In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2019-2020 standings. I will first note some ongoing trends that are happening in the league. Goals scored per game went up for the fourth consecutive season (at 3.01 goals per game last year), shots against finally dipped last season to 31.3 per game after increasing for four consecutive seasons previously. It’s clear the league’s push towards offense is yielding its intended effect.
Twenty-ninth up are the Winnipeg Jets who are in their 9th year since returning as a Winnipeg franchise. They previously spent 11 years from 1999 – 2011 in Atlanta. Winnipeg previously had the Jets from 1972 – 1996. They have made the playoffs each of the last two years.
2018 – 2019 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 10th
- Goals for Rank: 7th
- Goals against Rank: 15th
- PP Rank: 4th
- PK Rank: 22nd
Projected 2019-2020 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 3rd
- Western Conference Standings: 1st
- Central Division Standings: 1st
- Coach: Paul Maurice (23-162-48 regular season; 11-16 playoffs; career 695-619-99-116 regular; 36-44 playoffs)
On offense, this team has amassed a lethal top six. I was glad to see them go deep in the playoffs two years ago so people could finally see how good Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, and Mark Scheifele were. Add to this Kyle Connor is now emerging as a great player and I think we could see Nikolaj Ehlers make a come back this year as he scored a mere 21 goals and 37 points last season across 62 games played. A handful of average players in Mathieu Perreault and Andrew Copp sit in the lineup and I would argue there is a drop off with players like Jack Roslovic and Mason Appleton but you aren’t counting on those to be big point producers.
Defensively, this team struggled last year allowing the 4th most shots against in the NHL. Dustin Byfuglien was suspended for missing camp and Jacob Trouba is now gone. I’m not ready to throw away what Winnipeg has in their defense with Joshua Morrissey, Neal Pionk and Ville Heinola all under 25. Extending beyond that Dmitry Kulikov, Tucker Poolman and Nathan Beaulieu are under 29. There is potential with this team but they will need to learn and there is likelihood that we see brilliant streaks and streaks where they make immature mistakes positionally.
In net, Connor Hellebuyck won 34 of the 63 games started last season with a 2.9GAA (31st in NHL) and a .913 SV% (21st in NHL). The interesting think with Connor is his every other year (see below). Call me crazy but I’m buying into Connor this year. I think we see him sport a 2.42 GAA and a .920 SV% and sits as a top ten goalie in the league.
- 2015-2016: 2.34 GAA; .918 SV%
- 2016-2017: 2.89 GAA; .907 SV%
- 2017-2018: 2.36 GAA; .924 SV%
- 2018-2019: 2.90 GAA; .913 SV%
Behind the bench, Paul Maurice is not a very strong coach (he has made the playoffs just seven times across 21 seasons. I will say that he made the playoffs the last two seasons running deep in the 2017-2018 season where they lost in the conference finals to the Vegas Golden Knights. He has worked actively to tinker and modify the team to current NHL norms to the good and bad of the team.
- Mark Letestu
- Jacob Trouba
- Tyler Myers
Prospects and Picks
Kristian Vesalainen – Taken 24th overall in 2017, Kristian did play a small handful of game for Winnipeg last year scoring 1 assist across 5 games. He would ALSO play in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose scoring 13 points in 22 games AND in the KHL scoring 17 points across 31 games with Jokerit. I think he plays with the Jets but I don’t think it’s for a full season as he needs some more time to develop.
Sleeper Fantasy Asset
Nikolaj Ehlers – He struggled a bit his rookie year scoring 38 points across 72 games. He then scored 60+ points the next two seasons before his 21 goal, 37 points season last season. I think we see him back around the 60 point area, especially as initial reports show he could be on the top line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.
Cap Situation: (per CapFriendly)
$76.8MM Spent; $4.6MM in Cap room; 27 players signed.