WINNIPEG – He looks nothing like a guy who went into this season with only one NHL game on his resume.
When Mikey Eyssimont steps onto the ice, people notice him.
Not because of his flash and dash either. This is a meat-and-potatoes type of player who battles every single shift.
The comparisons have been flowing in for the man who was called up from the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League on Nov. 11.
Some observers see a bit of Mathieu Perreault and/or a bit of Brandon Tanev, combining the energizer buzzy aspect with the Tazmanian devil.
Winnipeg Jets head coach Rick Bowness drew parallels earlier this week to Vancouver Canucks winger – and former Moose forward – Alexandre Burrows.
“Burr just came off that bench and just played his heart out and there’s a different skill level and everything else here, experience and everything but Mikey brings what Burr did,” Bowness said. “But Burr was a bigger guy and he played that hard. You noticed him every shift. He’s always where he’s supposed to be, he’s always agitating somebody. So if you really watch him, you’d notice something he does pretty much every shift. That’s what we need him to do.”
Well, it’s been mission accomplished on that front for most of the 13 games Eyssimont has suited up for the Jets this season, and Friday against the Chicago Blackhawks was no different.
Although he didn’t end up with any points, he continued to fit in well on a line with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kyle Connor and he got under the skin of Jack Johnson to the point that he drew a double minor against him – leading to a power play goal from Blake Wheeler that proved to be the game-winner.
With the victory, the Jets improved to 18-7-1 on the season, including an impressive 10-2 within the Central Division, sweeping the two-game set that included a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.
The Jets open a three-game homestand on Sunday night against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey chipped in two more assists to give him 25 on the season, which matches his season total from 2021-22 and is just one off his career-high, set during the 2019-20 campaign.
One day after playing most of the game with 11 forwards after losing Saku Maenlanen to a suspected shoulder injury, the Jets were down to only five blue-liners for most of Friday’s contest.
Logan Stanley, who was playing for just the second time after missing 18 games with a fractured foot, went awkwardly into the end boards early in the first period after he appeared to lose an edge as he was being chased by Blackhawks forward Sean Lafferty.
Stanley looked to be favouring either his left knee or ankle as he left the ice and while he came back for one shift before the first period had concluded, he didn’t take another one in the game and he will be evaluated when the Jets return home.
The loss of Stanley meant an increase in minutes for the remaining five D-men, including Morrissey, who finished with just under 27 minutes of ice time.
“He’s a horse. He loves to be on the ice. Sometimes he gives me the evil eye when I don’t have him out there,” Jets associate coach Scott Arniel told reporters in Chicago. “But no, he’s awesome and everything that’s happened to him this year is based on his great attitude, great work ethic.
“I knew he was a good player, knew that he had offensive abilities. But man, he’s shown it as a power-play quarterback. There’s a lot of pressure in that position. But the other side, too, he’s a good defender. We play him against almost every night the other team’s top line. He’s real mobile and has a great stick and his anticipation and his reads are real smart.”
Not only is Morrissey impressing the new coaching staff, but he’s caught the attention of his teammates as well with his inspired play.
“Obviously he’s been contributing at all ends of the ice. And he’s been playing huge minutes,” Jets forward Cole Perfetti, who opened the scoring with his sixth goal of the season after a great play at the offensive blue line by Morrissey, told reporters. “His defensive game speaks for itself, but obviously it’s hard to score in this league as a defenceman and put up the numbers he’s putting up. It’s pretty impressive. It’s great to have a guy like that on the team. He’s so offensively gifted, he skates so well and can join the rush. And then be the first guy back. It’s fun to play with him, and he makes it pretty easy out there.”
The Jets are fortunate to have Dylan Samberg waiting patiently to return to the lineup after sitting out the past two games as a healthy scratch.
Samberg is in competition for the sixth spot on the depth chart and had put together a nice stretch of games before Stanley returned, notching his first NHL goal against the Anaheim Ducks last Sunday before adding an assist.
With Maenalanen unavailable for the foreseeable future, veteran forward Sam Gagner jumped back into the lineup on the fourth line with David Gustafsson and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby.
That also allowed an opportunity for Jansen Hakins to jump into Maenalanen’s spot on the checking line with Adam Lowry and Morgan Barron.
Harkins spent some time on a unit with Lowry before finding himself on the sidelines as a healthy scratch, but he took advantage of the enhanced responsibility the past two nights, using his speed to make an impact.
Harkins was instrumental on the Jets’ third goal, applying pressure on the forecheck before finding Adam Lowry in front of the net for his sixth goal of the season.
“He’s a shooter,” Lowry told reporters. “That was an unbelievable pass there.”
Jets backup goalie David Rittich put forth another solid effort, finishing with 22 saves as he improved to 4-2 on the season as Connor Hellebuyck was given a relatively rare evening off.
“It’s not an easy job,” said Lowry. “It’s not the most favourable position for a goaltender to go in but all you can ask is they give you a chance to win, that they’re ready at the start of the game for you. I think he was. He played great for us in the second period when we had the lull and in the third period when we had the lead. We’ve got a lot of confidence in both goalies. They’ve both played great for us this year.”