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30 in 30

Winnipeg Jets fantasy outlook

Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien elite options; goalie situation remains crowded

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / Fantasy Insider

As part of's 30 in 30 series, our fantasy hockey staff is breaking down each team's fantasy landscape. From most valuable assets to underrated options, impact prospects and more, this guide should help fantasy owners prioritize players for drafts.

Jets 30 in 30: Season outlook | Top prospects | Burning questions, reasons for optimism | Fantasy: Top 200

Starting at the top: Blake Wheeler, RW; Dustin Byfuglien, D/RW

The Jets were one of six teams with multiple players among Yahoo's top 20 rankings based on standard-category performance last season. Wheeler (15th) and Byfuglien (18th) are six-category producers and worthy of selection depending on your greater positional need once the second or (more preferably) third round rolls around. Whether your league counts hits or penalty minutes, you're in good hands with either player. Wheeler was tied for sixth in the NHL in scoring (78 points) and was one of three players with at least 70 points, 45 PIMs and 250 shots on goal (Alex Ovechkin, Brent Burns). Byfuglien,'s fifth-ranked defenseman, was fifth in goals (19), first in PIMs (119), sixth in hits (222) and third in SOG (247) at his position, and he usually carries D/RW eligibility in Yahoo.

Video: WPG@SJS: Scheifele's backhand PPG ties the game

Undervalued: Mark Scheifele, C

After center Bryan Little was injured Feb. 18, Scheifele played primarily with Wheeler the rest of the season, scoring 34 points in his final 26 games and ending 2015-16 on a 10-game point streak. That sample could convince coach Paul Maurice to stick with Scheifele, who signed an eight-year contract this summer, as the Jets' top-line center for the long haul. He almost certainly will be selected later than his rank in's top 200 (51st), so plan on targeting him as early as the fifth round in a standard draft. He took a big jump to 57th last season based on performance after being drafted on average with the 157th pick, and has even greater potential if he can stick with Wheeler for a full season. Scheifele's power-play production needs improvement (11 PPP last season) before he can climb into the top 30 fantasy realm, but he remains severely underrated with a chance to reach 70 points.

Overvalued: Nikolaj Ehlers, LW/RW

Despite inconsistent top-six usage, Ehlers finished in the top 10 among rookies in points (38, ninth), power-play points (11, seventh) and shots on goal (167, fourth). That said, Ehlers' fantasy ceiling would have been significantly higher had the Jets not moved up in the NHL Draft Lottery to the No. 2 pick, which they used to select forward Patrik Laine. Ehlers has upside as a draft bargain if he slips but is no longer a lock to play on the first line with Wheeler and Scheifele and will have plenty of competition for top-six minutes again with wings Mathieu Perreault, Drew Stafford and Marko Dano in the fold. Ehlers, 174th in's top 200, is not worth reaching for in non-keeper formats.

Video: WPG@STL: Hellebuyck denies Backes in the 1st

Sleeper: Connor Hellebuyck, G

Hellebuyck proved last season he's the Jets' goalie of the future, and though he's worth prioritizing as a late-round sleeper, Winnipeg's crowded crease hurts his chances of making an immediate impact. The Jets signed goalie Michael Hutchinson to a two-year contract in June, and Ondrej Pavelec is entering the final year of his contract. Still, the 23-year-old Hellebuyck likely will get a look at some point this season, especially if Winnipeg deals with injuries or carries three goalies like the New York Islanders did for much of last season. Hellebuyck had 13 wins in 26 games with a .918 save percentage and two shutouts as a rookie, and his even-strength save percentage (.937) was tied for second-best in the League behind James Reimer (.938; minimum 20 games played). Hellebuyck is not far behind Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins in keeper-league value.

Bounce-back: Bryan Little, C/RW

Even if Scheifele takes Little's place on Winnipeg's top line, the latter should be productive if healthy. Little's points-per-game average in the past three seasons (0.76) is tied for 36th among players with at least 200 games played in that span -- the same territory as Patrice Bergeron (0.77), Jaromir Jagr (0.76) and Jeff Carter (0.75). Little, 151st in's rankings, was limited to 57 games because of injury but had respectable totals of 42 points, 12 PPP and 127 SOG. If Little lines up with Laine, Ehlers or Perreault on his left side and Stafford or Dano on his right, he could rebound to score 50 or more points and give the Jets the depth necessary to compete for a Stanley Cup Playoff spot.

Video: 1-on-1 Conversation with Patrik Laine

Impact prospect: Patrik Laine, LW/RW

Laine has had success playing left and right wing in the past year, and carries legitimate 30-goal potential as a rookie with the Jets whether he flanks Scheifele or Little. After winning tournament MVP with Finland at the 2016 IIHF World Championship against NHL talent, he warrants top-100 consideration in a standard league (ranked 101st in's top 200). For keeper purposes, the 18-year-old should be considered one of the top goal-scoring prospects. Laine's place in the Jets' top six is not set in stone, but a Laine-Scheifele-Wheeler trio is possible and could be a top 10 line in the League. Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews was drafted ahead of Laine, but Laine has the better supporting cast fantasy-wise in the short term.

Goalie outlook

Pavelec is the front-runner to get the most starts of the three Jets goalies, but his 2014-15 season (2.28 GAA, .920 save percentage, five shutouts) is an outlier in his otherwise shaky NHL career. Pavelec had a 2.78 GAA and .904 save percentage last season, nearly in line with his career averages (2.85, .907), and remains more of a fantasy liability than a commodity. Hutchinson had a strong rookie season in 2014-15 (21 wins, 2.39 GAA, .914 save percentage, two SO), but struggled in his second season before losing the starting job to Hellebuyck when Pavelec was injured. Begin considering Hellebuyck as the third or fourth goalie on your fantasy roster after the 13th round of a standard draft. Pavelec and Hutchinson are merely streaming options. 

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