WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets are one step closer to finalizing their opening-night roster.
Earlier today, JC Lipon was re-assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, while defenceman Jay Harrison was placed on waivers.
It was a difficult day for Head Coach Paul Maurice, who coached Harrison in Carolina, Toronto (both with the Marlies and Maple Leafs) and here in Winnipeg for a combined six seasons.
“It’s tough if it’s any player you’ve coached, but when you have the relationship that we have and the time spent together, those are tough (decisions),” he said.
Veteran forward Blake Wheeler was appreciative of Harrison's contributions, both on and off the ice.
“Harry’s an incredibly guy,” he said. “He’s incredibly knowledgeable in a lot of different ways. He was up on current affairs and always kept us in the loop that way. On the ice, he was about as consistent as you can get in a player. He was a pro every sense and when we was in our lineup, we had a tremendous amount of success last year. Only good things (to say about) Harry.”
Eight defencemen remain on the roster, including the six that will start on opening night: Toby Enstrom, Tyler Myers, Ben Chiarot, Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Stuart and Jacob Trouba. Adam Pardy and Paul Postma will not play Thursday, assuming everyone stays healthy over the next few days.
Lipon, meanwhile, had a strong camp and worked his way into the conversation after appearing in four pre-season games.
“There are a group of guys that come to camp every year and I really don’t get much of a handle on (them). That’s the truth. I’ll watch them and get a general idea of what they do. Most young players fit into that and he fit into that last year,” Maurice said. “This year, it was completely different. That first or second day, I thought, ‘Oh, he’s faster. He’s bigger.’ I got him into his first exhibition
game and I thought, ‘Oh, he’s a lot better.’
“He made huge strides in being able to define to the coaches and management what it is that he’s offering this team. He’s got a real good sense of how to stir the pot. Not everybody does. He’s not going to be particularly well liked by anybody but his teammates, but that’s a gift and he’s got
Nikolaj Ehlers, Andrew Copp and Nic Petan are likely to make the opening-night roster, according to Maurice. The coach cautions, however, that there are no guarantees for these three young players moving forward.
“The Moose are right down the road and for anybody in that situation, it’s not really about ‘making’ the team, it’s about surviving your first year,” Maurice said. “They’re fighting for days is what they are. But they’ve had a good camp, so we’ve picked the team that we think gives us the best
chance to win hockey games.”
Petan finished the pre-season with two assists and eight shots on goal in six games.
“I had a meeting with the coach and he let me know, so I feel pretty happy,” he said. “I was a little more excited coming to the rink today. It’s obviously a good sign, so that’s a little bit of weight off my shoulders, but it’s not totally gone yet.”
Ehlers agreed, citing confidence in his development.
“Last year I felt like a did a pretty good job, that I got better every game — that was the goal. Same thing this year. I feel like I’ve been playing pretty well defensively and offensively.”
With everyone healthy – including Mathieu Perreault, who left Saturday’s game and did not return – the Jets practiced in the following formation today:
Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Nikolaj Ehlers - Mark Scheifele - Mathieu Perreault
Alex Burmistrov - Adam Lowry - Drew Stafford
Nic Petan - Andrew Copp - Chris Thorburn
Thomas Raffl and Anthony Peluso were the extra forwards. Raffl is still on a professional tryout and, according to Maurice, there will be “conversations” taking place over the next 24 hours to
determine whether or not he will be offered a contract.
Toby Enstrom - Tyler Myers
Ben Chiarot - Dustin Byfuglien
Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba
Extras: Adam Pardy - Paul Postma
Twenty-four players remain on the roster. All teams must be down to 23 by 4:00pm CT Tuesday afternoon.
The 2015-16 season begins Thursday in Boston.
“The structure of how we want to play without the puck is the same, the attitude of how hard we want to compete is the same, but we look a little different,” Maurice said.
“We move the puck differently and that has to be put to the fire of an NHL season. We’re going to work hard, we’re going to compete hard, and I’d like to think we’re going to move the puck a
little better (this year).”
-- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com