3 Jets Prospects Eyeing Opening-Night Roster Spot

The Winnipeg Jets did not meet expectations for the 2022-23 season, and the final season presser featured some harsh words from head coach Rick Bowness, and former captain Blake Wheeler didn’t take kindly to them. Now, with the Jets’ offseason upon us, many decisions have to be made.

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Could general manager (GM) Kevin Cheveldayoff be busy in the coming months leading up to the 2023-24 campaign? Has Josh Morrissey’s injury during the playoffs prompted Cheveldayoff to seek another puck-moving defenseman? We know that with a prospect pool chocked with potential NHLers, there are a potential roster options at a lower cost. Here are a few options to join the team on opening night.

Ville Heinola

Losing Josh Morrissey during the playoffs was a huge problem for the Jets, who struggled to push the puck out of the zone and find a quarterback to run the power play without him. Ville Heinola skates with the fluidity necessary to push the pace of play and run a power play sooner rather than later, so he would be a nice addition to the second or third defense pair and could earn time on the second power-play unit.

Ville Heinola Manitoba Moose
Ville Heinola, Manitoba Moose (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

He has played stints with the Jets, but has yet to graduate from the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Manitoba Moose and earn a full-time role with the big club. His statistics were quite impressive during the 2022-23 season. He also has the tangibles to be a nice addition to the blue line as another solid puck-mover. While he has yet to score his first NHL goal, he has proven he can produce at the professional level, posting four goals and 37 points through 48 regular-season games with the Moose.

Brad Lambert

With Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Mark Scheifele (and others) handling the brunt of the goal-scoring duties, the Jets have a potent offense. However, a speedy, young forward with the hands and shot to round out the lineup would be a welcome addition to any team, and Brad Lambert could provide exactly that.

Brad Lambert Winnipeg Jets
Brad Lambert, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He is in a battle in the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Championship series; his Seattle Thunderbirds are battling the Winnipeg Ice. The Thunderbirds have a stranglehold 3-1 series lead and Lambert has been phenomenal, posting six goals and 26 points through 16 playoff games. He could jump into the Jets’ top-nine next season, and in the long term, I could see him becoming a nice option for the top-six.

Nikita Chibrikov

Nikita Chibrikov is undersized, but his combination of deceptive hands and the power he creates with his crossovers make him an interesting option. He can make tough passes look easy, and while he is a playmaker, don’t sleep on his shot. He loves to fly through the neutral zone, creating a passing option for teammates or creating by himself with his great acceleration. He also loves to exploit seams to create offense at a high-octane pace. In the offensive zone, he is a dual threat, with a sneaky release that is masked by his pass-first mentality.

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He most recently split time between the Kontinental Hockey League, the Major Hockey League (VHL), and the Minor Hockey League (MHL), posting 12 goals and 30 points in 59 games. Like Lambert, Chibrikov would provide a speedy, high-pace player to assist the Jets’ stars.

With a nice blend of veterans and prospects looking to make their mark on the Jets’ roster come October, Cheveldayoff and his management team will have their hands full this summer. The team is hungry and still feeling the sting of their first-round exit at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights. A boost of youth from the prospect pipeline could be just what the team needs.