The Winnipeg Jets finished the 2017-18 season with a 52-20-10 record, good enough for a franchise-record 114 points. They finished second in the NHL and their division, bested only by the Nashville Predators (117 points). The Jets would ultimately get the last laugh, eliminating the Preds in game 7 of the second round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, their cup run came to a crashing halt in the Western Conference Finals, losing in five games to the Golden Knights.
The Jets enter the 2018-19 season looking to build on their success from last year with their core largely intact. They are built to be a contending team for years to come. Their top-six group of forwards is as good as anyone’s in the league and they have capable guys in their bottom-six that could move up if necessary. Their blueline is chalk full of two-way defenseman and they have three of the top-25 right-handed defensemen in the league, according to Corsica. All of that is complemented by one of the best young goaltenders in the game. They have all the talent necessary to get to the Stanley Cup Finals this season, but they’ll have to get through their own division first.
➕ Lauren Brossoit (Free Agency)
➕ Seth Griffith (Free Agency)
➕ Nic Kerdiles (Trade)
Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler are at the head of the Jets’ potent offense. The two spent the entire year together on Winnipeg’s top line, save for the 22 games Scheifele missed due to an upper-body injury. They had a 58.67 GF% in over 800 minutes together at 5v5. Both played more than 20 minutes a night and were over a point per game. They should continue to lead the way for the Jets offensively in 2018-19, and we expect Kyle Connor to maintain his job alongside them. Connor was fortunate enough to spend most of the year with them on the top line, and he took full advantage. He scored 31 goals and added 26 assists as a 21-year-old. There’s no reason not to expect a repeat performance from him this year.
As if 20 minutes against Scheifele and Wheeler isn’t enough, the Jets’ opponents will have to deal with the likes of Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers on the second line. Laine did everything the Jets could have hoped for in his sophomore season; he raised his shot total by 37, his goal total by 8, and even improved on his 17.6 SH% from 2016-17. His production took some crucial steps forward despite playing nearly a minute and a half less per game. If anyone is going to challenge Alex Ovechkin for the Rocket Richard trophy this season, it’s him. Ehlers has been equally impressive in his short career, notching his second consecutive 60-point season in 2017-18. Unlike Laine, Ehlers doesn’t get the benefit of playing with the Jets’ first powerplay unit. Bryan Little is set to reclaim his spot between the two dynamic wingers after deadline-acquisition Paul Stastny left for the Golden Knights in the off-season. While the 31-year-old has lost a step, Little’s playmaking abilities still make him a viable choice for this spot.
While they may not be as deep as they were a year ago, the Jets’ bottom-six still holds some valuable pieces. Jack Roslovic put up 14 points in 31 games last year despite an ATOI of 12:19. He featured on the Jets’ top line at times last year and could do the same in 2018-19 if one of Connor, Scheifele, or Wheeler were to miss time. Mathieu Perreault was able to put up 39 points in 70 games in 2017-18 while skating on the Jets’ fourth line. He gets a promotion to the third line this season and, like Roslovic, can move up the depth chart should injuries plague the Jets’ lineup. Two highly-touted prospects in Kristian Vesalainen and Brendan Lemieux are threatening for a roster spot in training camp, boosting the upside of the Jets’ bottom-six that much more.
On defense, the Jets have 3 pairings that could challenge for top-pair minutes on most NHL rosters. Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey are two workhorses for the Jets at 5v5. They both excel at transitioning in and out of the zone and are able to handle the more difficult assignments at even strength. This frees up Dustin Byfuglien, who can be a defensive liability at times, to enjoy some cushier matchups at 5v5. Byfuglien is one of the most productive defensemen in the game and is set up for another successful year headlining the Jets’ lethal powerplay. Logan Stanley, the former No. 16 overall pick from the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, has impressed in training camp but it remains unlikely that he breaks training camp with the Jets.
Tyler Myers and Dmitry Kulikov make up a strong third-pairing for Winnipeg. Myers is one of the most underrated offensive-defenseman in the NHL. He registered 36 points last season despite never sniffing the Jets’ top powerplay unit. His skillset is worthy of a larger role, but he won’t see it so long as he plays on the same team as Byfuglien. The combination of him and Ehlers gives the Jets one of the strongest second-units in the league.
In 2017-18, Hellebuyck fulfilled the potential he flashed in his first two NHL seasons, registering a .924 SV% and a league-leading 44 wins. He is the Jets’ bona fide number-one netminder after signing a six-year, $37-million contract in the off-season. He should be one of the most heavily-utilized goalies in the NHL this season, projecting for around 65 starts. Don’t expect the newly-acquired Laurent Brossoit to play much more than the tail end of back-to-backs.
|Patrik Laine (42)||Blake Wheeler (56)||Blake Wheeler (83)||Patrik Laine (15)|
|Kyle Connor (32)||Mark Scheifele (42)||Patrik Laine (73)||Mark Scheifele (8)|
|Mark Scheifele (30)||Nikolaj Ehlers (40)||Mark Scheifele (72)||Nikolaj Ehlers (7)|
- 13. Patrik Laine — RW3
- 17. Blake Wheeler — RW5
- 30. Mark Scheifele — C11
- 38. Connor Hellebuyck — G4
- 50. Dustin Byfuglien — D8
- 51. Nikolaj Ehlers — LW10
- 113. Kyle Connor — LW21
- 200. Tyler Myers — D52
- 212. Bryan Little — C48
- 222. Jacob Trouba — D58
- 298. Jack Roslovic — C65
- 299. Josh Morrissey — D79
Predicted Central Standings
1. Nashville Predators
2. Winnipeg Jets
Without question, the Jets are good enough to win the Stanley Cup this season. As they showed last year, they don’t need to win their division to go deep into the post-season. They’ll be projected for a second-round matchup with the Predators’ either way. The two front-runners of the Central Division are simply playing for home-ice advantage over the course of an 82-game season. The lack of depth in their division gives both teams a relatively-easy schedule, making it a real possibility that Nashville and Winnipeg finish first and second in the league standings for the second-straight season.