make a quick move with the puck just before shooting it, changing the angle of his release and fooling goaltenders. He can get to the net where he can beat a goalie with a quick deke and elevating the puck. Zhilkin is able to find open ice in front of the net when he doesn’t have the puck. With his hands, he can pounce on a rebound or get a deflection. Zhilkin can create offence through strong forechecking and winning battles on the boards as well.
10.) Declan Chisholm
Chisholm has very good playmaking skills. He is poised with the puck, allowing him to carry it out of danger in his zone and start the transition game. He is capable of carrying the puck through the neutral zone, using his skating and stickhandling to generate effective zone entries. Chisholm is also poised with the puck at the blueline, using his lateral agility to create passing and shooting lanes. He sees the ice well, allowing him to make a good first pass out of his own end, create scoring chances in transition and to quarterback the power play. Chisholm was a dominant offensive player at the junior level and is doing so at the AHL level as well now, but needs time to adjust to the faster speed of the NHL game.
Winnipeg Jets Top Prospects – Honourable Mention: Domenic DiVincentiis
Coming in at 6-foot-2, DiVincentiis has the type of size that teams are looking for in modern goalie prospects. He is also very athletic. DiVincentiis is an excellent skater. He can come out to the top of his crease to challenge shooters and still get back if they try and deke him. His strong legs also allow him to move across the crease quickly and efficiently. DiVincentiis tracks pucks well and does a good job of getting square to the shot, even on cross-ice passes. He gets in and out of the butterfly quickly and effectively. Like many young goalies, he needs to continue to work on his rebound control. That said, when he does give up a rebound, he recovers quickly and gets himself square to the shooter.
In The System: Other Winnipeg Jets Prospects
The Jets have done a good job of rebuilding their system in recent years. Other prospects worth keeping an eye on include Thomas Milic, Fabian Wagner, Dmitri Kuzmin, Daniel Torgersson, Artemi Kniazev, Simon Lundmark, Zach Nehring, Oskari Salminen, Connor Levis, Henri Nikkanen, and Tyrel Bauer.
Main Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports