In this edition of Winnipeg Jets News & Rumors, I’ll try to keep Jets’ fans up-to-date about what’s happening with the team. Because training camp has just begun, there are a number of news items that emerge from the team working to set up their plans for the beginning of the regular season. I’ll try to report some of those.
Item One: Nikolaj Ehlers Starts Training Camp on Jets’ Top Line
The first line breakdowns out of the Jets’ camp during Monday’s practice show that Nikolaj Ehlers had partnered with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. The second line combination put together Kyle Connor, Paul Stastny, and Patrik Laine. Ehlers scored 25 goals and 33 assists (for 58 points) in the 71 games he played last season. That’s a couple of strong forward lines for the Jets.
Item Two: Joona Luoto Starts Training Camp with the Jets
Joona Luoto, who had been on loan to HIFK of the Finnish League, returned to the Jets for their training camp on Monday. In the 19 games he played with HIFK, Luoto scored nine points. The 23-year-old will hopes to make a breakthrough this season with the Jets. But, if that’s going to happen, he’ll have to carry the momentum he created in Finland into and throughout the training camp.
During the 2019–20 season, the 6-foot-3 Finnish winger played 16 games for the Jets but didn’t score a single point. He’s got work to do if he wants to make the team.
Item Three: Marko Dano Was Placed on Waivers by the Jets
Marko Dano was placed on waivers by Winnipeg will this week. Dano had been listed as injured on the Jets’ initial training camp roster; however, he’s now apparently healthy again and was placed on waivers. In November 2020, he signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Jets. During the NHL offseason, he spent time with Trencin Dukla in the Slovak Extraliga.
The 26-year-old Austrian forward struggled last year, failing to post a point in three games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and scoring only 19 points in games with the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate in Cleveland. If he clears waivers, Dano will be eligible to play in the minors again this year.
Item Four: Center Dominic Toninato and Goalie Mikhail Berdin Were Deemed “Unfit to Practice”
Both 26-year-old center Dominic Toninato and 22-year-old Russian goalie Mikhail Berdin were deemed “unfit to practice” on Sunday by the Jets. Although no reasons were given, it might be as simple as a quarantine issue. Toninato scored four goals and 11 points with the Florida Panthers last season and signed a one-year/two-way contract with the Jets on October 10.
Berdin had a great partial season in the KHL before his loan agreement ended. There he posted a record of 6-3-2, with a goals-against-average of 2.39, and a save percentage of .919 for SKA St. Petersburg. Berdin signed a two-year extension just about two weeks ago, which calls for the 2021-22 season to be a two-way contract and then moves to a one-way contract for the 2022-23 season.
Item Six: Jimmy Oligny Is Back with the Jets
The Jets signed defenseman Jimmy Oligny to a professional tryout. During July, Oligny signed with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL after scoring four goals and 12 assists in 53 games with the team during the 2019-20 season. Although he’s one of 41 players invited to the Jets training camp, he’ll likely begin the season with the Moose when the AHL season begins on February 5.
Related: Eric Lindros Trade Revisited
Although Oligny was previously released earlier by Winnipeg, his 2019-20 AHL season earned him another chance. The 27-year-old defenseman obviously showed enough with the Moose to attract the Jets’ further attention and he’s been given another chance to make the team. That said, it’s likely a long shot for him to make the 23-player Opening Night roster.
Item Seven: Kristian Vesalainen Returns to the Jets from Finland
Kristian Vesalainen returned to the Jets from a loan to Finnish club HPK. Vesalainen played well with HPK Hameenlinna, scoring four goals and four assists in 10 games. Vesalainen was a Jets’ first-round pick (24th overall) during the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
He certainly has the size at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds; and, although he hasn’t made the Jets’ roster yet, it’s hard to give up on such size. Vesalainen obviously hopes to make the Jets’ roster out of training camp, but he’ll probably begin the season in Manitoba. In 60 minor-league games last year, Vesalainen scored 12 goals and 18 assists.
What’s Next for the Jets?
One of the biggest questions the Jets face coming out of training camp will be the disposition of Patrik Laine. There’s something wrong between the Jets and this young star. Laine’s people even made it known during the offseason that “perhaps” a trade away from Winnipeg might be the best option for both the player and the team.
Although there were consistent rumors about such a possible Laine trade, he’s still in the Jets’ training camp. In fact, Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff made it known that he expects the 22-year-old forward to have a big season.
Certainly, the Jets are giving Laine every opportunity to do so. Early in the training camp, he’s been partnered with the high-scoring Kyle Connor and Paul Stastny. Jets fans will probably want to keep their eyes on what happens this young player.