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2018-2019 NHL Preview: Winnipeg Jets

Depth is the key to the Jets

Winnipeg Jets v Vegas Golden Knights - Game Four Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. Last up are the Winnipeg Jets who are in their eighth season (since coming back to Winnipeg in 2011). They have made the playoffs two of the last four years, most notably last year where they lost in the Western Conference finals to the Golden Knights.

2017 – 2018 NHL Stats

NHL Standings: 2nd
Goals for Rank: 2nd
Goals against Rank: 5th
PP Rank: 5th
PK Rank: 7th

Projected 2018-2019 NHL Stats

NHL Standings: 1st
Western Conference Standings: 1st
Central Division Standings: 1st
Coach: Paul Maurice (188-132-43 regular season in Winnipeg; 9-12 playoffs in Winnipeg)(648-589-99-111 regular season all time; 34-40 playoffs all time)

Winnipeg Jets v Vegas Golden Knights - Game Four Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Overview

I’ll start with this important fact. There were two teams last year who were in the top ten in goals for, goals against, power play, penalty kill and standings. Winnipeg Jets and Boston Bruins both landed in the top ten in all of those categories, both teams VERY well rounded. The offense with the Jets is this well-oiled machine that just keeps getting better. Years ago it was Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. Then came Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrick Laine and Kyle Connor and Kristian Vesalainen. What was one dominant duo is now three DEEEEEEEEP lines of offensively talented players who, up until last season, were the Rodney Dangerfield’s of the NHL (Hey! I get no respect!). Mark, Blake and Nikolaj are all off back to back 23+ goals, 60+points seasons. The biggest question to me this season isn’t if they will score but just who will score, will Laine steal some more goals from the collective or Kyle or even Kristian, will they see their 277 goals from last season sneak near 300? Defensively Dustin Byfuglien will always be there to add to goal production (and PIM). John Morrissey and Jacob Trouba formulate an average D1 pairing but it’s the depth with Dustin, Ben Chiarot and Tyler Myers beyond that which help solidify this as a top 12 defense. Those five players combined for a +63 last year. In fact this team as a whole had just three players fall into a plus minus under 0 last year: Matt Hendricks, Shawn Matthias and Marko Dano. In net, Connor Hellebuyck’s stock rose commensurate with Cam Talbot’s from two years ago. He finished with 67 GP, 44 wins (1st in NHL), 2.36 GAA (8th in NHL) and a .924 Sv % (9th in NHL). I think Connor is good BUT the previous season he had 26 wins (15th in NHL), 2.89 GAA (37th in NHL), .907 (37th in NHL). I think it’s fair to expect some regression this year much like Cam went through after a phenomenal win. The difference is that, unlike Edmonton, there is an insane amount of talent on this team so even with a regression in net, they are still going to be a very strong team.

Winnipeg Jets v Vegas Golden Knights - Game Three Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Major Additions

None

Major Subtractions

Michael Hutchinson, Steve Mason Paul Stastny

Prospects and Picks

  • Sami Niku. Taken 198th overall in the 2015 draft, Sami had a very respectable season in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose last season where he put up 16 goals and 54 points in 76 games. He is young and there is some learning yet to happen especially at higher levels but he is progressing very well each season and looks to be yet another talented prospect coming up this system.
  • Kristian Vesalainen. Taken 24th overall in the 2017 draft he moved his way up quickly from the Finnish league into the pros. He is looking to make the roster this year after scoring 39 points in 44 games with the HPK Hameenlinna and then 4 points (including 3 goals) with the Karpat. He is nimble, mobile and quick. His biggest weaknesses are on defense and how his game translates to a full season in the NHL.

Sleeper Fantasy Asset

  • Kyle Connor. As of right now he is on the top line with Mark Scheifele (who notoriously makes his linemates instant point producers) and Blake Wheeler. Kyle enters this season after time with University of Michigan (71 points in 38 games), the AHL (49 points in 56 games over his last two seasons) and then 57 points in his first full season last year including 31 goals. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to see 65+ points out of Kyle.

Cap Situation

$52MM Spent; $26M in Cap room; 14 players signed; average team age 26.

Poll

Does Kyle Connor put up 65+ points this season?

This poll is closed

  • 100%
    Yes
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    No
    (0 votes)
10 votes total Vote Now