“I want to be there with the big team.”
Although Christian Jaros was amongst the names in the Ottawa Senators’ first round of training camp cuts, he was not discouraged. The 21-year-old defenceman turned a lot of heads, as his two-way style with moments of flashiness made him one of the better players on the ice.
Picked in the 5th round in 2015, Jaros’ ascension up the Sens’ prospect depth chart has been steady. In Silver Seven’s annual Top 25 Under 25 series, Jaros went unranked in his draft year, rose to 16th in 2016 and most recently ranked 12th.
Jaros was born Kosice, Slovakia, although has been playing hockey in Sweden for the last four seasons. Now he’s looking to making his professional debut in North America, and judging by how he’s performed so far, he could be a potential candidate to make the roster sometime in 2017-18.
During his exit interview in 2016, the focus was on pure defence. It’s how he described his game, and also how the Sens’ staff had defined him. One year ago he gained a lot of media attention for his thundering hit on Sebastian Ohlsson, which further cemented his style of play in the minds of Sens fans. His biggest weakness was his skating (the reason he fell to where he did in the draft), although he appears to have taken significant strides.
Randy Lee offered the following quotes on Jaros:
“He’s ready to be a pro. I probably shouldn’t say this, but I think he’s going to be one of those guys you consider for a call up during the season. There is a transition from the European game to the North American game, but since he played big, important minutes in Lulea, I think he’s going to surprise people this year.”
“He’s not a shutdown guy. He’s an offensive guy. He plays the power play. He’s got a good shot. He moves the puck well. And he likes to play a physical game.”
Although Randy Lee has a tendency to overhype prospects, I’m very much in agreement with him here. This is quite the dramatic shift from his perception just a year earlier. So what exactly happened?
First and foremost, his skating has improved.
Christian Jaros with a nice rush that results in a great chance in the slot for Colin White. pic.twitter.com/JWdMwZIDJA— Sens Prospects (@SensProspects) September 19, 2017
His improved skating allowed him to make another change: his ability to carry the puck into offensive zone. Instead of lurking back waiting to cut off the opposition, he’s found a lot more confidence with the puck on his stick, as seen above. This is what allowed him to be second in points per game amongst defencemen 21 or younger in the SHL last season, after scoring at nearly half the rate the previous season.
Jaros has also been less hesitant to use his powerful shot, which netted him a goal in the rookie tournament.
And how can we talk about Jaros without mentioning his outstanding defensive acumen. At 6’3” and 214 lbs, he has a knack for throwing big hits. He uses them effectively, however, as a means to maximize his gap control and turn over the puck. And man, can he hit.
As of now it appears Randy Lee wants Jaros to play in the AHL for 2017-18, although there’s a slight caveat. Jaros is still under contract with Luleå HF, his team in Sweden, as well as his entry-level contract with the Senators. According to the NHL-SHL transfer agreement, all non-first round picks under the age of 22 have to be offered back to their SHL club before being assigned to North America. Jaros falls into this category.
This means that Luleå has the opportunity to bring Jaros back with Ottawa not being able to do anything about it, although as past situations have shown, communication between the two sides can lead to the prospect being released to North America. Some recent examples of this include Pontus Åberg and Viktor Arvidsson, who were both released by their clubs to Nashville in 2014.
A decision might have already been made behind closed doors, although there’s been some recent excitement from Luleå fans on the possibility of a Jaros return. General manager of Luleå Stefan Nilsson had the following to offer last week in an article from Swedish journal NSD:
"We follow the team and team building all the time. Now it's Jaros who's still over there that we follow and keep in touch with. So it will be the first thing we will figure out if he stays there or if he wants and can come home. This is the closest to us here. Depending on how it ends and what decision is taken, we will see how we move on”, says [Nilsson].
If Jaros is left, are you open to recruit?
"I do not want to go in and wonder about it, but first and foremost, we want to make a decision with Jaros if he stays or not.”
Does it seem good to him?
"It's fine, and I'm not surprised.”
Is there money left?
"We have Jaros as a trail we will follow, then we'll see how things are with him.”
Although this may come as a bit of a surprise, the fact that Jaros is still in Belleville is a good sign. Considering how this has been handled in the past, I expect Luleå will end up releasing him to North America where he can develop closer to Ottawa.
This would be fantastic news for Sens fans, as Jaros looks to be Ottawa’s fourth best option amongst right-shot defencemen. An injury or trade could give Jaros the right opportunity to shine. He’s improved his weaknesses and added to his strengths, making Christian Jaros a potential hidden gem to make an impact this season in the NHL.