After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Winnipeg Jets.
Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has been steadfast in his approach of drafting and developing since being hired in June 2011. He's hoping to benefit from that philosophy this season.
Forward Patrik Laine, selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, is expected to have an immediate impact out of training camp, as will several other young players who could be ready to thrive in the NHL under coach Paul Maurice.
The Jets finished last in the Central Division last season after injuries to key players, including defensemen Toby Enstrom (knee) and Tyler Myers (hip, knee), forwards Bryan Little (neck), Mathieu Perreault (concussion) and Anthony Peluso (shoulder), and goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (knee).
Center Mark Scheifele had a breakout season with 61 points (29 goals, 32 assists) in 71 games, and rookie right wing Nikolaj Ehlers had 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists) in 72 games. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and right wing Blake Wheeler became veteran leaders in the locker room and on the ice. Scheifele agreed to terms on an eight-year, $49 million contract on July 8. Perreault, who drives puck possession, agreed to a four-year extension, and forwards Joel Armia and Adam Lowry each agreed to a two-year contract.
Here is what the Jets look like today:
KEY ARRIVALS: Patrik Laine, F: The 6-foot-4, 206-pound Finn will fill a big need at left or right wing. He has power, finesse and one of the best shots in the 2016 draft class. If he stays healthy, Laine could be a candidate for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year. … Quinton Howden, F: Signed to a one-year, two-way contract on July 1, the Winnipeg native has shown versatility up front and an ability to kill penalties since being drafted in the first round (No. 25) by the Florida Panthers in 2010. ... Shawn Matthias, F: At 6-4, 231 pounds, Matthias, who had 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche last season, can play wing or center, kills penalties, and is good on faceoffs. He was signed as an unrestricted free agent to a two-year contract. ... Brian Strait, D: The left-handed depth defenseman, reliable in a shutdown role, signed a one-year contract after spending the past four seasons with the New York Islanders.
KEY DEPARTURES: None.
ON THE CUSP: Kyle Connor, F: After scoring 71 points (35 goals, 36 assists) in 38 games at the University of Michigan last season, Connor won Big Ten Rookie of the Year and Big Ten Player of the Year. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's best player and finished the season on a 27-game point streak. … Josh Morrissey, D: The left-shot defenseman had three goals and 19 assists in 57 games for Manitoba last season. … Nic Petan, F: He had 358 points (110 goals, 248 assists) in 252 games with Portland of the Western Hockey League before turning pro. Petan had 32 points in 47 games with Manitoba and six points in 26 games with the Jets last season. … Jack Roslovic, F: The right-handed center/right wing had 10 goals and 16 assists in 36 games as a freshman to finish tied for the scoring lead at Miami (Ohio) University last season. He signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Jets on July 18 and is eligible to play for Winnipeg, Manitoba or London of the Ontario Hockey League. … Brenden Kichton, D: The 24-year-old, right-handed defenseman signed a one-year, two-way contract on July 8. Kichton led Manitoba in scoring with 41 points (11 goals, 30 assists) in 68 games last season. … Brendan Lemieux, F: The feisty left wing received his first taste of professional hockey last season when he had two goals and one assist in five games with Manitoba. He could serve as a role player capable of finishing checks and getting under the skin of the opposition.
WHAT THEY STILL NEED: Cheveldayoff wanted to add some depth on defense, particularly on the left side. Though the acquisition of Strait helps, reinforcements might be needed. It remains to be seen if Pavelec, who has one season remaining on his five-year, $19.5 million contract, or Connor Hellebuyck will be the No. 1 goalie to start the season. Goaltending depth has long been an issue in Winnipeg, and the Jets were tied for 24th in save percentage (.909) last season. Michael Hutchinson, 26, signed a two-year contract June 21. He had a 2.84 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in 30 games last season. Goalie prospect Eric Comrie completed his first pro season with Manitoba last season. He was 13-25-7 with a 3.12 GAA and .907 save percentage in 46 games.The Jets were without a captain after Andrew Ladd was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 25. Wheeler and defenseman Mark Stuart could be the top options; each was an alternate at the time of the trade.
PETE JENSEN'S FANTASY FOCUS: Scheifele was already on the fantasy breakout radar after his second-half success with Wheeler last season. Now, with top pick Laine in the mix, Scheifele is a threat to take another leap from 61 points to the 75-point range, similar to Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau, who had 78 points last season after having 64 in 2014-15. Scheifele's power-play production (11 points last season) needs to improve for that to happen, but he nearly had a 30-goal (29), 30-assist (32) season despite missing 11 games. Scheifele is a combined plus-36 in his first three full seasons and has the potential to cover all six standard categories. Scheifele should be treated as one of the top 15 center-only assets in the game and is worth reaching for in the first four or five rounds.