The always-debated roster trimming season is upon the NHL and the Jets took part in the action on Sunday, September 24 as well.
Winnipeg reduced its roster down to 28 skaters and three goaltenders ahead of their game against the Calgary Flames on Monday night. The roster of remaining players is as follows.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) September 24, 2017
Now, there’s still plenty of work to do for the Jets and lots of difficult decisions ahead of puck drop on October 4, but a few names stand out here, and some of those belong to players who aren’t here.
Jets fans might not have been shocked to learn Michael Hutchinson won’t make the team, but he was officially demoted on Sunday. The Jets placed him on waivers for purpose of reassignment and kept youngster Eric Comrie instead for now.
Another player Jets fans may have wanted to see more of was Sami Niku. While it was almost a foregone conclusion he would start in the American Hockey League with the Moose, Niku’s smooth puck moving style and impressive growth in Finland has some Jets observers wondering if the former seventh-rounder might not make the team sooner than later.
Definitely noticed the mobility and smarts of #NHLJets D prospect Sami Niku during that opening period
— Ken Wiebe (@WiebeSunSports) September 9, 2017
Niku is very much a modern defender, quick on his feet and good at making simple but effective breakout passes. He was considered slight in his draft year, but at six feet tall he’s got enough of a frame to pack muscle on and get to a good playing size.
Either way, we won’t see Niku for some time this year as he adjusts to North American ice. Here’s a look at some of the other decisions made by the Jets in trimming their roster.
Nic Petan got a big chance to prove himself against Calgary on Monday night, as he started the game centering young stars Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine. Could this be a sign Petan is finally getting some love from a coaching staff that has often sat him in favor of less skilled veterans?
Paul Maurice has said he views Nic Petan as a winger, but he’ll start out at center tonight, so what happens to him is up in the air. Jets fans have been upset by his usage in the past, and would be even more so should he lose a roster spot to someone like Matt Hendricks or Brandon Tanev.
Brendan Lemieux has been getting some praise for his efforts through the early preseason, and it’s no real surprise he’s still on the roster. He even got some power play time against Edmonton, where his mix of skill and grit could be a real boon to the Jets.
Lemieux’s shot and willingness to battle in all areas of the ice are beyond question. The nagging concern with him is rooted in his speed. If he can keep up with the NHL pace, he’ll do just fine in a bottom-six role, but he’s still likely to start with the Moose.
I see no reason for Marko Dano not to make this team. Everything Paul Maurice seems to like in a player (grit, work ethic, etc.) Dano brings in spades, and he adds offensive touch to that as well.
Dano’s recall last year was quite successful, as he put up 11 points in 38 games, all while seeing time on the power play and penalty kill, and even briefly getting top-six minutes. One of Dano’s initial training camp linemates, Michael Sgarbossa, has already been sent down. Make of that what you will.
Dano himself easily deserves a roster spot over the offensively defunct Tanev and Hendricks, but whether he’ll get it or not is up in the air.
Lastly, the biggest surprise forward to this point has been Michael Spacek, who potted a goal against Edmonton (he didn’t play against Calgary) and remains in camp as of this writing. I expected him to get sent down quickly, but the Jets are clearly impressed by his slippery skills and puck moving ability.
There are no real surprises here unless you’re surprised Tucker Poolman survived the first round of cuts which, based on his age and skill level, you probably shouldn’t be. At this point, it would be surprising if he makes the Jets (he’s better off playing big minutes in the AHL than sitting in an NHL press box) but in the event of an injury, he may be the first guy called.
If Poolman were left-handed he’d almost certainly be a favorite to stay in camp over Ben Chiarot, and he may be anyway, with Chiarot not showing anything other than more of the same so far in this preseason. He’s almost certainly the seventh defender on opening night.
Logan Stanley getting sent down was both inevitable and the best thing for him. He’s still got junior eligibility, and Kitchener is shaping up to be a good team this year. His skating and positioning need work so here’s hoping he uses his time in the OHL to improve both.
There were no real surprises on defense, however. There wasn’t much outcry from fans over Jullian Melchiori being sent down, but with Poolman and possible now Niku ahead of him, we may not see Melchiori with the Jets again.
And in goal, there were no real surprises either. Hutchinson’s fate was basically sealed when Steve Mason signed, and the Jets still want to get Comrie some reps before the season starts.
All told, the Jets have the easiest part of their cuts out of the way. There’s no controversy yet, though many fans aren’t happy to still see Tanev on the list. That may come later, however. The hardest part is still ahead.