Jets Weekly: Lambert, Kovacevic, & Preseason Finale

Welcome to the very first installment of “Jets Weekly.” This author will cover the past week in Winnipeg Jets news every Saturday during the regular season and break down storylines involving the Jets organization.

The Winnipeg Jets have wrapped up their preseason with a solid record of 4-1-1. While learning new head coach Rick Bowness’ systems, the Jets seemed to improve with every game. A handful of players made an impression on the new coaching staff, and the final roster decisions are likely coming in the next few days.

Brad Lambert & Johnathan Kovacevic (Waivers) Sent Down to the Manitoba Moose

The talk of the preseason was the former 30th-overall pick, Brad Lambert. After three impressive showings, the Jets decided that the best development path for him to take is through the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Manitoba Moose. He remains without an entry-level contract (ELC), but his agent told Murat Ates of The Athletic that he is confident a deal will get done.

Related: 4 Jets That Have Stood Out in the 2022-23 Preseason

Johnathan Kovacevic is a 6-foot-4, right-handed defenceman who had an outstanding season with the Moose last year. The organization is content with running the small risk of him being claimed on waivers. This offseason, Kovacevic signed a three-year contract worth $766,000 per season.

Johnathan Kovacevic Manitoba Moose
Johnathan Kovacevic, Manitoba Moose (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Kovacevic will likely shoulder big minutes for the Moose for yet another season. He finished last season with 11 goals and 19 assists in 62 games.

As for Lambert, he will likely be given the opportunity to play in the top six and develop alongside the Moose’s top scorers. He will potentially play on the top power-play unit, and will be one of the first forwards called up in the event of an injury.

Back-To-Back Impressive Preseason Wins Against the Calgary Flames

The Jets dressed their most NHL-ready lineup for the final two games against the Calgary Flames and defeated them twice by scores of 5-0 and 5-3. The most impressive part of these games was the power play. The top unit has been electric for the Jets, scoring on four of their possible nine opportunities over the past two games. Assistant coach Brad Lauer is in charge of the power play for the Jets, and he has his group clicking before the regular season has begun.

A big reason for this jump in production is a by-product of Nikolaj Ehlers being promoted to the top unit. Under the previous coaching staff, he was placed on the second unit and thrived in that role, but he has clearly shown the ability to elevate this power play to a level it has not reached before. Ehlers, along with Mark Scheifele, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Kyle Connor, and Josh Morrissey make up the Jets’ top unit.

Morgan Barron saw his first preseason action after being sidelined with an upper-body injury for the majority of training camp. Saku Maenalanen, Jansen Harkins, and Dominic Toninato were all given one last look in a depth role, and it looked as though Maenalanen had the biggest impact on the game. Whether or not Bowness gives him the role is to be seen, but the coaching staff has a tough decision on their hands.

Dubois’ Injury Scare Raised Concerns About Forward Depth

After the first period in Friday’s game, the Jets ruled Dubois out due to a lower-body injury. With it being the last preseason game, the fans are hoping that this was simply a precautionary move. Dubois was dealing with a lower-body injury earlier in training camp, so it’s likely that he re-tweaked that same injury during the game.

One of the major question marks surrounding the Jets this offseason was the lack of forwarding depth. If anyone in the top six were to get hurt, their high-end scoring options would quickly shorten up and they would suffer as a result.

Pierre-Luc Dubois Winnipeg Jets
Pierre-Luc Dubois, Winnipeg Jets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Lambert, Mikey Eyssimont, and Jeff Malott are potential callups from the Moose, but it seems as though the Jets won’t have to worry about that for opening night. After Dubois left the game, the Jets tried a multitude of line combinations in an attempt to find chemistry within their forward core.

Next week is when the real thing starts. Global Series games aside, the NHL season will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The Jets won’t begin playing until Friday, Oct. 14 against the New York Rangers. In the meantime, the roster will still have to be finalized with a handful of players needing to be sent down to meet roster restrictions. Keep an eye out for those roster moves and the beginning of the NHL season.

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