The Winnipeg Jets defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 on Thursday night in dramatic fashion. With 17.5 seconds left, Nate Schmidt ripped a one-timer past the goalie to give them the lead and eventual win. The Jets dressed an extremely young lineup, similar to the one used in the first preseason game against the Edmonton Oilers.
These preseason games are proving to be an extremely valuable experience for the young players. Brad Lambert told reporters after the game, “It’s just an exhibition game, but It’s still the NHL and it’s something you dream about.” Here are a few takeaways from the game on Thursday night.
Brad Lambert Looks Poised for an NHL Job
Lambert was arguably the most impactful player for the Jets, finishing with a goal and an assist. His goal came late in the third period and tied the game at three. The 30th-overall pick of the 2022 NHL Draft had yet to play in a preseason game due to an upper-body injury suffered in training camp, but he more than made up for the lost time.
On the first day of camp, Lambert showed why he was worth a first-round pick with some incredible flashes of talent. Those translated into game action, and it will be interesting to see how he builds off of this performance. He stole the puck from Evgenii Dadonov and went high-blocker side for his first goal of the preseason.
Lambert’s lack of production last season was the biggest reason for his slide on draft day. He scored four points in 25 games for the Pelicans in the Finland SM-Liiga, and people started to question his confidence and ability.
The NHL, American Hockey League (AHL), and Western Hockey League (WHL) are all options for the 18-year-old winger, but he showed in this game that he has the talent to be an impact player at the next level. Playing him in the NHL right away may stunt his development, but the Jets can feel comfortable playing him anywhere they choose.
David Rittich Bounced Back After a Rough First Game
In David Rittich’s first preseason action against the Oilers, he stopped 22 of 26 shots and gave up a few weak goals in the third period. On Thursday, he only faced 10, but looked much more comfortable in the net and made a couple of big saves while killing penalties. He was replaced in the third period by Arvid Holm, who stopped 13 of 15 and withstood the chaos in the third period that saw the Jets get outshot by a wide margin.
Rittich’s best season came in 2018-19 with the Calgary Flames, where he posted a .911 save percentage (SV%) and a record of 27-9-5. The Jets are hoping to get a bounce-back campaign out of him, to take a portion of the load off of Connor Hellebuyck’s shoulders.
Winnipeg Jets Preview for the Week Ahead
The Jets have made it through half of their preseason games, and yet there are plenty of unanswered questions surrounding the club. While Ville Heinola and Dylan Samberg have appeared to take the slight edge in the defensive battle, there remains no clear leader for that third-pairing role.
Based on the defence pairings, it would seem as though Samberg has the lead, given he was paired with veteran Nate Schmidt. Heinola and Logan Stanley were paired together on Thursday, which likely signals those two would be the first defenders in the lineup in case of an injury.
The bottom-six roles available also seem to be open for competition. While Jansen Harkins and Morgan Barron were expected to fill those roles, Saku Maenalanen and Daniel Torgersson are two wingers who have made impressive strides in the preseason thus far.
The Jets are back in action against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, Oct. 1. If the current lineup trends continue, look for that game to feature more veterans than the one dressed on Thursday.
Connor Hrabchak is 20 years old and is currently covering the Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators for The Hockey Writers. He is working towards completing his communications and media degree. He was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He’s been watching hockey ever since the Jets moved back to Winnipeg in 2011, and that has inspired him to write about the sport and attempt to make it into a full-time career.