Nikolaj Ehlers

Getty

Winnipeg Jets are finally interesting

4 Comments

This post is part of Jets Day on PHT…

Not only have the Winnipeg Jets been a pretty mediocre hockey team for most of their existence, they have also been a painfully dull team.

Nothing particularly exciting on the ice.

A front office that has rebuilt the team at a snails pace, seemingly refusing to make any sort of significant trade or free agent signing.

For the longest time no real difference maker of a player to build around because they were never quite bad enough to get a top-pick where a franchise player can be selected.

Slowly but surely — emphasis on slowly — that has all started to change for the Jets.

Just consider the core they have to build around now…

  • Patrik Laine, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, just put together one of the best rookie seasons for an 18-year-old in recent NHL memory with his 36-goal in 73 games performance. He is the cornerstone player the Jets have been desperate for. They finally got the right draft pick in the right year to land that type of player.
  • Mark Scheifele, just now entering his prime years in the NHL, was a point-per-game player this past season and looks as if he has developed into a threat to score 30 goals every season. He topped that mark a year ago and almost certainly would have done it the previous year had he not missed nine games due to injury.
  • Nikolaj Ehlers, the team’s first-round pick in 2014, had a breakout season in 2016-17 that saw him top the 25-goal and 60-point marks, while also playing an exciting style and making highlight reels due to his playmaking ability and speed.

That is an exciting young trio of forwards that not only play a visually pleasing style of hockey, but are also extremely productive. It is a great young core to build around.

Along with that group also have a solid stable of veterans led by the always underrated Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom. There really is a lot of talent on this team and it produced one of the best offenses in the league.

Unfortunately they also had one of the worst defensive performances in the league. If nothing else it made their games some of the highest scoring in the league, making them the team to watch if you like offense. In a league where the average game saw only 5.5 goals per game, Jets games were putting more than six goals per game on the board. That is probably not what they want to see as it isn’t always the best recipe for consistent, sustained success, but it’s at least brought some excitement to a team that that for years had none outside of whatever chants its crowd could come up with.

It’s taken a few years, but the Jets finally have enough young pieces in place that they might be able to start building something of significance. At least as it relates to their forwards.

They just need to find a way to keep the puck out of their own net.

Jets have had extension talks with Cheveldayoff, none with Maurice

Getty
2 Comments

After missing the playoffs for a second consecutive year, Winnipeg faces a number of questions this summer.

And many of those questions start at the top.

The future of GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and head coach Paul Maurice are chief among those queries and, during Monday’s end-of-year media availability, both individuals touched on what the future has in store.

Both are heading into the final year of their respective deals. Per the Sun, Cheveldayoff’s had discussions about an extension while Maurice has yet to open similar talks.

Cheveldayoff’s been in charge of the Jets since their relocation from Atlanta in 2011. Reviews have been mixed. There’s an obvious level of disappointment with just one playoff appearance but, at the same time, the 47-year-old has stockpiled a tremendous amount of young, promising talent, primarily through the draft.

Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey have all come aboard on Cheveldayoff’s watch, and become important pieces. This year also saw the debuts of two highly touted ’15 draftees — Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic — while Eric Comrie, regarded as the team’s potential goalie of the future, also saw his first NHL action.

Other Cheveldayoff picks like Adam Lowry, Andrew Copp and Nic Petan have also graduated to the big club.

As for Maurice, Cheveldayoff said the veteran bench boss has his “full support.”

The 50-year-old has been in charge of the Jets since taking over from Claude Noel in ’13-14 and, like Cheveldayoff, reviews have been mixed. The Jets have been one of the league’s least disciplined teams under Maurice — the Jets took 307 minor penalties this year, fourth-most — and that issue was compounded by an awful penalty kill that finished 26th in the NHL.

But Maurice has also been somewhat undone by lacklustre goaltending, a signature problem of the Cheveldayoff era. Ondrej Pavelec, Al Montoya, Michael Hutchinson and Connor Hellebuyck were Maurice’s primary options over the last four years, and none really got the job done.

Future’s on display in Winnipeg as Connor, Roslovic recalled

Getty
1 Comment

On Monday, the Jets put the spotlight on their ballyhooed ’15 draft class by bringing up Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic from AHL Manitoba.

Connor, the 17th overall pick, re-joins the club after appearing in 19 games earlier this season. The 20-year-old started out with the Jets after a terrific freshman season at the University of Michigan, but was eventually sent to the Moose for further grooming.

So far, the plan has worked. Connor has 23 goals and 42 point through 49 games.

Roslovic, taken eight spots after Connor, has also played very well in his first professional campaign. After leaving Miami (Ohio) after just one year, he jumped right to the AHL and has 45 points in 61 games.

This marks his first NHL recall.

Should both draw into Tuesday’s game against the Blues, it’ll be a big showcase for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s draft-and-develop model. Connor and Roslovic would join the likes of star rookie Patrik Laine (2nd overall, ’16), Nikolaj Ehlers (ninth overall, ’14), Josh Morrissey (13th overall, ’13), Jacob Trouba (9th overall, ’12) and Mark Scheifele (7th overall, ’11).

Other recent draftees currently making an impact in Winnipeg include Connor Hellebuyck, Andrew Copp and Adam Lowry.

Worth mentioning here that all the guys mentioned are 24 or younger (and that’s without listing two former first-rounders acquired by trade: Marko Dano and Joel Armia). This will end up a disappointing season for the Jets, having failed to make the playoffs for a second consecutive year, but the future still looks extremely bright.

Video: Anxious moments for Jets after Ehlers crushed by Reaves

6 Comments

In the midst of a solid sophomore season, it’s easy to understand why there would be anxious moments for Jets fans after forward Nikolaj Ehlers was hurt Friday.

The 21-year-old Ehlers, with 49 points in 64 games, was hurt midway through the second period versus the St. Louis Blues after he was on the receiving end of a massive open-ice hit from Ryan Reaves.

Ehlers jumped up to glove the puck ahead and was promptly knocked to the ice by Reaves. He remained down, while the hit drew a reaction from the crowd and from his Winnipeg teammates.

Reaves received a minor penalty for roughing, while Ehlers went to the dressing room for further evaluation before eventually returning.

 

Video: Laine hits 30 goals vs. Matthews and Leafs; Byfuglien battles Martin

2 Comments

Patrik Laine might rub some people the wrong way with his matter-of-fact brand of swagger, but the Winnipeg Jets rookie can back up that talk.

Just look at how he performs against fellow Calder Trophy hopeful Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Back in October, Laine stole the show with a hat trick. He has a chance to do that again, but either way, with two goals in as many periods, Laine hit the 30-goal mark as a rookie. In February.

His 29th goal came less than five minutes into the game:

He then hit the big 3-0 in the dying seconds of the middle frame, though that was far from the only noteworthy moment of the clip above this post’s headline.

As you can see, there were bodies being thrown around, culminating with a brief bout between Dustin Byfuglien and Matt Martin. The earth may or may not have shook from such an altercation. It wasn’t the only example of violence between the two teams tonight.

***

It’s been a nice milestone night for young Jets scorers, as Nikolaj Ehlers also scored his 20th goal of 2016-17.

That 30th goal came less than 30 seconds after Leo Komarov‘s second goal of the contest, putting Winnipeg up 4-3 heading into the third period. For all we know, the Jets might need even more from Laine tonight.