Jets prospects taking development camp opportunity in stride

He may not be taking the same route as many of the young prospects he shared the ice with this week, but Justin Lee clearly has the same vision for his future.

“My goal is to play in the NHL and that’s what I want to accomplish,” the 18-year-old defenceman from Waskada, Man., said Friday. “I’m going to put my best foot forward to do whatever it takes to get to the NHL.”

The reigning rookie of the year in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League was an invite by the Winnipeg Jets to their summer development camp this week, rubbing shoulders with some of the franchise’s top draft picks, such as Kristian Vesalainen, Logan Stanley and Mason Appleton.

“I woke up one morning, just a regular morning, and got a phone call. It was one of the Jets scouts inviting me to the camp. And I was just thrilled. It was such exciting news to start the day off,” Lee said.

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He may not be taking the same route as many of the young prospects he shared the ice with this week, but Justin Lee clearly has the same vision for his future.

“My goal is to play in the NHL and that’s what I want to accomplish,” the 18-year-old defenceman from Waskada, Man., said Friday. “I’m going to put my best foot forward to do whatever it takes to get to the NHL.”

The reigning rookie of the year in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League was an invite by the Winnipeg Jets to their summer development camp this week, rubbing shoulders with some of the franchise’s top draft picks, such as Kristian Vesalainen, Logan Stanley and Mason Appleton.

“I woke up one morning, just a regular morning, and got a phone call. It was one of the Jets scouts inviting me to the camp. And I was just thrilled. It was such exciting news to start the day off,” Lee said.

He admits to being a bit wide-eyed when it all started Monday but felt he quickly began to fit in.

“It’s very fast. It’s obviously a transition. I really enjoyed it,” he said.

“It just shows what the next level takes, and what I have to do to get better and what I have to do to play at this level. I’m going to do everything it takes.”

Lee had a terrific first year with the Virden Oil Capitals, with seven goals and 28 assists in 57 regular-season games, and a goal and five helpers in 15 playoff contests.

He’s now exploring his options for the fall, which may include going to the USHL, where several Jets prospects currently play. Cedar Rapids own his rights.

For fall 2019, Lee is committed to the University of Denver Pioneers, which is one of the top-ranked hockey programs in the NCAA.

Lee has already set his goals for the upcoming campaign.

“Just to get a lot better, a lot stronger for the next season. Just to have a really good year next year, be stronger and faster,” he said. “I like to think I read the ice well and make a good first hard pass. I’m more offensive-minded, like getting up on the rush and having the puck on my stick.”

● ● ●

C.J. Suess got his first taste of pro hockey this spring after finishing his collegiate career in Mankato with Minnesota State.

Now he’s hungry for more.

The 24-year-old forward had a goal and an assist in six regular-season games with the Manitoba Moose and added an assist in three playoff games.

“It was good. I got to dip my feet in a little bit, play a couple games and see what the pace was like. You know, for the most part, I felt pretty comfortable with the game,” Suess said Friday.

The 2014 fifth-round draft pick by the Jets is practically a veteran of development camp and will compete this fall for full time work on the farm.

“Yeah, definitely being one of the older guys, you definitely know what it’s like being a young guy coming in. You try to help as much as you can.

“It’s definitely a little relief off your shoulders coming in as an older guy, being a little more relaxed going out on the ice and being able to make plays,” he said.

Getting quicker this summer is the key.

“Just probably work on my first three steps. I realized what I needed to get better at during my time with the Moose. That’s what I’m going to take forward moving into the next season,” he said.

● ● ●

Jacob Cederholm said it was nice to see a familiar face this week.

The big Swedish blue-liner, selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft by the Jets, watched last weekend as teammate David Gustafsson was picked 60th overall by Winnipeg.

“He has a strong game. I really like his game. He protects the puck very good down in the offensive zone and he’s got great defensive game as well,” said Cederholm, 20.

“We played together for almost three years or we were in the same organization (HP71), so I’ve seen him back and forth. Really just this and last season that we got to play together. He’s a great kid.”

Cederholm joined the Moose on an amateur tryout late this spring and played one regular-season game.

“I didn’t really know if I could play in the AHL. But after that game, I figure that this might be the league for me,” Cederholm said of the next step in his career.

His agent is now working on contract negotiations with the Jets, and Cederholm hopes to be with the Moose full-time next season.

“I developed a bit slower, but as long as I feel I’ve developed, that’s my only goal. It maybe takes five years, it maybe takes two years, but as long as I’m developing every day and every season, then I’m not worried at all,” he said.

● ● ●

Mason Appleton took the AHL by storm this season, winning top rookie honours with 22 goals and 44 assists. And he was the most noticeable player on the ice in Friday’s development camp final scrimmage.

Appleton scored twice to lead Team Blue to a 3-1 victory over Team White. And he did it after taking an inadvertent high stick and/or elbow to the face from Moose teammate and fellow rookie Michael Spacek during an earlier battle drill.

Luke Santero had the other goal for the winning team, while Jansen Harkins scored the lone tally in defeat.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
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Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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