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31 in 31

Winnipeg Jets fantasy preview for 2017-18

Laine leads impressive top-six forward group; Mason, Hellebuyck could split starts

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

As part of NHL.com's 31 in 31 series, our fantasy hockey staff is breaking down each team's fantasy landscape. Fantasy-relevant players are listed in order of rank in NHL.com's top 250. Today, we look at the Winnipeg Jets.

 

[JETS 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Top prospects | Behind the numbers | More team fantasy previews]

 

FORWARDS

Patrik Laine, RW -- Despite missing nine games because of a concussion, Laine finished second in goals (36) and points (64) among rookies and was first in points per game (0.88; minimum 10 games played). His 204 shots on goal and 14 power-play points also warrant first-round fantasy draft selection. The fact that he was a plus-7 despite the Jets allowing the fourth-most goals per game (3.11) shows that he's responsible defensively. He was the only player in the League last season to have three hat tricks and is in line for another great fantasy season.

Mark Scheifele, C -- The 24-year-old had 32 goals last season, up from 29 in 2015-16, and 82 points, up from 61 the previous season. He was seventh in the NHL in scoring and averaged more than one point per game (1.04). He had 15 power-play points and was a plus-18 in 79 games, and should be in line for another big season if he centers Laine on the top line.

Video: Scheifele joins the show to talk 2017-18 expectations

Blake Wheeler, RW -- He's largely flown under the radar during his first nine NHL seasons and perhaps is overlooked on the Jets because of Laine and Scheifele. But Wheeler has been a constant in fantasy. He's had at least 26 goals, 61 points and 225 shots on goal in each of the past four seasons, totals that have been matched by three other players: Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars. Wheeler also raised his power-play point total from 12 in 2014-15 to 21 last season. In the past two seasons Wheeler has at least 250 shots on goal and had at least 74 points and 47 penalty minutes. He's also managed to stay healthy, missing five games in the past six seasons.

Nikolaj Ehlers, LW/RW -- He had 64 points (25 goals, 39 assists), 204 shots on goal, 38 penalty minutes and 12 power-play points last season, all increases from his rookie season in 2015-16. His ice time also increased by 1:23 per game to 17:29 from 16:06. Of the 45 games he had a point, he had multiple points 14 times. A top-six forward who could see time on the first line, Ehlers should hit the 20-goal, 60-point mark again.

Bryan Little, C -- Injuries always are a concern with Little, who missed 23 games last season, 25 in 2015-16 and 12 in 2014-15. He still had 47 points (21 goals, 26 assists) in 59 games last season (0.80 per game), and has 141 points (62 goals, 79 assists) in 186 games the past three seasons (0.76 per game). He has at least 12 power-play points in each of the past four seasons and has an NHL-career 13.3 shooting percentage. Little is worth drafting despite the injury risk because of his production.

 

DEFENSEMEN

Dustin Byfuglien -- He should be drafted among the top five defensemen, perhaps as high as fourth after Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators), Brent Burns (San Jose Sharks) and Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning). There aren't many who offer category coverage like Byfuglien, who has double-digit goals in each of the past nine full NHL seasons, and at least 50 points in five of the past six full seasons. He's had more than 100 penalty minutes and 200 shots on goal in each of the past three seasons and was a plus player in each. Byfuglien had 14 power-play points and also is a must-own in hits leagues (183 last season, 200-plus in each of the past three seasons).

Video: Dustin Byfuglien lands at the No. 12 spot

Jacob Trouba -- Trouba played his first game last season Nov. 11 after signing a contract Nov. 7. In 60 games, he had a personal NHL-high 33 points (eight goals, 25 assists), plus 54 penalty minutes and 154 shots on goal (2.6 per game). The top-pair defenseman may get overshadowed by Byfuglien but provides good peripherals with 205 penalty minutes and a plus-20 rating in his four-season NHL career. If he sees time on the first power-play unit, he'll likely improve on the four power-play points he had last season.

 

GOALTENDING

Steve Mason and Connor Hellebuyck -- Mason or Hellebuyck could claim the undisputed No. 1 job, but there's also a chance they split starts evenly throughout the season. Although there aren't many teams who use a 50/50 timeshare, the Dallas Stars used Antti Niemi (43 starts) and Kari Lehtonen (39 starts) evenly in 2015-16, they each won 25 games and the Stars finished first in the Western Conference. Hellebuyck, 24, won 26 games last season but his 2.89 goals-against average and .907 save percentage were off from 2015-16 (2.34 GAA, .918 save percentage). The Jets likely want to see more consistency before handing him the No. 1 job, which is why Mason, 29, was signed to a two-year contract July 1. He had similar numbers to Hellebuyck (26 wins, 2.66 GAA, .908 save percentage) with the Philadelphia Flyers last season, but could benefit in joining a team that was seventh in the League last season at 3.00 goals per game; the Flyers were 21st at 2.59 goals per game.

Others to consider: Kyle Connor (LW), Josh Morrissey (D), Mathieu Perreault (C/LW), Tyler Myers (D)

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