The Jets Young Stars finished the annual rookie camp classic that took place in Penticton over the weekend with a record of 1-2.
The team — that featured recent first round selections Chaz Lucius, Brad Lambert, and Colby Barlow — struggled out of the gate Friday night during their first game versus Edmonton. Danny Zhilkin (3rd round, 2022) opened the scoring in the first period, but the Jets only mustered 14 shots total in the game (with few significant scoring chances) and took an unsustainable eight minor penalties. The lone bright spot for the Jets was easily Domenic DiVincentiis (7th round, 2022), who made 33 saves in goal.
The Jets’ sleepy start to the tournament carried over to the first 40 minutes of game two against Vancouver when they found themselves down 2-0 going into the third and being outshot to that point 36-13. Eventually, the Jets received scoring from Jacob Julien (5th round, 2023) and Colby Barlow (1st round, 2023) to extend the contest to overtime. The game was ultimately decided in the shootout on goals by Barlow and Zhilkin, while Jets goaltender Thomas Milic (5th round, 2023) shut down two of three Vancouver attempts against. Once again, it was the Jets goaltender, this time Milic, who stood out. The Seattle Thunderbird stopped a whopping 39 shots against.
The Jets concluded the tournament with a 4-2 loss on Monday morning versus Calgary. Nikita Chibrikov (2nd round, 2021) was far and away the Jets' best skater in the game, assisting on an Elias Salomonsson (5th round, 2022) power-play goal and scoring a beauty of his own in the second period. DiVincetiis and Milic split duties in net during the loss.
While it’s difficult – and maybe unfair — to assess young players during such a short three game sample size, there were still players that stood out and those who should have but didn't.
Chaz Lucius was one player that was expected to be a little more dominant this weekend than he was. Although he received plenty of ice time and power play opportunities, Lucius wasn't able to break through offensively and was even difficult to notice during portions of games. As a returning player to the tournament, it was disappointing not to see him be more of a difference-maker.
Brad Lambert, another Jets’ blue chip prospect, had a similarly low-impact weekend. He looked a little out of place at the centre position and struggled on faceoffs. But, although he was left off the scoresheet, Lambert showed off relatively effective puck-carrying and zone-entry ability. I’d look for Lambert to return to the wing position with the Manitoba Moose this season.
It wasn't all doom and gloom for the Jets youngsters. Colby Barlow came on during the Jets’ final two games and ended up having a decent weekend for himself, scoring a couple of points along with a shootout goal. Defensemen Elias Salomonsson was easily the Jets' most impactful skater on the backend, showing confidence breaking the puck out and joining the rush. The smooth skating Swede even cashed in with a power play goal.
Overall, it was also an encouraging weekend between the pipes for the Jets. The duo of the franchise’s top goaltending prospects Thomas Milic and Domenic DiVincentiis stood out and gave their team a chance to win even when being outplayed.
However, the Jet that stood out the most was forward Nikita Chibrikov. Although quiet in game one, he consistently improved over the rest of the tournament and finished with a monster game versus Calgary. Every time Chibrikov touched the ice on Monday, he was dangerous, easily reaching double digits in shot attempts — most of which got through, including a couple of crossbars. He also facilitated the Jets' power play by being both a shooting threat and distributor. But Chibrikov’s overall compete level really rounded out his game. He showed he isn't afraid to initiate physically with bigger players or go to difficult areas to retrieve pucks. Watching how the Russian winger established himself in the AHL this season will be interesting.