With the start of the 2015-16 season a mere two days away, the Winnipeg Jets took it right down to the wire to determine their final 23 man roster. Now, with the season in sight, the Jets roster is set for the start of the coming season, and as many predicted Paul Maurice has put together one of the NHL’s youngest rosters.
With the Jets roster set for the start of the season, now comes the question of how the roster will perform. After all, at least four of their forwards didn’t in the NHL last year (excepting Andrew Copp’s single game at the end of the season) and three of those four are official rookies. Two, Nikolaj Ehlers and Nic Petan, have no pro experience of any kind. It’s a young roster, an unproven one with lots of question marks, and frankly, it’s refreshing.
Making Room for the Kids
Confusing roster decisions were a hallmark of the Winnipeg Jets in their first few years in the city, and it was a common lament that the Jets had less talented or less motivated players taking a regular shift with the big club over certain members of their AHL farm team. There was a sense that deserving young players couldn’t unseat the established but less skilled veterans, and while the roster spots seemingly reserved for Anthony Peluso and Chris Thorburn would make some roll their eyes and say this is still the case, this is the youngest team the Jets have ever iced, and perhaps the most talented.
— Manitoba Moose (@ManitobaMoose) October 6, 2015
— Ed Tait (@EdTaitWFC) October 6, 2015
It’s been said both on this site and elsewhere that rookies Nikolaj Ehlers and Nic Petan deserve opening night roster spots, and bring a level of skill to the team it had previously been lacking. Coupled with the impressive skill and depth the Jets have spent the past several seasons amassing up front, this looks to be the deepest forward group the Jets have put out since returning, perhaps in their history. If Nikolaj Ehlers and Nic Petan perform even close to as well as they did in the preseason, the Jets roster looks solid up front.
Andrew Ladd–Bryan Little–Blake Wheeler
Mathieu Perreault–Mark Scheifele–Nikolaj Ehlers
Drew Stafford–Adam Lowry–Nic Petan
Alexander Burmistrov–Andrew Copp-Chris Thorburn/Anthony Peluso
I know most official accounts have Burmistrov starting on the third line with Petan on the fourth, but based on the preseason I know which of those two I’d rather see get minutes on a scoring line. Petan looked better than most of the Jets’ established forwards at various points, Burmistrov included, and many were less than thrilled with Burmistrov’s preseason showing, myself included. When Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press asked for opinions on Burmistrov’s play, the responses he got were less than encouraging.
@WFPEdTait I thought he stared the pre season well, then faded. Expected more to be honest
— Jason I Topnik (@jitopnik) October 4, 2015
— Stuart S (@stumanchuwpg) October 4, 2015
Nevertheless, this is a talented forward group. The Jets have long maintained a desire to roll three scoring lines, and this year it might be truly possible. Not one of those top three lines is truly worrisome, and even the fourth, long a source of weakness, looks stronger than in years past. Chemistry may take some time to find, but when these players mesh, as Scheifele and Ehlers seemed to against Calgary, the goals will come naturally. It might also be possible to have a stronger power play with passing wizard Petan and creative dangler and sniper Ehlers on the Jets roster, added to the other weapons up front.
Ben Chiarot–Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom–Tyler Myers
Mark Stuart-Jacob Trouba
Paul Postma/Adam Pardy
On defense, the Jets boast perhaps the best right side in all of hockey, and the left side is getting stronger every day as Ben Chiarot matures from a solid companion to Dustin Byfuglien to a competent defender on both sides of the puck in his own right. Chiarot’s emergence this preseason makes what was already an enviable defense corps even more formidable, and his skating and puck moving seem to have taken leaps and bounds to match his imposing size.
The rest of the Jets defense are known commodities. Tyler Myers is 6’8 but skates like a man 6’1, and is surprisingly good at getting his shot through traffic for a man touted as a defensive defenseman in his junior days. It’s a skill he’s developed at the NHL level and now part of an arsenal that already included size and surprising quickness. Dustin Byfuglien is Dustin Byfuglien, one of the NHL’s heaviest shooters and hitters who can be counted on for a spark on those nights when the Jets need a swift and heavy dose of energy. Jacob Trouba is a forward’s nightmare, a big defenseman with a mile-wide mean streak, too strong to outmuscle and too fast to out-skate. Toby Enstrom, Mark Stuart, Adam Pardy, and Paul Postma round out the depth on defense, and a deep defense it is indeed. No wonder 2013 first rounder Josh Morrissey couldn’t crack the lineup!
The goalies are well-known by now, and have been ever since Connor Hellebuyck was sent down to the Moose. Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson will be the ultimate decider of the fate of this team, and constitute perhaps the biggest area of concern on the entire Jets roster, but if moving forward one of them can step up, as Pavelec did last year, the Jets will return to the playoffs, and maybe not in a wildcard spot this time.
There are no real surprises to this Jets lineup, but there are plenty of reasons for optimism. Paul Maurice is going to have more weapons at his disposal this year than ever before, and with one of the fastest, deepest and meanest teams in the NHL, it would be a letdown if they weren’t playoff bound once again. Some experts have the Jets picked to miss the playoffs entirely while others have them comfortably in a playoff spot. It will be up to the Jets to prove them right or wrong, but as the season starts, they’ve plenty of reasons to feel good about their opening night roster.