The Winnipeg Jets’ 2021-22 season was labeled a disappointment after finishing sixth in the Central Division with a record of 39-32-11. As we inch closer to training camp, it looks more and more likely that they are planning to “run it back” with the same roster as last season, minus a few key contributors.
Andrew Copp and Paul Stastny have both signed elsewhere, and young prospects are expected to take their place. This is a make-or-break season for many players, coaches, and management, and another season failing to make the playoffs would result in many questions going into the next off-season. Here are three “hot takes” for arguably one of the most important seasons since the team returned to Winnipeg.
Cole Perfetti Will Finish the Season With 40+ Assists and 55+ Points
Cole Perfetti scored two goals and seven assists in 18 games last season but showed plenty of promising flashes as a 19-year-old. Only five players on the Jets scored 55 points or more last season, and only Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and Kyle Connor had more than 40 assists.
If you stretch his numbers in 2021-22 and those averages out over an 82-game span, he would’ve scored nine goals and 31 assists. But like many others on the Jets, Perfetti failed to stay healthy last season. Just as he was getting more comfortable at the NHL level, he suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him for multiple months and the remainder of the season.
The best argument for him taking a massive second-year leap is due to the opportunities he is slated to get this season. He will likely be playing within the top-six with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Connor, which was a line that showed plenty of promise last season. Power play time is also on the table for Perfetti, who can use his elite vision and passing abilities to rack up assists with the man advantage.
Nikolaj Ehlers Leads the Team in Points
This hot take hinges on one thing, whether or not head coach Rick Bowness gives Nikolaj Ehlers the playing time and opportunities he deserves. Under Paul Maurice and Dave Lowry, he was strictly a second-line and second power-play unit player. Connor led the team in every major scoring category last season with 47 goals and 93 points, while Ehlers had 55 points in 62 games.
|2021-22 Season||Kyle Connor||Nikolaj Ehlers|
If you look at their per/60 stats, which neutralizes playing time, Ehlers was the highest-scoring player on the team.
If Ehlers receives top-line minutes, he will continue to be the team’s most effective forward and the points will start to come. His previous career high for points in a season is 64, which came in 2016-17. Unfortunately for him, that’s also the last time he played a full 82 games in a season. The biggest issue for him is staying healthy. If he can do that, look for him to potentially lead the team in scoring and continue to show why he’s one of the most underrated wingers in the NHL.
Ehlers possesses some of the best underlying numbers in the NHL, as displayed by this player card. He has been a model of consistency over the past three seasons and is currently in the middle of the prime of his career at 26 years old. He certainly has the talent to lead the Jets in scoring, but will he stay healthy and get the opportunity to do so?
Winnipeg Jets Finish 3rd in the Central Division and Return to the Playoffs
This one depends heavily on the coaching staff being exceptional since the roster has changed for the worse from last season. If Bowness can lead his staff and put this roster in the best position to win, they have the talent on paper to return to the playoffs.
Most people are writing off the team due to what happened last year, and rightfully so. Although before last season’s disaster occurred, the Jets were viewed as a much-improved team that could’ve potentially made a deep playoff run. If Bowness can limit the number of shots Connor Hellebuyck faces every night, develop the young players correctly, and provide the Xs and Os that suits the roster’s style, they will return to the playoffs.
The top three teams in the Central Division in 2021-22 were the Colorado Avalanche (56-19-7), Minnesota Wild (53-22-7), and St. Louis Blues (49-22-11). While the top two teams likely remain the same, the Jets will be firmly in the mix for that third spot in the division.
The Blues have too many unanswered questions in goal after the departure of Ville Husso, who they lost to the Detroit Red Wings, along with David Perron. The Dallas Stars lost John Klingberg to the Ducks, and they are an older team that could falter at any moment.
The Nashville Predators improved, adding Nino Niederreiter and Ryan McDonagh in the offseason. The Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes are, well, the Blackhawks and Coyotes. If the Blues can manage their goaltending situation, I believe the race for third will involve the Jets, Blues, and Predators.
Jets Face Crucial 2022-23 Season
If all of these predictions were to come true, it would be a great step in the right direction for the franchise. Perfetti’s development is one of the most important things to ensuring success in the future, and Ehlers getting the playing time he deserves would be a big hurdle for a Winnipeg-led coaching staff to clear.
While Scheifele, Hellebuyck, and Wheeler have carried the team in years past, other young players will have to step up if they want to enjoy another trip to the playoffs. The team recently signed Sam Gagner, but they still lack forward talent in the middle-six. If young forwards such as Morgan Barron can replace close to 70 percent of the production that was lost, they will be in a good position to have a better season than the last.