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August 31, 2011
Top 10 Prospects
Winnipeg Jets

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Winnipeg Jets Top 10 Prospects

1. Paul Postma, Defense
2. Mark Scheifele, Center
3. Arturs Kulda, Defense
4. Ivan Telegin, Center
5. Carl Klingberg, Right Wing
6. Spencer Machacek, Right Wing
7. Julian Melchiori, Defense
8. Adam Lowry, Left Wing
9. Daultan Leveille, Center
10. Akim Aliu, Right Wing

*Jason Gregoire, Left Wing, would have made this list, but I did not have enough information to do a sufficient profile.

Organizational Ranking: 29th

System Overview: The propensity of the Thrashers/Jets of moving their top young players through the system quickly, the dealing of Jeremy Morin, a lackluster first-round pick in Daultan Leveille, and passing on Sean Couturier for Mark Scheifele in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft are all contributing factors to the Jets being at the bottom of our organizational rankings. There are certainly some bright spots such as Paul Postma and Arturs Kulda, but the system lacks a true top-tier prospect, and the depth isn't all that good either.

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1. Paul Postma, Defense
Date of birth: 02/22/1989
Age: 22
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 190
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 69 GP, 12 G, 45 P (Chicago-AHL)
Acquired: Seventh round, 205th overall in 2007 by Winnipeg (then Atlanta)

The Good: Postma is a skilled offensive defenseman who had quite a successful second full professional season. He's an above-average skater who moves very well for a 6'3" defender. He has a nice first step with good four-way mobility and he's especially mobile on his backward movements that let him stay with faster forwards well. Postma has a desirable top speed that's above NHL average and he can lead a rush from the back end. He's a solid puck-mover with a refined puck-carrying technique who can execute above-average passes and maneuvers. Postma has a plus shot, if not better, and he can absolutely unload with rockets from the point. His windup is quick and efficient, and he can create a lot of chances off his blasts.

The Bad: Postma's hockey sense leaves a little to be desired, and I might even grade the tool as fringe. At times, he can be too risky with his offensive plays, and defensively, he's not that effective in terms of his reads and positioning. He's got a fine frame and can be decent physically, but could use a little more bulking up to become more effective in that area.

Projection: He has above-average second pairing defender upside, with a floor projection of a third-pairing power play specialist.

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2. Mark Scheifele, Center
Date of birth: 03/15/1993
Age: 18
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 182
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 66 GP, 22 G, 75 P (Barrie-OHL)
Acquired: First round, eighth overall in 2011 by Winnipeg

The Good: Mark Scheifele had a good year from a counting statistics standpoint on a poor Barrie team and a good Under-18 tournament; his stock has come a ways over the course of the past season. Scheifele's puck skills are fine, and while he doesn't bring any form of flashy stick-handling or stretch passes to the table, he can handle the puck at a moderate level and make the right distributions while bringing the puck up the ice and on the power play. He also shows good puck protection skills along the side boards. Scheifele projects as a solid-average to above-average physical player as he has room to fill out even though he's already notably strong and works well along the walls. His hockey sense is above-average and it's what will drive his value towards the highest level, as he anticipates the flow of the game well, rarely turns the puck over, and plays well in his own zone.

The Bad: Scheifele is a low ceiling but highly projectable player without a true standout tool. His skating grades as below-average, and while his mechanics are fine, his feet are just somewhat heavy and he doesn't have an NHL-level top speed.

Projection: An average second line center who safely projects as a below-average second to above-average third line center.

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3. Arturs Kulda, Defense
Date of birth: 07/25/1988
Age: 23
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 195
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 69 GP, 5 G, 17 P (Chicago-AHL)
Acquired: Seventh round, 200th overall in 2006 by Winnipeg (then Atlanta)

The Good: Kulda is an advanced defensive defender who is more than ready to push for an everyday job. His defensive and physical games are both at NHL average currently. He's smart and poised in his own end, as he knows when to poke-check and when to engage with his body. Kulda has a quiet, yet confident demeanor to his game and looked like a seasoned pro after wrapping up his third full AHL season. His frame has filled out quite nicely, and while he's not a huge crash and bang type of player, he's certainly an above-average physical player that can knock opponents off the puck. He makes a fine outlet pass and can be sufficient moving the puck out of his own zone.

The Bad: Kulda's skating has shown improvement as he's more fluid than he used to be, though still below-average, although the mobility is okay and not that big a liability considering his style and defensive awareness. He doesn't have a whole lot of offensive upside in regards to his puck-handling or creativity.

Projection: A below-average second to above-average third pairing defender who safely projects as an average third pairing defender.

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4. Ivan Telegin, Center
Date of birth: 02/28/1992
Age: 19
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 199
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 59 GP, 20 G, 61 P (Saginaw-OHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 101st overall in 2010 by Winnipeg (then Atlanta)

The Good: Telegin is an above-average skater who is well above-average for a player his size. He's a fluid skater with a significant top speed that can certainly put pressure on the defense. He has above-average puck skills and can flash moments of brilliance in that regard, as he has the skills and movement ability to occasionally create a highlight reel goal. He can be a solid distributor with fine vision and sharp decision-making. Telegin is a huge guy, with a fair amount of strength and can be dominant physically. When he's driving the net and has the mean light turned on, he's a dominant force with his skill set. He also plays his checks quite physically and has some decent defensive projection.

The Bad: I hate using the word enigma or talking about inconsistency and effort level when it comes to Russian forwards because it seems like I'm pushing a stereotype to a degree, but that's Telegin's issue. He'll be brilliant one game, but you'll need to re-check the lineup card another game to see if he played or not. Aside from that, there's really no major issue to his game that could him keep out of a top six.

Projection: He has above-average second line forward upside, but has a safer projection as a below-average second to above-average third line forward. There's some chance he doesn't end up a league regular, though.

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5. Carl Klingberg, Right Wing
Date of birth: 01/28/1991
Age: 20
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 205
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 49 GP, 5 G, 8 P, 10:18 ATOI (Frolunda-SEL)
Acquired: Second round, 34th overall in 2009 by Winnipeg (then Atlanta)

The Good: Klingberg is an above-average skater who's well above-average for his size. He's a very fluid and powerful mover with an explosive first step and has a true above-average top gear that can push the pace well. His feet move very quickly and efficiently which is partly due to his non-stop motor and good conditioning that lets him play a high-energy game. Klingberg is a very pesty forward who ravishes in the physical game, as he is a tremendous forechecker, attacks the net regularly, plays his checks physically on defense, and is effective along the walls. Klingberg's got a plus shot as well that comes off his stick very easily with accuracy and power and he certainly projects to score a decent amount of goals in the league.

The Bad: Klingberg doesn't have a whole lot of puck skills or offensive instincts. The former is better as I'd say it's closer to below-average than being completely fringe, but Klingberg certainly is not a prime offensive creator.

Projection: An above-average third line forward who safely projects into a bottom six.

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6. Spencer Machacek, Right Wing
Date of birth: 10/14/1988
Age: 22
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 195
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 67 GP, 21 G, 53 P (Chicago-AHL)
Acquired: Third round, 67th overall in 2007 by Winnipeg (then Atlanta)

The Good: Machacek is a decent, average at a lot of things, not dynamic at a lot type of forward. His best asset is probably his work ethic and intangibles, as he's a pain to deal with in the physical areas and he hustles hard on the backcheck. He's pretty responsible and aware defensively, with the ability to contribute in that area at even strength and on the penalty kill. He's got solid goal-scoring ability as his shot has fine velocity, and he's the kind of player who can produce by planting him around the high percentage areas on a second power play unit by contributing with chippy goals and the occasional snipe.

The Bad: Machacek doesn't have a fringe offensive skill set, but I'd say his skating and puck skills are both just a notch below average. He can show some decent speed, but then his feet will look a little heavy when he's not going full blaze. He'll flash an average pass or move, but then will seem limited with the puck in other instances. He could use just a tad more bulk as well to play his style at the top level.

Projection: In a perfect world, he's an average third line forward who could spot on a second power play unit on a poor team. He should safely project onto a bottom six in any case.

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7. Julian Melchiori, Defense
Date of birth: 12/06/1991
Age: 19
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 209
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 63 GP, 1 G, 19 P (Kitchener-OHL)
Acquired: Third round, 87th overall in 2010 by Winnipeg (then Atlanta)

The Good: Melchiori gets a lot of praise within the industry for his skating. He skates extremely well for a 6'4" defenseman and doesn't tend to get turned around by speedy forwards. He has decent technique and coordination with the puck for a big man and can make a fine outlet pass out of his zone. Melchiori displayed a quiet defensive game this year in the OHL, taking his checks well positionally, using an active stick to derail the opposition's possession, and focusing on getting the puck out of his zone and away from the competition as opposed to making a lot happen offensively.

The Bad: While Melchiori does have some offensive upside, there are concerns if he has what it takes to reach the next level in that department in regards to offensive instincts. He has a lot of work to physically too, as he still has a somewhat slight frame (I wouldn't be surprised if his weight listing is overstated) and he really doesn't play a physical game at all.

Projection: He has below-average second pairing upside, but likely projects as an average third pairing defender who may end up a depth player.

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8. Adam Lowry, Left Wing
Date of birth: 03/29/1993
Age: 18
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 186
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 66 GP, 18 G, 45 P (Swift Current-WHL)
Acquired: Third round, 66th overall in 2011 by Winnipeg

The Good: He is a good physical winger who at the moment projects to possibly be even plus in that aspect once he's done filling out. Lowry is consistently involved in the physical aspect of the game, be it when he's throwing his body at puck-handlers or pressuring them on the forecheck, or with his notably good play in front of the net. While he has room to put onto his 6'4" frame, he already is quite strong and has a decent amount of muscle on him. Lowry's true value, though, is derived from his hockey sense, as he's an above-average thinker which lets him take an overall fringe offensive skill set and be able to churn out some, albeit not a ton of offense. His positional play is refined, and he's shown a solid defensive game at even strength.

The Bad: His skating tool is his major weakness; he's got heavy feet and the tool grades as fringe. Lowry could at the least project as a checker at the next level, but only if that aspect of his game takes a step forward. Lowry's distribution skills are decent at best, as he can make some solid, quick passes, but his stick-handling grades as fringe to below-average.

Projection: He has average third line upside, and safely projects into a bottom six.

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9. Daultan Leveille, Center
Date of birth: 08/10/1990
Age: 21
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 175
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 34 GP, 8 G, 18 P (Michigan State University-CCHA)
Acquired: First round, 29th overall in 2008 by Winnipeg (then Atlanta)

The Good: Leveille is an above-average to plus skater who moves extremely well with a fluid stride and a tremendous top gear. He has a bullet-like burst when he's in full gallop and can really push defensemen back. He's a solid to above-average puck-handler who can show moments of flash and is certainly a skilled one-on-one player. Leveille has a decent work ethic, as he will use his great skating to help him get back on defense and he will attempt to engage physically.

The Bad: His hockey sense is fringe, if that. Leveille just can't seem to make good decisions in the offensive zone, as he will consistently cough up the puck. He'll try to skate by a guy when he should pull up and pass, dangle when he should shoot, pass when he should keep skating, etc. Additionally, he tries at times to do too much on his own and is really his own worst enemy. His physical development has not gone well either as he's a small guy without a lot of bulk on his frame and consistently loses battles in the physical game. He suffered an ACL tear towards the end of the season that puts even more skepticism on his projection.

Projection: There is below-average second line forward upside, but most likely he never becomes a league regular.

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10. Akim Aliu, Right Wing
Date of birth: 04/24/1989
Age: 22
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 205
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 59 GP, 10 G, 18 P (Chicago/Peoria-AHL)
Acquired: Trade from Chicago; drafted second round, 56th overall in 2007 by Chicago

The Good: Aliu is an above-average skater who can simply bulldoze over even the stronger pro defenders due to his speed, size, and strength. When he's going, he's a devastating power forward who shows a beyond-plus physical game and can terrorize opponents on the forecheck and in the physical areas. His athletic and physical tools are truly plus and he has the raw potential to be a top-nine player.

The Bad: Aliu's hockey sense is fringe if not below. He doesn't have a clue what to do with the puck, and has a loose, system-less feel to his game. His puck skills I'd say are below-average and while he can do some decent offensive things with the puck, I don't see him at all as a puck carrier. His effort level wavers as well. At times, he will have the energy of a top-level fourth-line forward, but then will take his foot off the pedal for extended stretches.

Projection: He could be a fourth line forward, but is likely a replacement-level player.

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The Sleeper: 2011 fourth round pick Zachary Yuen is a good skater with a surprisingly effective physical game for his age and height. There is some decent offensive projection to Yuen's game, and the defenseman produced quite well last year in the counting numbers department. He could be a candidate to go to the next level in 2011-12.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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Premium Article From Daigle To Datsyuk (08/30)
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Top 10 Prospects (08/29)
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Top 10 Prospects (07/08)
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