ANALYSIS: What’s happening with Jets prospect Rutger McGroarty?

There are multiple reports — none confirmed thus far by the two parties involved — that Rutger McGroarty has told the Winnipeg Jets he will not sign with them because of differing views on the path he’ll take to the NHL.

This completely unexpected turn of events doesn’t seem to fit the profile of the Jets’ 2022 first-round draft pick.

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You had to be there that evening of July 7, 2022, in Montreal during round one of the NHL entry draft at the Bell Centre.

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An ear-to-ear smile seemed to be permanently etched on Rutger McGroarty’s face after being selected 14th overall by Winnipeg.

This was just to be the first step. There was much to learn — and earn — to get to the ultimate destination.

He spoke of training sessions with the legendary Barb Underhill to improve on his skating, which was not listed as one of Rutger McGroarty’s strengths on the various scouting reports.

You could have also been at Hockey For All Centre this past July, when the teenager from Lincoln, Neb., endeared himself to Jets fans, through his words and actions, beyond what any Winnipeg prospect has since the franchise relocated from Atlanta more than a decade ago.

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In short, this was a young man who gets it. His character, maturity and selflessness led to talk of him becoming the captain of the hockey club one day.

Which is why the reports of McGroarty not being onside with marinating in the minors feels like a round peg in a square hole.

And to be 100 per cent clear, I am not questioning the reporting of my colleagues on this story for one second. But what the heck just happened here?

For every young prospect who takes a direct path to the NHL, there are just as many or more examples of those who benefitted from a few months, or even years, in the minors.

Other than Nikolaj Ehlers, every Winnipeg-drafted player currently on the roster has spent time in St. John’s or with the Moose.

Yes, the Jets were not as deep back when the Scheifeles, Morrisseys, Hellebuycks and Lowrys were playing their way into the fold.

But I would argue Winnipeg became a better team, and so did every one of those players, because of time invested in preparing for the next step.

It is being reported Rutger McGroarty and his advisors view development as a detriment in carving out a long and successful career, a path they’re not willing to travel.

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If a parting of the ways is indeed the way this eventually plays out, as is being speculated, to be determined is whether this will work out for both, one, or none.

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