The Winnipeg Jets will come into training camp this season with a problem that many teams wish they had. While the team’s top two lines are likely set, the bottom six has a fair amount of room for players hoping to make an impact and make an NHL roster. The remaining Jets forwards, outside of the top six, will compete come trading camp for probably only three to six spots. With that many players fighting for so few roles, look for training camp to be ultra competitive come September.
The Jets went out this summer and created depth in the organization. Whether from the outside, in free agent pick ups, or from inside, with new and matured prospects ready to make the jump. These players will challenge the incumbents, the players who held these roles for Winnipeg last year. For arguments sake, we’re going to assume a few things.
Scheifele, Wheeler, and Ehlers, the top line for much of last year is going to return as such. For the purposes of this article, we will also assume Little, Perreault, and Stafford all have spots safe. Both Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine will at very least begin in the NHL as well. That leaves four every day spots for Jets forwards to fights for, and probably two more roster player that will spend most of their time in the press box. Let’s start by meeting the men who held spots last year as we examine the players competing for NHL jobs this season.
This group will include the Jets forwards who competed for this team last season for more than just a cup of coffee. Players like Scott Kosmachuk and J.C. Lipon, who did play games for the Jets last year, will not be in this group but we will get to them along with the other prospects in part two.
Adam Lowry: Lowry had a bit of a sophomore slump last year which included a brief stint with the farm team. He will be looking to regain his hold on a third or fourth line center position but it is far from assured. Lowry has played 154 games with the Jets over two seasons scoring 18 goals and 22 assists. Lowry has a big body and is improving defensively but still leaves something to be desired in the offensive zone. He will continue to develop but whether it’s in the NHL or AHL will be the question.
Alex Burmistrov: I wrote in-depth about Burmistrov yesterday, but the main idea is this may be his last chance to make an impact in the NHL. Heading into the last year of his contract it would be fair to call the former eighth overall pick a bust so far. He will need to show more in training camp this year than he ever has if he wants to remain in the NHL.
Marko Dano: Dano was acquired in the Andrew Ladd trade just before the deadline last season. The former first-round pick made a bit of impact but it will be interesting to see if he gets a chance to develop some familiarity with teammates at the NHL level this season.
Andrew Copp: Copp joined the Jets for one game in 2104-15, and between that and last season’s training camp earned the fourth line center job. Copp started his rookie season slowly but seemed to pick up some steam near the end of the year. He is a decent two-way player but out of all the players in this category, Copp is most likely to be one of the Jets forwards to be demoted to the AHL for next season.
Chris Thorburn: Thorburn has been with the Jets since their arrival to Winnipeg, and though not the most skilled puck handler, or fastest skater around, Thorburn has been a mainstay on the roster. Many times over Thorburn value in the dressing room has been talked about, and no one works harder. However with the amount of young talent, the 33-year-old may spend more time in the press box than on the ice.
Anthony Peluso: Peluso has been referred to as the Jets nuclear option. He is one of the toughest heavyweights in the league and there are not many other who are in his class. He’s shown skill at times, but the Jets have lessened his time in each of his three seasons in Winnipeg. Peluso may be another guy who will find himself in a Moose uniform next year.
Joel Armia: Armia was acquired at the trade deadline in 2015 from the Buffalo Sabres as a part of the package that came to Winnipeg in return for Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian. After starting the season with the Manitoba Moose in the AHL, Armia became a major part of the team due to some injuries. His skill is evident, probably scoring the highlight goal of the year for Winnipeg.
Armia scored 10 points in 43 NHL games last season but showed fans that he does have plenty of potential to be a top-six guy one day. The former first-round pick has earned at very least a long look from head coach Paul Maurice, but with some top draft picks, Armia may have been pushed out of the lineup by younger prospects.