Jets’ Prospects Getting NHL Opportunities as Season Winds Down

A number of injuries has opened up opportunities for Winnipeg Jets’ prospects to take on larger roles as the season winds down.

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Now that the team’s slim-but-still-possible Western Conference Wild Card hopes have faded to near zero, there’s no excuse for the Jets to keep these youngsters out of the lineup.

Barron Gets Top-Six Opportunity

Morgan Barron has played six games for the team since being acquired as part of the Trade Deadline Day deal that sent Andrew Copp to the New York Rangers.

Related: Jets’ Trade Deadline a Success Thanks to Cheveldayoff’s Logical Moves

On Monday night against the Montreal Canadiens — his first full game on the second line — Barron recorded his first two points as a Jet. He scored an early second-period goal to on a wicked top-shelf wrister to tie the game 1-1, and a few minutes later beat Rem Pitlick with a slick dangle before setting up Paul Stastny to put the Jets up 2-1.

The big-bodied forward saw mainly fourth-line left-wing duty in his first four games and originally jumped up to the second with NIkolaj Ehlers and Stastny on Sunday against the Ottawa Senators after Mark Scheifele took a hard hit from Parker Kelly and was forced to leave the game. Barron also saw some third-line time in Friday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

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Barron plays a simple, direct, and defensively-sound game, similar to Copp in his eight seasons with the Jets. His Monday night performance and AHL numbers — 38 points in 51 games between the Hartford Wolf Pack and Manitoba Moose — indicate he has some good offensive instincts.

Morgan Barron Winnipeg Jets
Morgan Barron recorded his first two points as a Jet on Monday, while playing on the second line. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Like Copp, Barron is touted to be a versatile player. The Jets would be well-served to continue to give him opportunities over the last eight games so they can see exactly what they have in a prospect they are obviously high on and where he could fit in next season.

Eyssimont Makes NHL Debut

With captain Blake Wheeler on the shelf after sustaining an upper body injury last Wednesday against the Detroit Red Wings, and top prospect Cole Perfetti out for the season, Scheifele’s absence meant Mikey Eyssimont was called up Monday to make his NHL debut.

Eyssimont, 25, has been an important top-six forward for a strong and resilient Moose team that sits in second in the AHL’s Central Division and recently clinched a Calder Cup Playoff berth. In 35 games, the left-shot forward has 15 goals and 20 assists for 35 points.

Mikey Eyssimont Manitoba Moose
Mikey Eyssimont with the Manitoba Moose in January. The veteran of 215 AHL games made his NHL debut Monday. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Against the Canadiens, Eyssimont played fourth-line left wing on a line with Dominic Toninato and Adam Brooks, registering one shot and playing 5:49.

Samberg Suiting Up on Blue Line

On the back end, Dylan Samberg has been getting work and playing well with Logan Stanley out with an undisclosed injury. The 23-year-old has suited up for the past three games and recorded two assists in 15:15 against the Canadiens.

This is Samberg’s second stint of the season; he made his NHL debut in January and played six straight, registering two assists and playing 14-plus minutes on three different occasions before being sent back down to the Moose.

Dylan Samberg Winnipeg Jets
Dylan Samberg, Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Samberg has been a prized prospect since being drafted in the second round in 2017 and it is easy to see why. He is composed and confident, makes good reads in the defensive zone and good passes out of it, and plays with hard-to-handle physical edge.

He’s outperformed Stanley, who has underwhelmed this season despite having some memorable moments (such as the ‘victory V’ during a scrappy December game against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Gordie Howe hat trick in March against the Vegas Golden Knights.)

If the Jets are absolutely insistent that 2019 first-rounder Ville Heinola is still not ready for a full-time NHL gig, Samberg is the logical player to draw in through the end of the season, and should be given a non-sheltered role. He deserves it.

The Jets are not going to make the playoffs (unless some minor miracle happens,) which is a letdown considering they came into the campaign considered by many to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. The many disappointments the season has brought should not stop them, however, from using the rest of their schedule to evaluate their young talent for next season, and should do so to the greatest extent they can.

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