2021-22 Top 10 Winnipeg Jets Prospects

The past two seasons have been a disappointment for the Jets. Expectations were high for Winnipeg, and some were predicting them to be Stanley Cup contenders. The closest they have been in the past five years was a Conference Finals loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

They failed to qualify for a playoff position but finished well enough to be well down the draft selecting 14th overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Winnipeg has their own first round selection and two seconds (56 and 58 overall) and a total of seven picks overall to help replenish the prospect pool.

Despite having limited draft picks recently, the Jets have a good track record of finding value in the draft in a variety of rounds and have done a good job of developing players. With a core of young players and players in their prime such as Mark Scheifele, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Kyle Connor, Nick Ehlers, and Connor Hellebuyck the Jets could quickly return to contending status.

  1. Cole Perfetti, C/LW – Winnipeg Jets (NHL)

Age: 20
Ht/Wt: 5-11/17
Drafted: 2020 round one, 10th overall by Winnipeg Jets

After his monster 111-point draft season, Perfetti was ready to become a pro hockey player. Typically that would have meant he would have to play in the NHL or return to the OHL. However due to COVID eliminating the 2020-21 OHL season he went straight to the AHL after helping Canada to a Silver Medal in the WJC with six points in seven games.

As a rookie in the AHL, he posted 26 points in 32 games and finished the campaign back with Canada at the World Championships winning the Gold Medal. His development has continued in his D+2 season splitting time between the AHL and NHL with seven points in 18 games with the Jets, and 15 points through 17 games with the Moose.

“Goal” Perfetti is far more than a one-trick pony. His playmaking abilities and on-ice vision are equal to if not superior to his lethal shooting prowess. One area of his game that could still use some development is his skating, but it is not a hindrance. If it improves it could be the difference in him becoming a star player, or a superstar.

  1. Chaz Lucius, C – University of Minnesota (NCAA)

Age: 19
Ht/Wt: 6-0/172
Drafted: 2021 round one, 18th overall by Winnipeg Jets

Lucius has missed two chunks of time in the past two years due to injury. It’s concerning that his development is missing such an important time. In his draft year, he was limited to just 25 games with the National Team but posted 38 points in that time.

Since his draft, he made his debut as a freshman with the Golden Gophers. His transition to the NCAA was slow to start, with three points in his first eight games, but he finished with 19 points in 24 games. His season was cut short due to injury again and he missed his team’s run to the NCAA Frozen Four Tournament.

Despite his limited NCAA games played, the Jets feel he is ready for pro hockey, and he has signed his ELC and will leave the NCAA ranks. If he is ready for the rescheduled WJC in August, that would be a good opportunity for him to get some games in prior to his rookie pro season.

Lucius is a sniper through and through. His shot has a quick release, is deadly accurate, and it has some power behind it. Lucius supports his shot with his hockey sense and timing. He reads plays well and finds and arrives in open ice for shooting opportunities at precisely the right moment. If he can stay healthy, he should have a key development season in the AHL adjusting to the speed and pace of pro hockey.

  1. Ville Heinola, LD – Manitoba Moose (AHL)

Age: 21
Ht/Wt: 6-0/181
Drafted: 2019 round one, 20th overall by Winnipeg Jets

Since his draft in 2019, Heinola has gained a variety of experiences across several leagues. He went straight to the NHL out of his draft playing in eight games with the Jets before being reassigned to the AHL. After just three games he was loaned back to Finland and struggled in the Liiga with Lukko.

He got some confidence back playing for Finland at the WJC scoring five points to help capture a Bronze Medal. He returned to Lukko on loan for the start of the 2020-21 season due to the pandemic and was significantly better scoring 14 points in 19 games. He finished that campaign back in North America when hockey resumed splitting time between the Jets and the Moose. This year was his first full season in North America, and he has now played in 25 career NHL games and 63 AHL games.

Heinola is an offensive defenseman, distributing the puck with his vision and high-end puck skills. He has grown confidence on the rush. His defensive game has also been credited with improvement since his draft but will never be his meal ticket to the NHL. That will be his playmaking and offense.

  1. Nikita Chibrikov, LW/RW – SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)

Age: 19
Ht/Wt: 5-10/172
Drafted: 2021 round two, 50th overall by Winnipeg Jets

Chibrikov was a consensus first-round pick that fell to the Jets in the second half of round two. His fall on draft day should be attributed to his size and lack of strength. At 5-10 and 172 pounds, he desperately needs to bulk up to be effective in the pro ranks. Add in the current political climate and the Russian factor is another serious concern if he will become an NHL player.

Chibrikov first caught my eye at the 2021 U-18 as Captain of Team Russia. He posted 13 points in seven games and was dominating with Matvei Michkov where they won the Silver Medal. While he has yet to make an impact or play a significant role in the KHL, he had a breakout 2021-22 VHL season with 15 goals and 31 points in 28 games. It may be a few years before he rounds out his game, adds some muscle and punches his ticket to North America, but this boom-or-bust potential prospect could become an 80-point NHL sniper, or he may never play in the NHL.

  1. Dylan Samberg, LD – Manitoba Moose (AHL)

Age: 23
Ht/Wt: 6-4/216
Drafted: 2017 round two, 43rd overall by Winnipeg Jets

Samberg played in three seasons with the University of Minnesota-Duluth where in that time he won two NCAA Championships, a Silver and a Bronze WJC while scoring career totals of 53 points in 109 games.

His rookie season in the AHL was limited to just 32 games and offensively he struggled with just seven points. Despite the lack of offense, he transitioned very well, playing excellent defensive hockey. He played physical, looked poised and was deployed in key situations. Samberg made his NHL debut this season playing in 15 games with the Jets and recorded five points.

Samberg has the size and he knows how to use it. His mobility and skating are a strength in his game, and he reads plays and processes at an NHL level. What he needs to improve are his puck skills. He may never be a top offensive defenseman in the NHL, but he is going to play big minutes and is the type of player you need to win Championships.

  1. Dmitri Rashevsky, RW – Dynamo Moskva (KHL)

Age: 21
Ht/Wt: 6-1/165
Drafted: 2021 round five, 146th overall by Winnipeg Jets

After being passed over in two NHL drafts, the Jets spent a low-risk fifth-round selection on the skilled Russian. He had not played in more than nine KHL games in his career but had a breakout 2021-22 season with 35 points in 48 games.

Rashevsky is a high-energy player. He pursues pucks aggressively, but his physical game and strength limit his effectiveness. He is an effective playmaker, using his good hockey sense and quick processing to make passes and jump to open ice or make one-touch passes for give-and-goes. He is a high-volume shooter and has a shot to reckon with. His skating is technically flawed which requires refinement but is not a major liability. Rashevsky is a fast-rising prospect that has a chance to seemingly come out of nowhere and become an impact player for the Jets.

  1. David Gustafsson, C – Manitoba Moose (AHL)

Age: 22
Ht/WT: 6-2/196
Drafted: 2018 round two, 60th overall by Winnipeg Jets

The big Swede is a solid two-way center. He has a high probability of playing in the NHL with a low ceiling of offensive upside. but a floor that projects as a third-line center.

At 22-years-old he already has three years in their AHL system and has consistently provided a good offensive total with 56 points in 82 career games.

Gustafsson is limited by his speed and mobility, but he compensates with smart reads and reactions to plays. He is ahead of the play in his thinking, but his feet can’t keep up. His hands and puck skills are below NHL average for a top-six role and will likely limit his offensive production at the next level. His physical play and defensive prowess will make him a valuable player and the offensive ability he has will allow him to play in short bursts up the roster when the situation requires it. His AHL development time is likely over, and he should push for an NHL roster spot for the 2022-23 campaign.

  1. Declan Chisholm, LD – Manitoba Moose (AHL)

Age: 22
Ht/Wt: 6-1/190
Drafted: 2018 round five 150th overall by Winnipeg Jets

Chisholm looks to be the Jets latest late-round value pick as they selected him 150th overall in 2018. Chisholm is a product of the Peterborough Petes. His 20-point draft season was the beginning of his rising development curve. His point production increased every season peaking in his fourth year while wearing the “A” posting 13 goals and 69 points in just 59 games.

His transition to pro hockey in the AHL was comfortable with 13 points in 28 games. 2021-22 was a full season and his 30 points in 53 AHL games showed his offensive ability translates to pro hockey.

His shot is not too intimidating, but he is aggressive offensively, joining rushes, pinching from the point, and transitioning the puck to offense. Defensively he is not a liability. He also brings a physical element to his game.

Another campaign in the AHL may be on the horizon with some glimpses of NHL action as injuries necessitate, but long term he is projecting as a solid bottom pairing defender with offensive upside. A good find from the fifth round.

  1. Dmitri Kuzmin, LD – Flint Firebirds (OHL)

Age: 19
Ht/Wt: 5-10/187
Drafted: 2021 round three 82nd overall by Winnipeg Jets

Kuzmin made some noise at the 2021 U-18 with Belarus scoring five points in five games, including a Michigan-style goal! He moved to North America for his D+1 season in the OHL with the Flint Firebirds and has made an impact. In 57 games he scored 18 goals and 44 points.

He is an extremely active defenseman, joining rushes and making creative pinches off the point. At 5-10, he is undersized and his skating needs improvement. His agility and lateral movement are good, but he lacks a top-end gear. Defensively he made good adjustments to the North American size rink and with continued development, could become a bottom-pairing player in time.

  1. Mikhail Berdin, G – Manitoba Moose (AHL)

Age: 24
Ht/Wt: 6-2/163
Drafted: 2016 round six 157th overall by Winnipeg Jets

The Russian goalie has been slowly but steadily developing in the AHL for three seasons and is beginning to find some consistency. At 24-years-old and a little undersized by NHL standards at 6-2, he is by no means a lock to become an NHL player.

But the highly athletic and active goalie never quits on a save and makes some desperation saves that have shades of Dominik Hasek. There is an element of unpredictability and aggressiveness to his game that is very entertaining to watch, so I hope he can win the backup position if the Jets do not re-sign Eric Comrie or find another option in the offseason.