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Brad Lambert and Colby Barlow take leading roles at Winnipeg Jets development camp

There is no doubt the Winnipeg Jets would prefer to have Rutger McGroarty skating at the team’s annual development camp taking place this week at Hockey For All Centre.

But McGroarty’s absence, resulting from a reported differing of philosophy with the hockey club over his individual developmental path, has opened the door for the Jets other top prospects to take on bigger roles — on and off the ice.

That group includes the likes of 2022 first-round pick Brad Lambert and 2023 first rounder Colby Barlow. And it’s probably not a coincidence those two skated on a line together during a short scrimmage Friday morning to cap off the second day of on ice sessions.

Marchand, Man.’s Luke Mistelbacher of the Western Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos rounded out the trio, which combined for the opening goal of the scrimmage when Lambert fired in a laser of a wrist shot from the slot area.

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Lambert spent all of last season with the Manitoba Moose and was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team after scoring 21 goals and adding 34 assists for 55 points in 64 games. The 20-year-old Finnish-born centre was rewarded for that effort by getting called up to the Jets to play in Winnipeg’s regular season finale at Canada Life Centre.

Barlow finished his year with the Moose after Owen Sound was swept in the first round of the OHL playoffs by the eventual Memorial Cup champions, the Saginaw Spirit. The 19-year-old Orillia, Ont., native scored once and set up two other goals in a three-game stint for Manitoba.

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“It’s all steps. It kinda showed me what I had to get better at to reach that level and that’s what I’m working at this summer,” Barlow said following Friday’s development camp skate. “I’m just going to get better at those things as the summer continues with those things in mind and come back the best player I can be.”

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Manitoba Moose head coach Mark Morrison says it’s obvious from his vantage point just how much players like Barlow and Lambert have grown from the experience they’ve gained over the last 12 months.

“It’s interesting what that year does to their personalities and how they carry themselves and how they act within the group,” said Morrison who is going into his fourth season at the helm of the Moose. “You can tell the maturity level there of some of the guys — like Brad for example — he comes in now with a little swagger to him and carries himself within this group as a leader. Talking to Colby, at the end of the year he got a little bit of ice-time with us and that helps. He knows where he stands and knows the things he has to improve on.”

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Morrison also mentioned 2021 first-round pick Chaz Lucius as another one of those young veterans among Jets prospects who looks and acts more comfortable within his peer group, even though the 21-year-old centre is recovering from ankle surgery that cut his season short to just 17 games in 2023-24.

And Morrison agrees with the idea that Kevin Cheveldayoff’s July 1 message to the organization’s young players has resonated with the development camp gathering. “They all watch what’s going on and they think there’s opportunity for them, and (that) gives them a little bit of energy.”

Another one of Winnipeg’s highly touted prospects, 2022 second-round draft pick Elias Salomonsson, was on the ice Friday morning after missing Thursday’s session because he was feeling under the weather.

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The 19-year-old Swedish defenceman was supposed to speak with the media post practice but had to take a rain check because he lost his voice from the effects of laryngitis.

And 2024 fifth-round pick Markus Loponen will spend the coming season in North America. The 18-year-old Finnish centre was selected 23rd overall by Victoria in Wednesday’s CHL Import Draft, and a hockey club official has confirmed Loponen will play for the Western Hockey League Royals during the 2024-25 season.

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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