Welcome to Winnipeg Jets Weekly, where you can catch up on the past week of Jets hockey. From hot topics to news and notes, this is where you can find all things Jets related throughout the 2019-20 season.
It was another interesting week in Jets land. This season has had no shortage of storylines, some good, some bad, some downright weird. The bright side of it all is the team has been playing some of their best hockey of the season as of late. They have earned five points out of a possible six in their current homestand and they have earned nine out a possible ten points in their last five games.
The Jets started the week against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday and lost a close 2-1 battle in a shootout. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck was solid once again, giving the team every opportunity to win the game.
They played one of their most complete games of the season from start to finish against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday and earned a 4-1 win (their ninth consecutive win against the Canucks).
The Jets finished the week off against the Dallas Stars last night and pulled off a big 3-2 overtime win. Mark Scheifele scored the overtime winner and Hellebuyck stayed hot – stopping 26 of 28 shots. Getting that extra point against a Central Division team is huge and the Jets now sit tied for third place with the Nashville Predators at 21 points (Nashville has one less game played).
Little Out Indefinitely
Bryan Little suffered a scary injury on Nov. 5 against the Devils. He got nailed in the side of the head by a blistering shot from Nikolaj Ehlers and crumpled to the ice immediately – silencing Bell MTS Place. After staying down for a few minutes he was able to skate back to the bench with the help of the trainer and Ehlers who you could tell was shook up.
Little was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time as he made his way behind the Devils’ net; it was an unfortunate event and one that Ehlers should not take too hard. His shot was deflected off a Devils’ defenseman – elevating the puck even higher and resulting in the stomach-turning scene we witnessed at Bell MTS Place.
Little was quickly taken to Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Hospital where he received 25-30 stitches and was then transferred to the Health Sciences Centre’s Neurological Unit for further observation. It was later revealed that he had a brain bleed from the play and suffered a perforated eardrum. He is currently dealing with vertigo but he is expected to make a full recovery. There is no timetable for his return to the Jets and we all wish him the best with his recovery.
Heinola Returns to Finland
Ville Heinola has decided to head back to Finland to play with Lukko Rauma of the Finnish Liiga. He was originally sent down to the Manitoba Moose where he played three games, registering one assist. The Jets clearly did not want to burn a year of his entry-level contract (ELC) and I agree with this decision.
He will look to get paid once his three-year contract is up and with the Jets fighting with the salary cap this season I can’t see things getting any easier in the future unless we see a significant cap increase across the NHL. Having an extra season with this young stud on his ELC will only help the Jets in the future and wasting one of those years on this season does not make sense.
Whether you agree with the decision or not, we know Heinola has what it takes to play in the NHL. Sure, it would be nice to have him stay in Manitoba to play with the Moose and develop his game on North American ice, but this is clearly a kid who is going to develop wherever he plays.
His situation is different than forward Kristian Vesalainen’s (a guy who was supposed to be a lock for the Jets this season and is now struggling with the Moose after playing in the Kontinetal Hockey League (KHL) last season) on one term. Vesalainen was not NHL ready when he went to Europe, Heinola arguably is.
Related: Winnipeg Jets’ Top 10 Prospects
The only thing holding Heinola back from being 100% NHL ready is his size and strength – something he can/will develop no matter where he plays hockey. Every other part of his game looked solid at the NHL level. Vesalainen, on the other hand, had not shown any signs of being ready for the NHL when he went to Europe last season and now seems to be even farther behind this season.
Maurice Shuffles the Lines
Head coach Paul Maurice has made some major changes to the Jets’ lineup – including the power play where he made significant changes to both units. The most notable move that has made big headlines this past week is the switch to second-line center for forward Blake Wheeler. Wheeler saw time at center back in 2017-18 after Scheifele got injured for an extended period of time and he played the position well. Everyone wanted a change for Wheeler and they got it.
The Jets’ top-six now currently consists of Scheifele between Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor on the top line with Wheeler centring Ehlers and Jack Roslovic on the second line. The players clearly got the message and responded with arguably their best game of the season on Nov. 8 against the Canucks – winning 4-1 and having a ton of power-play success.
The other major changes Maurice made were to the two power-play units. The top unit now consists of Scheifele, Ehlers, Kyle Connor, Andrew Copp, and Josh Morrissey. The second unit features Wheeler with Laine, Roslovic, Mathieu Perreault, and Neal Pionk.
Both units sustained pressure in the offensive zone and created a number of solid scoring chances. The unit with Wheeler and Roslovic scored the team’s lone power-play goal after Roslovic drove the net and cleaned up his own rebound. Wheeler registered the assist on that play – his first power-play point of the season.
A familiar face has returned to the Jets’ lineup. Nathan Beaulieu – who missed the first month of the regular season – has finally made his return to the lineup. The former first-round draft pick has been welcomed back with open arms and is sure to give the Jets’ backend a major (much needed) boost.
Beaulieu’s first game back came on Nov. 5 against the Devils where he logged just over 18 minutes of ice time and registered three hits. He played similar minutes in his second game back against the Canucks and added one blocked shot. He has played within the top-four defense group both games since returning and he will be leaned upon heavily to help turn the defensive struggles around.
Bourque Out with Lower-Body Injury
It was revealed on Nov. 7 that Jets forward Gabriel Bourque will miss a minimum of four weeks with a lower-body injury. He suffered the injury in the Nov. 5 game against the Devils and is one more player to add to the list of the Jets’ walking wounded.
Bourque has seen a bottom-six role with the Jets so far this season and was most recently playing on the fourth line with Perreault and David Gustafsson. He has registered one goal and two assists through 16 games this season while averaging around ten minutes of ice time per game.
Many people have been arguing that this is not a significant loss and can actually help the Jets but I have to disagree. Sure, Bourque may be easier to replace than a top-six forward but the guy was still doing some good things for the club and was starting to hit his stride. All three of his points came in his last three games and he went plus-three along that stretch. Also, with the team’s depth getting as thin as it has been recently, any injury at this point is just making a bad situation worse.
Thank you for reading this week’s edition of ‘Jets Weekly’. Stayed tuned for next week’s edition and as always, feel free to leave any feedback or questions you may have in the comment section below, or follow me on Twitter @Goet91.
Ryan is very passionate about the game of hockey and loves being at the rink. He is a current regional scout in his home province of Manitoba and a graduate of SMWW. He has played the game since the age of five at many different levels and is always looking to find new ways to stay involved. In his free time when he isn’t busy at the rinks or writing articles/reports, Ryan enjoys spending quality time with his wife and daughter. Follow him on Twitter @Goet91.