A brand new NHL season is drawing very near, so to get you prepared, we’re previewing what’s ahead for each of the 30 NHL teams. Here’s a look at the Winnipeg Jets.
MAIN SUMMER HEADLINES
• Wheeler named captain of the team, replacing Andrew Ladd
Head coach: Paul Maurice
GM: Kevin Cheveldayoff
Team payroll: 66.08 million ($73 million salary cap)
Acquisitions: Quinton Howden, Brian Strait, Shawn Matthias
Key departures: Thomas Raffl, Grant Clitsome
Rookies To Watch: Patrik Laine should take a run at the Calder Trophy – we caught a glimpse of what he might be able to do in his first NHL season with his MVP performance in May’s World Championship. Kyle Connor, the 17th overall pick in the 2015 Draft, had a prolific USHL career with the Youngstown Phantoms and a tremendous 35-goal, 71-point season with the University of Michigan in 38 games last year. Laine comes in with the fanfare, but Connor could end up having an even bigger impact in Year 1.
Winnipeg will have a successful season if…
Goaltending will play a major role in how the Jets’ season plays out. Connor Hellebuyck, Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson were more or less a three-headed tandem last season, with Hellebuyck posting the best numbers. Head coach Paul Maurice is showing faith in Hellebuyck this year after the Jets waived Pavelec on Monday. If the Jets get some consistency at this position (whether it’s from Hellebuyck or some combination of the three) they’ll take a great leap forward.
Also, Mark Scheifele finished the year incredibly strong and looked very much like a No. 1 centre after Bryan Little went down. If he, as expected, can grow from there, the Jets suddenly get a lot scarier – especially if you think the Laine and Connor can have immediate impacts.
Winnipeg will have an unsuccessful season if…
The promise of this team remains just that this season. Scheifele looks poised for an excellent breakout full season, but what if he regresses? The potential rookies in the lineup look dynamite, but what if they don’t fulfill those expectations right away? And if the goaltending group can’t help the Jets improve on a team GAA that ranked 22nd in the NHL last season, there is little chance of moving up in the standings. There’s tons of potential in this roster, but with that potential come plenty of unknowns.