Tonight, the Winnipeg Jets (37-28-6) will get ready to take on the Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6) in exhibition action. When the regular-season was suspended more than four months ago, the Jets and the Canucks were scheduled to play on Mar. 15. Then, everything sports-related stopped.
In this edition of Jets News & Rumors, I will share the good news about Blake Wheeler’s nomination for the King Clancy Award as well as news emerging from the Jets’ practices inside the bubble and as the team is preparing to engage its postseason play. I will also give news about two Jets’ goalie prospects.
Item One: Blake Wheeler Jets Nominee for the King Clancy Award
Earlier this week, the NHL announced that Jets captain Blake Wheeler had been nominated by his team as its representative for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. The King Clancy was first awarded in 1987-88, and now is presented every season “to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.”
The three finalists for the award will be announced in early August, and the winner will be announced during the Conference Finals. The first-place finisher receives a $25,000 donation from the National Hockey League Foundation to benefit a charity or charities of his choice, while the two runners-up each will each receive a $5,000 donation for a charity or charities of their choice.
Wheeler has been with the Jets since they relocated from Atlanta in 2011. He’s been the Jets’ captain since 2016. The 33-year-old was a finalist for the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2017-18 and has consistently been a major player for a large number of Jets community initiatives. The last Jets’ winner of the King Clancy was Kris King, who took home the award in 1995-96.
In watching Wheeler this season, he’s impressed me as a considerate person. During a conference call in late March when the pandemic began, he spoke about medical personnel who were engaged in the work of treating those who were ill with COVID-19.
He cautioned Jets fans to be careful and noted: “Sam (his wife who met when he attended the University of Minnesota) and I have some friends that are doctors or in the medical field and the amount of work they have — it’s around the clock. Obviously, we can’t thank them enough for everything they’re doing here. We’ve just got to take care of each other, and people take it seriously. The earlier on, the shorter it’s going to last.” (from “Jets’ Wheeler adjusting to life as full-time dad, teacher,” Scott Belleck, Winnipeg Sun, 31/03/20).
Item Two: The Jets Final Lines on Wednesday Morning
As of Wednesday morning in preparation for playing the Canucks, the Jets line combinations during practice were:
First line: Kyle Connor – Mark Scheifele – Wheeler
Second line: Nikolai Ehlers – Cody Eakin – Patrik Laine
Third line: Andrew Copp – Adam Lowry – Jack Roslovic
Fourth line: Mason Appleton – Nicholas Shore – Mathieu Perreault
Extra forward: Gabriel Bourque
First defense pairing: Josh Morrissey – Dylan DeMelo
Second defense pairing: Dmitry Kulikov – Neal Pionk
Third defense pairing: Nathan Beaulieu – Tucker Poolman
Extra defenseman: Luca Sbisa
Item Three: Russian Goalie Mikhail Berdin Added to the Jets Postseason Roster
On Monday afternoon, it was reported that Mikhail Berdin would travel to Edmonton from Russia where he’s been residing since his AHL season was suspended. During the 2019-20 season, Berdin had a record of 20-21-1 with a goals-against-average of 2.89 and a .910 save percentage for the Manitoba Moose.
Related: Winnipeg Jets’ 50-Goal Scorers
It might seem like an odd decision by the Jets’ organization, given that Berdin must quarantine once he lands in Canada and will only be a depth goalie for the Jets. The team already has this season’s Vezina Trophy favorite Connor Hellebuyck and backup Laurent Brossoit ahead of Berdin.
Although Berdin was home in Russia when the Jets announced their 31-man roster, the second-year professional and 2016 sixth-round draft pick was on it. When head coach Paul Maurice was asked why, his answer was:
“Risk at position. You can play a defenseman at forward and you can play a forward on the backend but you get into a goaltender problem and you’ve got a real problem. We just felt that the best minutes of our 31st player would be allocated to a goaltender if we got into that situation.”
Item Four: Arvid Holm Has Been Loaned to a Swedish Team
Today, it was announced that the Jets had loaned Arvid Holm to Farjestad BK of the SHL for the 2020-21 campaign. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound 21-year-old Swedish goalie had just signed an entry-level deal with the Jets in June. During the 2019-20 season, he had a 20-10-0 record and a GAA of 2.27 with a .914 SV% in 31 games with Farjestad BK.
It’s probably a good move for both the young goalie and the Jets. Holm will get lots of work next season, which should help his development. He’s probably still a couple of seasons away from attempting to secure a roster spot with the Jets.
Item Five: Dale Hawerchuk Fighting Cancer Once Again
In sad news, the NHL announced that Dale Hawerchuk, the former Winnipeg Jets forward and Hockey Hall of Famer, who had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, suffered a reoccurrence of his cancer.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said, “Dale is going through a tough time right now. We, as an organization, are here to support him. We wish him all the best in his fight. He’s one of our family, and we’re with you, Dale.”
What’s Next for the Jets?
Who knows how Jets’ fans feel these days about big Dustin Byfuglien? But, against the Calgary Flames, this postseason might be one time it would be great to still have Byfuglien around. I would love to see the battle he’d have with the Flames goalie-beating pest Matthew Thackuk.
I say goalie-beating in two ways: Tkachuk can clearly score; but, he also lives in the opponent’s goalies crease. During last night’s exhibition, he clearly interfered with Edmonton Oilers’ goalie Mike Smith when the Flames Elias Lindholm scored late in the second period of the game. I can only guess why Oilers coach Dave Tippett didn’t call for a review?
Tkachuk’s a physical player who will agitate. If the Jets can’t find some way to neutralize him, he could be a key to the Flames’ ability to win the series.