For Jack Roslovic, the 2016-17 season is going to look very different from those that have come before it. He signed with the Winnipeg Jets on July 18, and because he was drafted out of the US National Team Development Program and signed out of college, his options are wide-open.
Depending on how he shows in training camp, Roslovic has the opportunity to play in either the OHL, the AHL, or the NHL this fall. This gives the Jets options when choosing which development path to set him on, but it also provides them with temptation to rush him along.
The OHL: London Knights
The London Knights have a knack for getting the players they want, and it’s probably not a coincidence that Roslovic’s signing comes on the heels of London trading for his OHL rights.
Playing in London would likely reunite him with former teammate Matthew Tkachuk, and place him in a top role for the reigning Memorial Cup champions. With Roslovic getting top minutes, he would make the Knights even better going into next season, and with their desire to remain a perennial contender, this move absolutely makes sense for them.
Whether it makes sense for the Jets to assign him to the OHL is another question entirely, and one that will likely be determined by their roster makeup and Roslovic’s performance in training camp.
The AHL: Manitoba Moose
Roslovic was chosen in the first round for a reason — he’s an exceptional offensive talent — but his defensive game could use some polish. It’s possible the Jets could decide to play him in the AHL to get him that polish against a higher level of competition than he’d face in the OHL.
Although he likely (never say never) wouldn’t see the kind of minutes in the AHL that he would with London, playing against men rather than other teenagers may balance that out in the minds of the Jets’ development staff.
Additionally, the Moose were the third-worst team in the AHL last season. Adding a forward with the kind of potential Roslovic brings probably isn’t a bad idea.
The NHL: Winnipeg Jets
Perhaps the most intriguing of Roslovic’s potential paths is whether he can crack the Jets’ NHL roster.
Roslovic had an impressive development camp this summer, but what will be most interesting is seeing how he stacks up against professionals in training camp this fall. It will be the first time Roslovic faces this kind of competition since he didn’t attend last season, obviously, because of his college commitments.
Making the Jets is the longest of long shots, with this being his first year out of college and only one year post-draft, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
The temptation to start him with the big club and see how he does is understandable, but the Jets will likely be keeping a close eye on how many games he plays. If Roslovic is with the Jets past the 39-game mark, he’ll accrue a year towards unrestricted free agency, meaning the Jets will lose his rights one year sooner.
Allowing this to happen may not be in the Jets’ best interests if they don’t intend to keep him the full season, given the current demand for young, cost-controlled talent.
One last thing to consider, and something that could very well play into the decision-making process, is Roslovic’s overall contract status. If the Jets play him in the NHL for more than nine games, they burn the first year of his ELC.
If he’s sent down to the OHL to play for the Knights, however — even if he plays up to nine games in Winnipeg first — his contract slides. Because of his age, Roslovic’s contract also slides if he plays in the AHL, so long as he isn’t called up to the Jets for more than nine games.