Paul Postma: A friend asked me if defenceman Paul Postma was going to stick with the Jets at the start of the season. Given that Postma is currently tied for the Jets-preseason scoring lead with two goals and three assists, the two-way d-man is making quite a case for himself. The Red Deer-native has shown the ability to set up his team's attack, as well as hold down the point on the power play.
What will likely keep Postma in the AHL this year are the seven Jets defencemen on one-way contracts, meaning they'd have to clear waivers to be sent down to St. John's. Postma is on a two-way deal, allowing him to go up and down at the organization's discretion. The Jets can only dress six d-men per game, and teams usually keep a seventh with the squad, so if Winnipeg catches the injury bug, Postma may find himself in the show. That said, the team may opt to call up a more seasoned pro like Brett Festerling or Derek Meech.
At only 22 years of age, the Thrashers' seventh-round pick from '07 has his prime years ahead of him and should compete for a spot on the Jets back-end over the next couple of seasons. In the meantime, expect to see him putting up points and running the first-unit power play for the IceCaps. Also, don't be surprised if he garners the nickname "The Postman", because he'll deliver.
Derek Meech: Although the Jets were criticized for not attracting marquee free agents this past off-season, the signing of 27-year-old Winnipeg-native Derek Meech may prove to be a steal for the Jets brass. Aside from the hometown-love he'll enjoy if he's called up to the big-squad, this defenceman brings a pedigree that will make him a valuable asset.
Having spent his entire pro career with the Detroit Red Wings organization, Meech has been taught by - and played with - the best in the game. Given the Red Wing philosophy of over-developing prospects and retaining veteran players, Meech was never able to permanently crack the Detroit line-up. Yet he still brings over 400 games of pro experience - including 126 in the NHL - playing on both defence and the wing.
Given his two-way deal with the Jets, the versatile Meech will likely start the season in St. John's, but this is a player who is hungry to finally establish himself as an NHLer. With the Jets establishing a franchise approach of roster spots going to the best performing players - not the most recognizable or highest drafted - Meech stands a good chance of playing himself out of St. John's this year. Either way, expect to see high-end performances out of this smart, mobile d-man.
Jason King: There's nothing better for getting a team over with the home crowd than for the local hero to to put one on the board. Corner Brook-native Jason King provides the IceCaps with a valuable Newfoundland presence in the line-up which goes a long way towards developing an team identity.
Originally drafted in the seventh round by Vancouver in 2001, King spent parts of five seasons bouncing between the NHL and AHL. Since the end of the 07-08 campaign, he has been playing in the German Elite League - and was under contract to play there again this year - until IceCaps management called looking for him to return to the North American game. Leaping at the chance to play on his home soil, the 30-year-old signed a one-way AHL contract with St. John's, thereby locking him into a spot on the IceCaps.
King has put up points wherever he's played and can slide into both wing positions, so expect to see him playing in the top-6 most nights.
Micheal Kirkpatrick: Signing this undrafted North Sydney-native to an AHL contract was a coup for IceCaps GM Craig Heisinger. Having spent the past four seasons playing centre for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL, Kirkpatrick has graduated from major junior in a wave of glory. Not only did his team become the first-ever Atlantic Canadian Memorial Cup champion, but he retired as the Sea Dogs franchise point-leader.
Although not large at 5'10 and under 200 lbs, Kirkpatrick is still a highly-regarded two-way player and should contend for the third-line centre spot with the IceCaps.
As for getting over with fans, even though he's not from Newfoundland, this Cape Bretoner is as close to a local-boy as you can get.
Arturs Kulda: This son of Riga, Latvia will bring a tough, defence-first game to the IceCaps back-end. Much like Postma, Kulda was drafted by Atlanta in the seventh round and finds himself pushed out of the Jets lineup by the glut of d-men on one-way NHL deals.
At 23 years old, Kulda should just be entering his prime, as defencemen consistently take longer to round out their game. Although not known for his offensive potential, Kulda does pack a heavy shot from the blueline. His primary tools are his size, strength and mobility. At 6'2 and 210 lbs, Kulda is tailor made for the shutdown-defenceman role, so expect him to play on the IceCaps' special teams, as well as matching-up against the opposition's top forwards.