Winnipeg Jets 2019-20 season preview

From Getty Images

      The offseason was very eventful for the Jets, and almost all of it was bad. They lost three of their top five defensemen, without gaining anyone better. It took them until there was a week left until the season started to sign their two star RFAs, and now one of their best defenseman is considering retirement. Things are crashing down in Winnipeg.

       Additions: Neal Pionk, Anthony Bitetto, Gabe Bourque, Mark Letestu

       Subtractions: Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, Kevin Hayes, Ben Chiarot, Brandon Tanev, Matt Hendricks, Marko Dano, Par Lindholm, Joe Morrow

Even though he is now 33 years old, Blake Wheeler remains a star. While his 20 goals in 2018-19 were lower than average, a career high 71 assists led to a second consecutive 91 point season. Mark Scheifele got even better. He scored a career high 38 goals and 84 points, leading the team in the former category. Yesterday, Kyle Connor signed a seven year deal worth $50 million. The winger is coming off a season where he scored a career high 34 goals and 66 points. Patrik Laine had a down season. As the calendar turned to 2019, Laine had scored 24 goals with three hattricks, included a five goal night. However, he scored just six more goals throughout the rest of the season, finishing with 30 goals and 50 points, both career lows. His -24 rating was the worst on the team, 12 points higher than the next worst player. Nikolai Ehlers played in just 62 games, resulting in 21 goals and a career low 37 points. Bryan Little had a rough season. Not including the lockout 2012-13 season, Little\’s 15 goals and 41 points were his lowest since 2009-10. Mathieu Perreault scored 15 goals, but his 30 points were his lowest in a season where he played in at least 50 games. In just 69 games, Andrew Copp scored a career high 11 goals, and was a +20. 6\’5\’\’ center Adam Lowry scored 12 goals with 23 points. In his first full season, Jack Roslovic scored nine goals with 24 points. The last two spots are up for grabs. Mason Appleton is the favorite for one of them. He had 32 points in 40 AHL games, earning himself a 36 game NHL trial. Gabe Bourque had eight points in 55 games for the Avalanche last season. Depth center Mark Letestu has 560 games of NHL experience, though only two of those games came last year.

Josh Morrissey is under contract for the next nine seasons after signing an eight year extension recently. Playing in just 59 games, Morrissey finished with a career high 31 points in 2018-19. The Jets season could depend on if Dustin Byfuglien retires or not. Byfuglien has been the backbone of the Jets defense over the years. He played in just 42 games last year, resulting in a career low four goals with 31 points. Nathan Beaulieu returns after scoring five assists in 18 games for the Jets after being acquired at the trade deadline. Coming back for Jacob Trouba was Neal Pionk. The offensive defenseman had 26 points in his first full NHL season. Sami Niku had four points in 30 games last year, with 12 points in 20 AHL games. Dmitry Kulikov is in the last year of a three year deal. He had six points, all assists, in 57 games last season. The Jets signed depth defenseman Anthony Bitetto. In 36 games for the Predators and Wild last season, Bitetto had three points.

After finishing 2nd in Vezina voting in 2017-18, Connor Hellebuyck had a down season. He allowed a league high 179 goals, but his 1,872 saves led the league. He had a .913 SV% and a 2.90 GAA. Laurent Brossoit had a good season as backup. He had a .925 SV% and a 2.52 GAA.

          Deep Depths
Tucker Poolman spent all of 2018-19 in the AHL after playing in 24 NHL games the season before. He had 25 points in 43 games. Seth Griffith had 57 points in 69 AHL games last year. He has 19 points in 79 career NHL games. Logan Shaw scored 27 goals in 63 AHL games. He has 180 games of NHL experience.

          Up and Coming
Kristian Vesalainen had a good shot at a fourth line role, but a weak camp cost the 2017 1st rounder that opportunity. He had 17 points in 31 KHL games, 13 points in 22 AHL games, and one assist in five NHL games, all last season. 2016 first rounder Logan Stanley didn\’t impress in his first AHL season, with 22 points in 73 games.

           2019 draft class
Round 1, 20th overall: Ville Heinola
Round 2, 51st overall: Simon Lundmark
Round 4, 113th overall: Henri Nikkanen
Round 5, 134th overall: Harrison Blaisdell
Round 5, 144th overall: Logan Neaton

Paul Maurice is entering his 22nd season as NHL head coach, and his 7th with the Jets. Overall, his teams have a .525 winning percentage. While the Jets have been good under him, he could be fired if they don\’t start off well. The same could be said for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who had a losing offseason.

             Projected Lineup
Kyle Connor – Mark Schiefele – Blake Wheeler
Nikolai Ehlers – Bryan Little – Patrik Laine
Mathieu Perreault – Adam Lowry – Jack Roslovic
Gabriel Bourque – Andrew Copp – Mason Appleton
Extras: Kristian Vesalainen, Mark Letestu

              Josh Morrissey – Neal Pionk
              Nathan Bealieu – Dustin Byfuglien (if he doesn\’t retire)
              Dmitry Kulikov – Sami Niku
Extras: Anthony Bitetto, Tucker Poolman

                           Connor Hellebuyck
                           Laurent Brossoit
Extras: Eric Comrie

The Jets have been very good recently, but they are coming off a terrible offseason. Still, with Connor and Laine signed, they have a strong offense and goaltending. If Byfuglien comes back, then their defense can hold up, and propel the Jets into 4th in the Central Division and a playoff birth.

Published by carterhud SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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