The Winnipeg Jets 2013-14 season is underway with the team hungry to earn a playoff spot. Could the third year in Manitoba be the charm? The Jets had a successful offseason adding Devin Setoguchi and Michael Frolik. Plus, Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba have cracked the lineup and could have a big impact as the season progresses.
With that in mind, here are four predictions for the Jets’ 2013-14 season.
The Power Play will be Good
Winnipeg’s power play was awful last season, finishing dead last in the NHL with a 13.8 percent success rate. In 2013-14 that will change. The first unit should be made up of the Jets’ first line and top defensive pairing. While the second unit will include Evander Kane, Mark Scheifele and perhaps Devin Setoguchi. Olli Jokinen and Zach Bogosian have seen time on the blue line in the preseason, but don’t be surprised if Jacob Trouba gets an opportunity to quarterback the second unit.
Incorporating these young, offensive-minded players should make a difference in moving the puck and creating open spaces on the man advantage. Look for Kane and Ladd to lead the way with at least eight power play goals each and Dustin Byfuglien to generate plenty of chances from the point.
Top 10 in the league may be unrealistic, but the Jets should have a power play that ranks in the middle of the pack by season’s end.
Evander Kane Scores 40 Goals
Expect Evander Kane to have the best season of his career statistically in 2013-14. In 74 games in 2011-12 Kane notched 30 goals, a number he was on pace for again last year, scoring 17 in 48 games. Kane is entering his fifth NHL campaign, so it’s easy to forget he’s just 22 years old.
The 6’2″, 195 pound left winger is an elite skater with incredible acceleration. His accurate shot is made even more effective by his quick release and the fact that he consistently goes hard to the net. Since the day he stepped foot in the NHL Kane has never been afraid to play physical. The only drawback to his game may be his playmaking abilities, which still need some work. But that won’t prevent him from putting up 40 goals this season. Look for both Jokinen and Scheifele to center a line with Kane a different points in the season.
Mark Scheifele Notches 45 Points
The time has finally come for Mark Scheifele to be a regular in the NHL. A couple of years younger than Kane, Scheifele had just 11 games worth of NHL experience and a single goal heading into this season. His development may have taken longer than the team and fans had hoped, but starting this season Scheifele will prove he was worth the seventh overall pick in 2011.
The Kitchener, Ontario native has bulked up in the last year and is therefore better prepared for the physical grind of an 82-game NHL season. He has the speed, skill and hockey sense to be a strong offensive weapon playing a top-six role. If he can earn a regular spot at center on the second line this season, he will certainly benefit from playing with Kane. Look for Scheifele to rack up at least 30 assists and hit the 45-point mark if he stays healthy.
Ondrej Pavelec Leads Jets to Playoffs
Hey, it could happen. Ondrej Pavelec is coming off another average season and at age 26, he’s due for a breakout year. The Czech Republic native uses his 6’3″, 220-pound frame to take up a large portion of the net and he’s not a bad athlete either. He has good lateral movement and can be effective when dropping into the butterfly.
With the help of some solid play from Winnipeg’s defensemen, look for Pavelec to have his most consistent campaign yet and play especially well down the stretch. The Jets won’t finish top three in the Central, but they will manage to secure a wild-card spot in the final few days of the season.