Luke Perrett ‘24
Winnipeg Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has made several acquisitions during the off-season, including improvement on the blue line. Despite this, the Jets are left with two major questions: Who will be the fourth-line center and who will backup Connor Hellebuyck?
The Jets’ top six appear to be solid, boasting a first line of Connor, Scheifele, and Wheeler, along with a second line of Dubois, Stastny, and Ehlers. However, the bottom six drops from 6 and 10, to 27 and 21 in the league standings according to Capfriendly.com
The third line looks adequate, with veteran Adam Lowry centering wingers Andrew Copp and Jansen Harkins. Their success will rely on the consistency of Copp and a sensational sophomore season from Harkins. Copp posted the team-high expected goals of 18.2 and 2.33 Points-per-hour last season, and Harkins had a 44% on ice shooting percentage. Speed and consistency will be crucial to their success.
The fourth line now includes Riley Nash as well as the return of Dominic Toninato. The faceoff-taker remains uncertain, being either David Gustafsson or Cole Perfetti. It is likely that the Jets will prefer to play Perfetti, along with two veteran players.
There are many players seeking league minimum contracts that could improve this line. These include Vincent Hinostroza, former Hobey Baker winner Jimmy Vesey, or Manitoba native Darren Helm. It will be interesting to see how Maurice uses this line.
The defence has improved since last year with the additions of Nate Schmidt and Brenden Dillon. With Nathan Beaulieu remaining on injured reserve and the departure of Derek Forbort, the pairings will likely include Dillon and Pionk, Morrissey and Schmidt, and Stanley and DeMelo. The first line should exceed expectations despite being ranked 27 in the league as Pionk is coming off a strong year. The chemistry of Josh Morrissey and Natereakout rookie Logan Stanley and Dylan DeMelo will make up the third line. They can possibly add some offensive help to the bottom six of the offence, which is mainly comprised of defensive forwards. This is needed since the Jets lost 11 games by one goal last season.
The key question now involves who will backup former Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck? With the departure of free-agent Laurent Brossoit to Vegas, what is the plan? As of now, the roster shows Manitoba Moose goaltender Eric Comrie as the other netminder, which is a disaster waiting to happen. His NHL record is three wins and five losses with and a goals-allowed average of 4.08. The Manitoba Moose all-time wins leader is not an NHL goaltender due to his lack of experience and sub-par statistics. A possible solution would be to ink former San Jose goalie Devan Dubnyk to a one-year, 2,000,000 CAD deal.
Alternatively, the Jets can call up draftee Mikhail Berdin following his multiple seasons as a starter in the KHL. If I had the power, I would sign Russian goalie Maxim Tretiak, currently with HK Sochi of the KHL as he has more experience than Comrie in a more competitive league than the American Hockey League.
Whatever the answer, the success of the Jets this season will be dependent on these question
Photo Credit: NHL