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2017-2018 NHL Preview: Winnipeg Jets

One of the most talented young teams in the NHL continues it ascension as more prospects join. Goaltending continues to plague them

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. Thirteenth up are the Winnipeg Jets. The 3rd youngest team in the NHL (average age 25.9) is embarking on their 6th season being back in Winnipeg (previously the Atlanta Thrashers from 1999-2011; the previous Winnipeg Jets existed from 1979-1995)
fun fact: adding in the time in Atlanta, Winnipeg has made the playoffs twice in the last 17 seasons; their previous tenure in Winnipeg they made the playoffs 10 times in 16 seasons.

Basic Stats:
2016-2017 NHL Standings: 20th
Western Conference Standings: 9th
Central Division Standings: 5th
Goals for Rank: 7th
Goals against Rank: 27th

Overview: The Winnipeg Jets have a lethal offense as evidenced by them scoring the 7th most goals in the league. They are the only team to have 4 players in the top 30 last year in points (Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele). The four combined for 283 points or an average of 71 points each. Furthermore, it wasn't stacked with one scoring and one passing, all four had at least 25 goals  Their defense is decent with Josh Morissey, Jacob Trouba, Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom and Tyler Myers. Three of their defensemen had 20 points last year, Their core issue is fairly obvious: in net Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson are 37th and 38th in GAA and 37th and 40th in Sv %. They resigned Michael in the offseason on a one year $2.25Million deal along with Steve Mason for 2 years at $8.2MM. Steve Mason was 25th in GAA and 35th in Sv %.They were allowing the 11th most shots against and 3rd worst save percentage. Special teams didn't go well as Winnipeg was the third worst in shorthanded goals against (9) and 3rd in power play goals against (62). This was compounded by them being the third most penalized team in the league. The blue print to me on how to turn this team around comes down to: take fewer penalties and do a better job with goalies.

Major Additions: Steve Mason
Major Subtractions: Ondrej Pavelec, Chris Thorburn

Prospects and Picks:
-Kristian Vesalainen. At 6'3 and 209lbs, he has the size, he has speed and he has a strong shot. He has experience, he has charisma and he has ability to adapt as he has risen to each new level. Given all of this he was a steal for the Jets at 24. He's going back to Finland to play this year but I wouldn't be surprised if he joins the Jets roster next year.

-Kyle Connor. He came up for 20 games last year scoring 2 goals with 3 assists after scoring 33 points across 52 games in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose. He is very talented and capable of producing, as evidenced by scoring almost 2 points per game with the University of Michigan in 2015-2016 after he was drafted 17th overall.

Sleeper Fantasy Asset:
-Tough to say who could be a sleeper on a team where 4 players scored over 60 points. I will circle back to Kyle Connor who has a chance to be on the second line with Blake Wheeler and Brian Little. Brian Little was no joke with 47 points last year and I think Kyle, given a full year with serious top 6 minutes, could be a 40+point player this year.

Cap Situation:
They currently have around $8.3MM with 23 players signed.

Projected finish:
2017-2018 NHL Standings: 19th
Western Conference Standings: 9th
Central Division: 5th

NHL 20th: St. Louis Blues (Western Conference 10th; Central Division 6th)

NHL 21st: Boston Bruins (Eastern Conference 11th; Atlantic Division 5th)

NHL 22nd: Buffalo Sabres (Eastern Conference 12th; Atlantic Division 6th)

NHL 23rd: Arizona Coyotes (Western Conference 11th; Pacific Division 5th)

NHL 24th: Los Angeles Kings (Western Conference 12th; Pacific Division 6th)

NHL 25th: New Jersey Devils (Eastern Conference 13th; Metropolitan Division 7th)

NHL 26th: Detroit Red Wings (Eastern Conference 14th; Atlantic Division 7th)

NHL 27th: New York Islanders (Eastern Conference 15th; Metropolitan Division 8th)

NHL 28th: Vancouver Canucks (Western Conference 13th; Pacific Division 7th)

NHL 29th: Florida Panthers (Eastern Conference 16th; Atlantic Division 8th)

NHL 30th: Las Vegas Golden Knights (Western Conference 14th; Pacific Division 8th)

NHL 31st: Colorado Avalanche (Western Conference 15th; Central Division 7th)