For many hockey fans, Christmas time means one thing. The World Junior Hockey Championships. Always an exciting time, the World Juniors have become a staple on Canadian television with thrilling games that leave the country breathless. The World Juniors also provides a chance for the next generation of stars to showcase their talents to a much broader audience. Past tournaments have seen the likes of Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Alexander Ovechkin perform great feats in the tournament.
The Winnipeg Jets will be watching this tournament with great interest. That is because four Jets prospects will be representing their respective nations. Josh Morrissey and Nicolas Petan will be on Team Canada, Andrew Copp will represent Team US, while Jan Kostalek will represent the Czech Republic. Here’s a closer look at the Jets foursome in the tournament.
The Jets first round selection (13th overall) in the 2013 entry draft, looked impressive in training camp, thanks to his puck moving skills, and his poise. The 6-0, 186 pound defenceman plays his junior hockey for the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL, where he has recorded 13 goals and 22 assists in just 28 games for the Raiders. Morrissey brings offensive upside from the blue line while not forsaking his defensive responsibilities. He is somewhat undersized by NHL standards which could make him vulnerable to power forwards on the forecheck. However, Morrissey is a strong player who will fill out as he matures. Morrissey has been paired with the returning Griffin Reinhart, but has also seen power play time with Aaron Ekbald as his partner on the blue line. Morrissey is still two years away from the NHL, but a good tournament could speed up that process.
The Jets second round selection (43rd overall) in the 2013 entry draft, is enjoying a sensational season with the Portland Winter Hawks of the WHL. Petan is second in scoring in the WHL, compiling 20 goals and 46 assists in only 32 games so far this season. The 5-9, 173 pound centre is an extremely creative player, who uses his speed and vision for maximum output. In the pre-tournament games, Petan has been on a line with Jonathan Drouin and Curtis Lazar, but in Canada’s final tune-up game against Switzerland, Drouin found himself in the middle with Lazar and Kerby Rychel flanking him on the wings. Petan is highly skilled and is expected to be one of the top scorers for Canada in the tournament. His smallish stature could be a detriment to his NHL chances, but Petan is hoping to prove the doubters wrong.
The Jets fourth round selection (104th overall) in the 2013 entry draft, is currently in his sophomore year at the University of Michigan, where he leads the team in scoring, recording 9 goals and 5 assists in 14 games. Copp has also put on an additional 15 pounds this season, pushing his weight past the 200 pound mark. Copp was named associate captain of the American team, which should please Jets management. Showing leadership and maturity beyond his years is something that cannot be taught. Copp is seen as a possible checking centre for the Jets down the road, with a hint of offense in his game. A sleeper prospect who doesn’t get the attention that Morrissey or Petan garners, Copp could be the surprise player of the tournament.
Another fourth round selection (114th overall) from the 2013 entry draft, Kostalek is plying his trade with the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL. A defensive defenceman, Kostalek has registered 1 goal and 17 assists in 30 games for the Oceanic this season. While not the biggest blue liner, Kostalek can play physical, but his strengths are on the intellectual side, using strong positioning and good hockey sense. Kostalek has steadily improved with each passing season, and a strong tournament could see his placing rise on the depth chart. The Czechs are expected to be offensively challenged so there will be pressure on Kostalek and his fellow defencemen, to be strong defensively. Another sleeper that Jets management hopes that can pay big dividends.
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