An early-morning deal on Jan. 23 between the Winnipeg Jets and the Columbus Blue Jackets had the whole hockey world buzzing. The Jets shipped out star sniper Patrik Laine and restricted free agent Jack Roslovic to the Blue Jackets in exchange for elite centre Pierre-Luc Dubois and a 2022 third-round draft selection.
The fans of the Jets and the Blue Jackets are both very excited to welcome a new young player to their roster, but they are also sad to lose that kind of talent. Laine is a pure sniper who has recently excelled in passing, while Dubois is a power forward who is great in all ends of the ice. This deal was a perfect fit for both clubs.
Since COVID-19 has impacted the world so much, it has also had an impact in hockey. The Scotia North Division must have players quarantine for 14 days before they can suit up if they are coming from a different division. If my math is correct, this puts Dubois in position to make his Jets debut on Feb. 9 in Calgary in a battle with the Flames.
The big question is, where does Dubois fit in the Jets lineup? This article takes a look at my projected Jets forward lineup with everyone healthy and ready to go. Head coach Paul Maurice has some work on his hands to figure out where his newly acquired piece is going to be the most efficient.
Line 1: Connor-Scheifele-Wheeler
There is no doubt in my mind that this will be the first line for the rest of the 2021 season. This is the line that usually matches up against the other team’s top line and has the opportunity to be one of the highest-scoring in the league.
Kyle Connor has been on a tear this season putting up four goals and five assists for a total of nine points. His game on Jan. 24 against the Edmonton Oilers was his first game of the season without a point, putting up nine points in the other five games.
Connor’s great play has not taken the spotlight from first-line centre Mark Scheifele, as he has also produced greatly. At the beginning of the year he was ranked No. 12 on NHL top centres list. He has put up nine points as well on the year with only one game where he went pointless.
The line is finished off with some grit and leadership with captain Blake Wheeler on the right-wing. Scheifele and Wheeler have been Maurice’s favourite duo ever since they became first-line players. Wheeler has been with the team since he was traded by the Boston Bruins to the Atlanta Thrashers before the relocation to Winnipeg. Although the Jets have many high-talent players, this line should continue to stick.
Line 2: Stastny-Dubois-Ehlers
As of right now, the second line that has been doing very well has Paul Stastny in the middle alongside Andrew Copp and Nikolaj Ehlers. The addition of Dubois will put him on the second line and would move Stastny to left side with Ehlers on the right, ultimately moving Copp to the third line.
This line has the potential to be the Jets’ most effective in all three zones on the ice. In the offensive zone, the power forward of Dubois, the playmaking of Stastny, and the pure speed and hockey sense of Ehlers could help them reach that position.
In my opinion, Ehlers has been the most impressive Jet so far and has been my favourite to watch. The step forward that he has taken this year has put him in a great place with the team. His speed through center ice that allows him to enter the offensive zone with such confidence is a treat for fans to watch and players to play alongside.
Obviously, the new addition of Dubois is something to take note of. He has recently signed a two-year, $10 million deal and is striving to have two career years with the Jets in hope of a new contract. What Dubois brings to the table is a very unique skillset for a player of his age. With his big 6-foot-3 frame down low in all four corners of the ice, he is a threat in every single one of them.
Mix that in with his playmaking and even some goal-scoring ability and his ceiling is something that can be unpredictable. The fact that he got traded for a player like Laine also should give him some motivation to perform well and win the fans’ hearts.
Line 3: Copp-Lowry-Appleton
The “third line” of the Jets is able to play in all situations on the ice, mainly to wear down the other team’s top players with some offensive zone pressure. This is my favourite line to watch on the Jets for two reasons.
The first reason is the fact that although they are not the most talented set of players, they have the heart and the drive that a team needs to be successful. I believe that Copp and Adam Lowry together is exactly what the Jets need and could be the driving force of the team.
The second reason is how much intensity that they play with in the defensive zone. Some people may believe that a conservative way of playing in the defensive zone may be the best way to play it, but I disagree. I believe the best way is to play aggressively and force the opposition to make mistakes. One player who was great at this was ex Winnipeg Jet, Brandon Tanev. He left it out there every single shift he had on the ice and forced the other team to turn the puck over many times. This is something that the third line for the Jets has the ability to complete every single game.
Although I did not touch much on Mason Appleton, he is still a young player and has some growing to do. He is a decent penalty killer with great breakaway speed and a hockey sense that could see him shoot up in the Jets lineup in the future.
Line 4: Perreault-Harkins-Lewis
The fourth line of the Jets has the potential to be consistently rotated throughout the year. Mathieu Perreault, Jansen Harkins, and Trevor Lewis are the three players that I believe deserve the best shot at the lineup.
Perreault has taken criticism from Jets fans for his whole time here due to the fact that he has an expensive contract. Although this is true, I believe that he is actually playing very well this season and can bring a type of grit and speed to the fourth line. Although he lacks size, he makes up for it with his heart.
Jansen Harkins has always been a Maurice favourite and I don’t see him leaving the lineup after his steady performances in the games he has played this season so far. Trevor Lewis has not been very productive for the Jets this season, but I believe that he brings veteran leadership to the locker room and on the ice.
Players that could potentially draw into the lineup sooner rather than later include Nate Thompson, David Gustafsson, and Kristian Vesalainen. All of these guys bring their own skillset to the table and can all make a contribution in the lineup, given an injury happens and they get their shot.
Jets Have Many Options
No matter what happens this season, the Jets have many options on what they can do with their lineup. Whether it be bringing Ehlers up to the first line, putting Copp second-line left-wing and Stastny third line third centre, or even giving Harkins a shot up higher in the lineup, it will be interesting. With a four-game battle with the Flames coming up in early February, expect the Jets to look at their lineup consistently and make changes where needed, especially if the games get rough.
Let me know if you guys have any ideas on what the lineup should look like and even how you feel about the Dubois/Laine trade. I am always interested in other fans’ opinions.