Playing in the Scotia North division in 2021, the Winnipeg Jets had a rather middling season that was still able to translate into a playoff berth and a shocking sweep of the Oilers. Will they have that same success in 2021-2022 when they return to the more balanced Central Division?
These are the projected forward lines according to dailyfaceoff.com:
Kyle Connor- Mark Scheifele- Blake Wheeler
Paul Stastny- Pierre-Luc Dubois- Nikolaj Ehlers
Andrew Copp- Adam Lowry- Jansen Harkins
Dominic Toninato- David Gustafsson- Riley Nash
You look at this group on paper and think “dang, that’s solid”. And you would be right… for the top half anyway. The talent in this top six is as good as any team in the league not called Tampa Bay. But look again, and you see a bottom six that is largely underwhelming. Winnipeg mainstays Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp are perfectly serviceable NHL forwards. Would I want them on my third line? Ideally no, but they provide decent enough defensive responsibility (something these forwards are sorely lacking) if not much depth scoring.
A couple pieces that dailyfaceoff does not take into account are recent first round picks Kristain Vesalainen and Cole Perfeti. Vesalainen has gotten a couple looks in the NHL, including a 12 game stint in 2021, but has essentially done nothing with them (2 assists in 17 games played). Perfetti, on the other hand, is a very intriguing option. He went into the AHL last season as a teenager and put up darn solid numbers against men (26 pts in 32 games). Expect Perfetti to crack the lineup and play significant minutes.
According to dailyfaceoff.com, the defensive pairing project as:
Brenden Dillon- Neal Pionk
Josh Morrissey- Nate Schmidt
Logan Stanley- Dylan Demelo
The Jets defensive corp has recovered enough after losing Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, and Dustin Byfuglein in 2019 to not be considered a glaring weakness. The listed top-six is more than capable of moving the puck up to the talented forwards, while also having size enough to play a physical game. Brenden Dillon is the only newcomer here, and while he has a lot of hard miles played, he’s coming off of a pretty solid season with the Capitals and should contribute fine at both ends of the ice. Also waiting in the wings is touted prospect Ville Heinola. His smart puck moving play and smooth skating is sure to get him in the lineup at some point (Jets fans are hoping anyway).
According to dailyfaceoff.com, the goaltending tandem projects as:
It’s no secret: Connor Hellebuyck is one of the best goalies in the league, and can carry the load of a starter. The only question is if Comrie can perform well enough in relief so Hellebuyck can get enough breaks to perform down the stretch. In 9 NHL games started, Comrie has a 4.07 GAA and a .873 save percentage. While not a huge sample size, it doesn’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence.
Questions hang over this club: Will the leadership core of Wheeler and Scheifele be able to hold this group together down the stretch? Will the defense be able to hold up against the deeper rosters of the Central division? Can Hellebuyck withstand another year of a heavy starter’s workload? There is certainly enough talent here to get the team into the playoffs. And as we have seen time and again, once that happens, who knows?
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