While even the exhibition schedule has yet to be played, for many Jets fans the hockey season has begun.
The Jets’ training camp roster was announced Thursday, and while there are no surprises in either the inclusions or omissions, there are plenty of questions left in need of answering. As the Jets’ training camp opens, Paul Maurice and his coaching staff have their work cut out for them almost as much as the players do.
Officially, no player’s roster spot is set in stone, but realistically we may be sure that Blake Wheeler, for example, can be assured the club’s top right wing spot. Likewise, we know the club’s top two centre positions are spoken for by Bryan Little and Mark Scheifele.
For these players, among others, training camp and the subsequent exhibition schedule are more along the lines of a warmup for the main event. It’s the vacant spots that will make Jets training camp interesting.
Help Wanted, Apply Within
It’s no secret the Jets have some holes to fill up front, some of which are in key spots. It seems the Jets, based on their camp roster, have already made up their minds to fill those spots with youth, but with so much depth in the prospect pool, Paul Maurice’s biggest task will be deciding which rookies fill which spots.
The Jets have no openings on defense, what with so many one way contracts and Jacob Trouba, the only two-way, not going anywhere. Up front, they have opportunities for freshmen in both the top and bottom six, after the departures of veterans Michael Frolik, Jiri Tlusty, and Lee Stempniak.
The merits of including Nikolaj Ehlers in the opening night roster have already been discussed, both on this site and elsewhere and while I’m now all but certain Ehlers will make it through both Jets training camp and the preseason, his road will not be easy or uncontested. Joel Armia is knocking on the door as well, and while he lacks Ehlers’ creativity, he’s no slouch offensively either. He’s also far more physically mature, being three years older and four inches taller.
Nic Petan, a year older than Ehlers and just as creative (but even smaller) is also going to be vying for a spot after nearly making the team last season. And there’s an opening at fourth line centre that seems tailored perfectly for Andrew Copp and his noted face-off skills.
Then too, Jets training camp always produces a dark horse. Last year it was Petan, whose attempt fell just short. Who could it be this year? Brendan Lemieux, perhaps? Maybe Scott Kosmachuk surprises, or maybe J.C. Lipon, a skilled agitator along the lines of Lemieux but with pro experience.
Maybe Maurice decides to give the fourth line spot over to a veteran like Matt Halischuk or Anthony Peluso. Maybe this is the year Patrice Cormier finally cracks the roster out of camp. If so, do the Jets want him, Peluso, and Chris Thorburn under contract?
Either way, the Jets’ training camp will produce no shortage of story lines and debate. Whoever makes the team, the final roster will be picked apart and dissected endlessly by fans, as it always is. Speaking for my inner fan, I’m looking forward to that dissection.
For the full camp roster, see the Jets’ website.