WINNIPEG - There are 33 names on the roster for Winnipeg Jets training camp, but Bryan Little's isn't one of them.
The 32-year-old centre, who hasn't played since taking a puck to the ear on November 5 against the New Jersey Devils, underwent extensive tests in June ahead of camp but won't be part of the Jets Return to Play roster.
"We were left with the idea that he needed another block of time before any decisions could be made," said head coach Paul Maurice. "Hopefully that time would provide more time for healing."
One of Little's long time teammates, Blake Wheeler, admits it's tough not having Little around with camp getting underway.
"He's been here from day one and one of our best players," said Wheeler. "He's a guy everyone looks forward to seeing every day and one of our hardest workers. Everything you'd want in a pro hockey player, that's what Bryan Little has been here for nine years."
Little had five points in seven games prior to his injury, including the overtime winner in the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic.
"Bryan Little is the guy you're trying to add at the deadline - a really good two-way pro, the guy you're not really coaching because he knows what he's supposed to do, he's got a great work ethic," said Maurice. "You miss that out of your room."
While Little is missed by his teammates and coaches, Wheeler said the most important thing is Little's long-term health.
"We've missed him all year, we miss him now, more importantly we're just hoping the best for him," he said. "That's really all that matters."