After making the playoffs in the 2014-2015 season, the Winnipeg Jets failed to make strides the following year missing the playoffs. While the team regressed in the standings last year, the progression of the development of the team’s future leaders was evident. Mark Scheifele had a career year with 61 points (29G, 32A) and Blake Wheeler led the way with 78 points (26G, 52A). This offseason, the Winnipeg Jets front office appointed the two to lead the team going forward with Wheeler serving as captain and Scheifele as an alternate.
Sometimes to be good you have to be lucky and the Jets were just that during the draft lottery. Being awarded the second overall pick, the Jets selected the flashy Finnish forward, Patrick Laine. After playing in the IIHF World Championship and the World Cup, Laine has shown that he can make the transition to high level hockey easily. Laine will be one of the most interesting players in the NHL to watch and will be a serious contender for the Calder Trophy.
It wasn’t all roses for the Jets during the offseason. Defenseman Jacob Trouba decided to sit out training camp and requested a trade. Trouba’s agent Kurt Overhardt said that Trouba wants to reach his full potential as a right-shot defenseman as Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers currently sit ahead of his client in ice time. At only 22 years old, Trouba has the potential to be a top defenseman in the league and many teams will be paying a close watch to see how the situation is handled and especially to his availability.
Once again, the biggest question mark for the Jets entering the season will be the goaltending. Ondrej Pavelec has one year left on his contract and Michael Hutchinson just signed a two year deal. However, the future number one goalie may be gaining another year of experience in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose.
Connor Hellebuyck went 13-11 last year when called upon by the Jets and might see action this year if either Pavelec or Hutchinson suffer an injury.
There will be plenty of players to watch out for. Kyle Connor led the NCAA in scoring in his freshman year and might be in a Jets jersey once the season starts. Nikolaj Ehlers looks to improve on his solid rookie campaign finding his way on the top line with Wheeler and Scheifele. Waiting in the wings are Nic Petan, Brendan Lemieux, and Josh Morrissey all waiting for their opportunity to get more time in the NHL. With a plethora of forwards, the Jets organization has the prospects cupboards pretty full. A good problem to have.
The Winnipeg Jets may need some time to develop chemistry and for their future stars to get accustomed to the NHL level but the Jets will definitely be competitive night in and night out. With a Central Division that boasts the Chicago Blackhawks, St Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, and the Dallas Stars, Winnipeg will be in tough for a chance to play in the post-season. Whether the Winnipeg Jets make the playoffs, the future is very bright and will be on full display when the regular season starts on October 13th against the Carolina Hurricanes at the MTS Centre.
Photos by: Star Roxas, Ron Cantiveros and Mike Macaraeg | Filipino Journal