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31 in 31

31 in 31

Three questions facing Winnipeg Jets

Pressure on Hellebuyck, replacing Stastny among concerns

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Winnipeg Jets.

 

[Jets 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]

 

1. Will Connor Hellebuyck repeat as a Vezina Trophy finalist?

Hellebuyck was a big reason the Jets reached the Western Conference Final last season, going 44-11-9 with a 2.36 goals-against average, a .924 save percentage and six shutouts in 67 regular-season games (64 starts). He finished second in voting for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goalie in the NHL, behind Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators.

Hellebuyck signed a six-year, $37 million contract July 12 (average annual value of $6.16 million), and the pressure is on the 25-year-old to carry the same load this season.

"I expect the most out of myself and I want everyone to expect the most out of me because I want to bring my A-plus game every single night," Hellebuyck said. "That's the key for this team, everyone wanting to do more."

Video: Connor Hellebuyck is named No. 4 on the list

 

2. Who replaces Paul Stastny as second-line center?

The unrestricted free agent signed with the Vegas Golden Knights on July 1. Acquired by the Jets in trade with the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 26, Stastny scored 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 19 regular-season games and 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 17 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Veteran Bryan Little, 30, was the second-line center most of the time before Stastny's addition and is a strong candidate to return to the role. He had 43 points (16 goals, 27 assists) in 82 games last season and has averaged 20.2 goals over the past five seasons.

The other option is 21-year-old Jack Roslovic, the No. 25 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. He played 31 games with Winnipeg last season, all in the second half, and played up and down the lineup while Winnipeg endured 285 man-games lost to injury. Roslovic had 14 points (five goals, nine assists).

Video: Analyzing the Jets' offseason moves, free agents

 

3. Who should play with Patrik Laine?

The 20-year-old right shot has said he doesn't mind playing left wing; he played on the left side with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler early last season.

But once rookie Kyle Connor got his chance on the top line, Laine settled into a productive spot on his natural side with speedy left wing Nikolaj Ehlers, first with Little at center, then Stastny.

More experimenting isn't out of the question, but keeping Laine productive is essential. He scored 44 goals last season, second in the NHL to Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (49) and led the NHL with 20 power-play goals.

Laine has scored 80 goals in his first two NHL seasons. Last season, Laine, who turned 20 on April 19, became the first player born in Europe to reach 70 points (44 goals, 26 assists) as a teenager in an NHL season.

Video: 31 in 31: Winnipeg Jets 2018-19 season preview

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