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Eye on the Future: Winnipeg Jets Prospect Jack Roslovic

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Miami freshman forward was late-riser in last year's NHL Draft after a strong finish to his career at the National Team Development Program. His last impression, at the World U18 Championships last spring, was a good one, and Roslovic ended up sneaking in to the first round of the Draft when the Winnipeg Jets took him 25th overall.

After a brief flirtation with the Ontario Hockey League, Roslovic decided to stick with his commitment to Miami. He's off to a strong start at the NCAA level. He's leading the RedHawks in scoring with five goals and three assists for eight points. He was also recently named his conference's rookie of the month for October. I took a closer look at Roslovic during Miami's game at St. Cloud State on October 31st to get a better idea of how he is adjusting to the college level and what his pro potential might be.

The RedHawks list Roslovic at 6-1 193 lbs. The height looks correct, but the weight feels a bit inflated, just given the eyeball test. Roslovic has filled out a bit over the past few years, but still has some muscle to gain before he is ready for the pro level. He is centering Miami's second line flanked by wings Kevin Morris and Josh Melnick. Matching him up with another high-skill young player in Melnick has really helped his production in the early going as the two have had instant chemistry. The RedHawks are also using Roslovic on the power play.

It's an interesting comparison between Roslovic and the RedHawks top line center, senior Sean Kuraly, who we profiled yesterday, because they are almost exact opposites of each other. While Kuraly is unexciting offensively, but a dependable veteran that does all the little things well, Roslovic is almost all flash, but still needs to round out the details of his game.

We'll start with the part that likely intrigued the Jets enough to take him in the first round of the draft, which is that Roslovic loves to play with the puck on his stick. He's very confident and poised with the puck and never seems like he's rushed. He's a shifty stickhandler that makes it impossible for the defense to square him up.

He showed off some of his skill on an impressive first goal when he tipped a shot out of mid-air, creating a rebound, which he picked up behind the goal line and shoveled into the net. Here's a Gif of the play

roslovic goal

The replay almost doesn't do justice to how difficult it is to control his body like and turn to get that puck into the net. For a kid that was a bit awkward and gangly as a youngster, he's got tremendous control of his body now. He made an impressive pass catch on a puck in his feet when he lifted his right leg to take a pass on the inside edge of his left skate without really breaking stride, which is another play few players can make.

If there was a complaint offensively. it's that he maybe could have been more aggressive attacking the net. His best chance after scoring that goal came in the second period when he had an angle on an SCSU defenseman in the high slot. A few hard strides and Roslovic would have been in alone with a golden opportunity, but instead, he over-stickhandled the puck and ended up taking a harmless wrister from the high slot that ended up going over the net.

The biggest area that he'll need to improve is on the defensive side of the puck. We highlighted one defensive miscue that helped lead to a St. Cloud State goal earlier this week. He'll need to improve his effort on the backcheck as well, as a few lazy plays led to some offensive opportunities the other way. It might take time, but those should definitely get cleaned up eventually.

So far, the early returns suggest that the Jets are getting exactly what they hoped for when they drafted Roslovic. He's got the offensive potential to be a top-six forward at the NHL level. I prefer him playing on the wing to playing up the middle, especially with some of his defensive liabilities right now. But skill players like him are hard to find. Even if he doesn't become Pavel Datsyuk or Patrice Bergeron on the defensive end, there's under-appreciated value in a player that can gain zone entry as consistently as Roslovic can, and can drive possession with his stickhandling and passing ability. He'll still need another year or two of college hockey beyond this season to add some muscle and improve some of the other areas of his game before he's ready to sign with the Jets and make a serious attempt at cracking their roster. But he's continuing to show a steady upward trend in his development, which is very promising for the future.