Dom Lunardo | April 12th, 2020
“One day our Jets will fly again” For fans of the Winnipeg Jets from all across Canada, that phrase loomed large when the team sadly relocated to Phoenix, Arizona at the end of the 1995-96 season. 16 years later, the Jets (and their newly ignited fan base) made their triumphant return to the National Hockey League during the 2011-12 season. That infamous phrase was at the forefront once again in the eyes of hockey fans in Winnipeg: ”One day our Jets will fly again”.
Winnipeg, Manitoba. Home of the “white-out. Few would argue with the assertion that the Bell MTS Center (home of the Jets) located in downtown Winnipeg, is one of the loudest “barns” in the National Hockey League once the playoff rolls around. When the NHL season was suspended until further notice due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Jets were holding on to one of the wild card berths in a very competitive western conference. The likes of Mark Scheifele, Connor Hellbuyck, Blake Wheeler. Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, and Neal Pionk have thrust the Jets into life this season. The 2019-20 campaign has also seen the emergence of a few promising youngsters enter the fold. What’s even more exciting is that the Jets have some very interesting pieces in the system, itching for any opportunity to don a Jets sweater. Let’s dive in and take a sneak peek at the top-three prospects for the Winnipeg Jets.
Number 3: Kristian Vesalainen, Left-Wing/Right-Wing, Manitoba Moose (AHL)
Big, strong, mean, and “in your face”. No, we’re not talking about a monster on the loose, we’re talking about the third-best prospect in the Winnipeg Jets organization, Kristian Vesalainen. Standing tall at 6’4, 210 pounds, Vesalainen is a soon-to-be Paul Maurice favorite for his size, physical play, and ability to wear down the opposing team’s defensemen. It’s no secret that both Maurice, and Jets general manager, Kevin Cheveldayoff like their teams to be big, heavy, and hard to play against, and Kristian Vesalainen fits the bill and then some in this regard. Drafted in the first round, 24th overall during the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Vesalainen skated in five games for the club last year before being assigned to the club’s American League Hockey affiliate, Manitoba Moose, where he’s currently playing. Vesalainen’s strong, powerful skating ability coupled with his ability to score, will place him in good stead in the Jet’s top-nine in the next year or so. The Jets have themselves a real dandy with Vesalainen.
Number 2: Ville Heinola, Defenseman, Lukko (Finnish Liiga)
Heinola has been turning heads for a while now with his strong performances at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships for Finland, and for Lukko of the Finnish Liiga. The Jets selected Heinola with the 20th overall pick during last summer’s NHL Entry Draft and have been absolutely thrilled with his development as a player over the past eight months. During this past year’s best-on-best World Junior tournament, Heinola was one of the standout players in the entire tournament, tallying five points in seven games played while playing 18+ minutes per game. The smooth-skating Heinola possesses excellent puck skills, anticipates plays before they happen, and makes smart decisions when placed under pressure with a calm, cool, and collective disposition. Heinola has a high hockey IQ and thrives in close quarters, where he can shift his body and use his stick to evade potential forecheckers. The super-Finn will be a force on the Jets blue-line in no time.
Number 1: Declan Chisholm, Defenseman, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
The “Jumbo Jet” when it comes to prospects, and coming in at number one on our list is the Peterborough Petes product, Declan Chisholm. Born in Bowmanville, Ontario, Chisholm has NHL superstardom written all over him. In three seasons with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Chisholm has tallied 21 goals, 116 assists, for 137 total points. This year has been a real “coming out” party for Chisholm, who has been turning heads with his strong performances alongside Maple Leafs gem, Nick Robertson, in junior rinks all across the province of Ontario. Pro scouts marvel over his ability to skate, move the puck, and effortlessly jump up into plays without ever compromising the defensive side of his game. His 6’1 frame gives him a physical edge over many of his opponents, but his ability to shift his body weight and elude oncoming forecheckers has been a real positive for Chisholm. The Jets blue-line is going to get a whole lot better with stud defenseman Declan Chisholm.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images