Turbulence Ahead for Jets Prospect Logan Stanley

Logan Stanley has almost slipped out of the conscience of Winnipeg Jets fans. For a defenseman about to enter his first year of professional hockey, that may not be such a bad thing.

By far the Jets most controversial first round pick, Stanley has been the subject of heated debate among those who observe Jets prospects. His merits and flaws are almost immediately apparent with one glance at his stat line.

On the upside, Stanley is a towering, physical blueliner, standing 6-foot-7 and with more weight still to add to his already-imposing 235 pounds. On the downside, it took Stanley a far longer time than expected of a first-round pick to start putting up points.

Logan Stanley Kitchener Rangers

Logan Stanley made great strides with the Kitchener Rangers but has a lot more ground to cover to be a solid NHLer. (Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

Stanley’s footspeed, and in particular his ability to turn in a hurry, were concerns through much of his junior career. He was particularly exposed at times in the World Junior Summer Showcase last year, where, after a terrific game against Sweden, he was victimized several times against the United States.

Stanley has made some good strides. His 15 goals this year were tied for fifth among OHL defensemen, and he showed a better sense of when to jump into the rush and how to get his heavy shot through traffic. It was a major step in the right direction.

Now, Stanley needs to make another step, this time more of a leap, to the pros. If recent history is any indication, this step might include a stumble or two.

Stanley and Josh Morrissey

To be crystal clear, Josh Morrissey and Stanley are not the same player, nor do they have the same upside. Morrissey was a two-time World Junior member for Canada in his junior career, and if Stanley turns out anything like him, the Jets will be thrilled.

What provokes the comparison is that Stanley and Morrissey are the only two defensemen from the CHL on whom the Jets have ever expended a first-round pick. They will also be two of just three Jets first rounders to play two years of junior after their draft year, and the only two (barring a crazy training camp) to start off in the AHL after that second year.

Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey

These days Josh Morrissey is one of the Jets best defensemen, but his pro career had a bumpy start in the AHL. (Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Nobody really remembers now as Morrissey has been stellar in his two years in the NHL, but he really struggled in his first few months in the AHL. It came as quite a surprise, and Morrissey grew in confidence as the year progressed, but he started poorly.

In time, if the Jets are fortunate, Stanley will be the same as Morrissey. No one remembers the rough start thanks to the terrific end result. And who knows? The ultra-physical Stanley may take to the AHL like a fish to water. His rookie lumps aren’t assured.

Past history indicates there is turbulence ahead for Stanley, however. Very few CHLers make the jump to the AHL unscathed. In fact, the Jets rookies who have dominated or exceeded expectations in the AHL have almost all come out of college.

What it is about the college game that produces more pro-ready players, who can say. The age of the competition and the schedule are both factors, no doubt. The fact is, in recent history CHL grads don’t, on the whole, transition to the AHL as easily as their NCAA colleagues.

For a player whose footspeed has long been a concern, the adjustment to the pro game is going to be a massive one. Morrissey had the advantage of being a terrific skater. Stanley’s skating has improved, but he doesn’t have that same tool in his kit.

So Jets fans are going to have to be something they haven’t been very good at where Stanley is concerned – patient. Here Stanley has one advantage over Morrissey in that expectations are lower.

What is Success for Stanley?

Logan Stanley is not going to do as Sami Niku did and be a stud in the AHL right away. They’re not the same player, they don’t come from the same background, and they don’t have the same skillset. Even Niku’s success was a bit of a surprise, so it’s unreasonable to expect Stanley to have that kind of year.

On the other hand, take a look at the kind of year Morrissey had in his first AHL season. While even that may be a bit much offensively (22 points in 57 games would be a great rookie campaign for Stanley) the growth he saw is within reach.

Stanley doesn’t have to come to Manitoba and set the world on fire. He just has to do what Morrissey did in one sense: endure the bumps in the road, keep playing his game, and get a little better at it every day.

The difference between Morrissey at the start of his first AHL campaign and the end was massive. If Stanley can achieve even a similar growth rate, his year is a success.

Stanley just needs to play the way that got him on the radar in the first place. He likely won’t be a first power play guy right away. He needs to be mean, hard to play against, and simple with his decision making. He needs to play the physical brand of hockey he’s known for.

Stanley should expect small improvements of himself every game. Jets fans, hopefully, will be patient enough to expect the same. Neither will be disappointed if they let the occasional hiccup go.

After all, there’s still a darn good hockey player in Stanley. He’s taking a little longer to emerge than the Jets are used to from their first round picks, but he’s still in there. His year in Kitchener proved it. With any luck, his coming year will prove it again.