Winnipeg Jets prospects look to impress to start rookie camp

The Winnipeg Jets are off and running for another season.

While the veterans won’t report to training camp for physicals until next Wednesday, most of the Jets prospects hit the ice for the start of rookie camp ahead of Friday’s start to the Young Stars Classic tournament in Penticton, BC.

Thirteen forwards, eight defencemen and two goalies were on the ice with 23 players taking part this year.

Three of their last four first-round draft picks are here with Colby Barlow, Brad Lambert and Chaz Lucius all strutting their stuff in front of the organization’s top brass, but 2022 first rounder Rutger McGroarty is already back in school.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for these kids to get out and play some hockey together,” said Jets Director of Player Development Jimmy Roy. “Now the summer hockey is over. You’re getting into competing for jobs and showing what you’re about as a player.”

The players have just two skates to get their legs back before the tournament opener against the Edmonton Oilers top prospects on Friday.

“It’s a special group,” Roy said. “I think right now, with, I think you see the young draft picks that we have coming through. We’ve got some more kids coming through now and it’s just to good to have a big pool of talent here right now.”

Lucius, the Jets’ first-round pick from 2021, skated in 12 games with the Manitoba Moose last year before getting reassigned to the Western Hockey League following a bronze medal win at the World Juniors with the United States.

He is now completely healthy again after missing the end of last season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. It was his third straight season sunk by an injury, also needing previous surgeries to repair ankle and knee injuries, and he’s still only 20 years old.

“It’s obviously unfortunate, the injuries I’ve had, and I don’t think anybody wants it for their careers, especially this young age for me,” said Lucius. “I’ve taken it in stride. I feel like I’ve really matured from it and at the end of the day, there’s nothing you can really do about it besides move forward.

“It’s not the ups and downs of it. It’s kinda what you do with it and the biggest thing for me is just I’ve had those lows, but now kinda building myself back up.”

You could say he’s definitely getting a little sick of talking about his aches and pains.

“Getting through that, I felt like whatever injuries come my way I can really get through anything,” he said. “The ankle and the shoulder is just a part of it. It is what it is. Hopefully I can stay healthy for as long as possible here and play some good hockey.”

“You do feel for him,” said Roy. “But you see the work that he’s put in to get healthy more than once, right? So, he’s got that down pat. So, he’s faced some adversity already.

“Going through this with the mindset, ‘It’s going to happen again. It happens to everybody,’ right? So now he’s gone through it, so he’s going to be mentally stronger when he does.”

The Jets prospects will have one more skate on Thursday before jetting out to BC to play three games against the top prospects from the Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames.

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