Winnipeg Jets

AP Images

Jets’ Josh Morrissey staying healthy while constantly getting in the way


NEW YORK — Josh Morrissey is one of three Winnipeg Jets who has not missed a game since last season — Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers being the other two.

That the 22-year-old Morrissey hasn’t sat out due to injury is impressive considering the type of game he plays. Over that same time period, he’s fourth on the Jets in hits with 270 and leads the team with 293 blocked shots (He’s 12th in the NHL since last 2016-17).

Some of those blocked shots are of the fortunate variety where they might go off of Morrissey’s stick or a part of his skate where his shot blockers are, thereby decreasing the risk of injury. Others, of course, need to be absorbed by some part of the body, which is something that knocks players out of games on a nightly basis.

“There’s definitely been times over the course of the last few years where everyone in the room has little things bugging them,” Morrissey recently told Pro Hockey Talk. “But sometimes it’s sort of Murphy’s Law where all of a sudden you go down and you have protection pretty much everywhere and the puck seems to hit the one spot that’s open — so that can be a little bit frustrating, but nothing that a couple of ice bags can’t fix.”

To learn more about the skill of shot blocking, we chatted with Morrissey after a recent morning skate.

Q. When it needs to be a split-second decision, how are you able to recognize when you should block a shot or let it go through to the goalie?

MORRISSEY: “There’s times where I try to play with a desperation on defense where you don’t want to let any shots get to the net. There’s times where you have to block a shot, sometimes on the penalty kill or 5-on-5 where a guy’s coming and you see that it’s a dangerous shooting and you want to try to not allow that shot to get through. Obviously, it’s a split-second read. You try to put yourself in the best position as possible to be as protected as possible, but it’s something that I take pride in — not trying to let any shots up kind of thing. That’s something that I’ve worked up in my game.”

It’s chaos out there, so are you aware when you’re positioned in the sight line of the goaltender?

“Yeah, totally. It’s a thing we talk about and I think it’s similar for most teams. When you’re the D-man standing in front of the net and guys are shooting from the point or from far out, those are times where if it’s a wrist shot or something like that that you’re 100 percent sure you can get in front of, definitely get in front of it; but if it’s going to be one [that’s] sort of far away from you or it’s a slap shot that’s rising, those are the ones where you’re almost screening the goalie. I think those ones from farther out, unless you’re 100 percent sure that you’re going to block it, sometimes it’s best to get out of the way and try to box the guy out in front of you and try to give that sight line. Some wrist shots you can knock down and get going, but when the guy’s heat it up from outside, up top, it’s best to get out of the way for safety, and also just screening Helly [Connor Hellebuyck] or Mase [Steve Mason] or whoever’s in net.”

Is there a proper way to block a shot in a situation when you recognize it and have time to go down?

“If you watch a lot of guys, they sort of [take a] one knee down approach in certain situations. Obviously, you try to have your glove turned over so your hands not facing the puck — just little things like that. There’s lots of times where you go down, block the shot and you have protection in a lot of areas, but it just seems to hit the one area that’s not. A lot of it is luck and maybe a little bit of technique. I also think the closer you are to the guy, too. You can kind of make it so that you know the puck’s going to hit a certain area, whereas if you’re farther away there’s more time for it to go one side or the other, hit you in a spot you weren’t really ready for.”

Was this always part of your game or did it develop as you go into junior and into the NHL?

“Even in junior, we never kept shot blocking stats, but I don’t know if it was a huge part of my game. As time’s gone on, I’ve improved on it a lot more. It’s just sort of that attitude, trying to not allow any shots to the net. But it’s something you have to do as part of the game now and something that our defense as a whole take pride in doing it. Our whole team does. Most teams in the league definitely get fired up when a guy blocks a shot because they know it sucks sometimes, but it’s what you’ve got to do to win games. If you’re in the right position, you’re in the right spot, a lot of times you can just get your stick on it and not have to block the shot, but there are those times where you have to do it.”

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Patrik Laine, Alex Ovechkin meet to kick off Rocket Richard stretch run

Getty Images

From a team perspective, Monday’s matchup between the Washington Capitals and visiting Winnipeg Jets has its own set of storylines.

A win for the Capitals would vault them back into first place in a volatile Metropolitan Division, a revolving throne that was last claimed on Sunday when the Pittsburgh Penguins leapfrogged the Caps with a 3-1 win against the Dallas Stars.

For the Jets, a win accomplishes two things: First and foremost, it keeps a six-point gap between themselves and the Minnesota Wild for second place in the Central Division. Secondly, a win claws back a couple points from the Nashville Predators, who sit atop the summit of the toughest division in hockey with a seven-point lead.

Given that the Jets play Nashville on the back-to-back on Tuesday, they could close that gap to just three points with two wins on the trot over the next 48 hours.

But these are all team goals and mumbo jumbo. The real story on Monday night, in Washington, in Winnipeg, and across the NHL, is focused squarely on the battle between Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine.

Yes, Monday’s game is the unofficial beginning of the race to the Rocket Richard Trophy.

[Who’s going to win the Maurice Richard Trophy?]

Both Ovechkin, a six-time winner, and Laine, a 19-year-old NHL sophomore, sit tied for first place on 40 goals, one ahead of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin.

Malkin is clearly in the race, as are a bevy of other players. But tonight’s spotlight is on the champ and the pretender.

Both teams have 14 games remaining on their respective schedules.

“It’s always been one of my dreams to win it,” Laine told Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun over the weekend. “It’s something that every goal-scorer dreams about. There are still 15 games to go. There are a lot of things that can happen, but (along) with our team goals, it’s a good motivation for me.”

In many respects, Laine has emulated parts of what has made Ovechkin — Laine’s childhood idol — the NHL’s best goal-scorer since he was drafted years ago. Laine’s one-timer, like Ovi’s, is as lethal as they come. His position on the power play, Ovi’s office, as it were, is much the same. The release? Both are world-class, and well beyond their peers in the NHL.

Ovechkin has been scoring consistently all season long. For Laine, he’s produced 15 goals in his past 11 games, is on an 11-game point streak and has at least one goal in five-straight and nine of his last 10.

Unlike last season, where his offense sputtered down the stretch, Laine has come alive to make himself the favorite to capture his first goal-scoring crown.

Laine is shooting at a few ticks over 20 percent thus far and leads the NHL in power play goals with 18. And his scoring on Winnipeg’s current six-game road trip has helped his team tremendously in the win department. Laine has seven of the Jets’ 11 goals through four games. Winnipeg is 3-1-0 on the trip so far.

Ovechkin, by comparison, has just one goal in his past five games. But no one takes more shots in the NHL than the Great 8. His sheer volume would lead one to suggest that he’ll get back on that goal-scoring wagon soon. Perhaps even tonight.

On your marks.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Winnipeg Jets fill need with Paul Stastny acquisition from Blues


This is what six losses in a row and contract talks going nowhere gets you. St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is shaking things up and hoping this is a soft retooling.

The trade: Winnipeg Jets acquire Paul Stastny* from the St. Louis Blues for a conditional 2018 first-round pick, a conditional 2020 fourth-round pick and Erik Foley. (*St. Louis retains 50 percent of Stastny’s salary. If the Blues fail to sign Foley before Aug. 16, 2019 they will get the Jets’ fourth-round pick in 2020. Should Winnipeg somehow end up with one of the top three picks in the 2018 draft, St. Louis gets Winnipeg’s first-round pick in 2019. If not, they will get that pick in 2018.)

Why the Blues are making this trade: Stastny had to waive his no-move clause in order to make the deal happen. Like Armstrong did last year at the deadline with Kevin Shattenkirk, Stastny probably wasn’t going to re-sign, and considering the Blues’ recent slide, it’s better to get something for an asset now than let him walk for nothing in the summer. St. Louis still made the playoffs last season and are only a point out of the wild card in the Western Conference right now. If Jake Allen and Carter Hutton can get their games straightened out, a similar situation could play out again this spring.

Let’s check in on how the deal is going over in the room:

Per Cap Friendly, this move means the Blues have just under $4 million in cap space to play with, so Armstrong could ideally add if there’s a deal out there to be made.

Why the Jets are making this trade: Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff tried to sign Stastny four years ago when the 32-year-old forward was an unrestricted free agent. It didn’t pan out then, but now he gets his man, who’s set to become a UFA this summer.

Stastny is still a fancy stats darling with a 55 percent Corsi and 5.29 percent Corsi Relative, per Corsica. He has 40 points in 63 games this season. He’s the center Cheveldayoff was looking for and is a nice addition for the Jets’ playoff run. He also played with Blake Wheeler in Germany for a short time during the lockout, so there’s some familiarity there.

Who won this trade: The Jets missed out on several players over the weekend and finally land a center they’ve been searching for. Stastny won’t need to be the main attraction in their lineup, which should suit him well. He’s also a big-time setup man, so having him center Patrik Laine and dishing out one-timers to the young Finn will be a delight to watch. Tough to definitively say that the Blues are sellers right now, but it’s clear that Winnipeg sees an opportunity out West this season and are going for it.

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Should Winnipeg Jets stand pat at trade deadline?

Getty Images

Be sure to visit and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang

There are whispers that the Winnipeg Jets could stand pat at the trade deadline and get away with it.

It’s not necessarily the most popular opinion, but one that has gained a small following given how their season has shaped up to this point.

The growth of rookie forward Kyle Connor, who scored his 21st goal of the season on Sunday, has been impressive. Connor went from a mediocre training camp that saw him begin the season in the American Hockey League to play a vital role on Winnipeg’s top line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.

Jack Roslovic began the season in the AHL and was only called up recently to fill in the gaps as Winnipeg’s health began to deteriorate. Now, Roslovic, a dynamic player with speed and play-making ability, has performed so well that he likely won’t see the minors again.

The Jets are also anticipating the return of towering center Adam Lowry (out with an upper-body injury) and defenseman Jacob Trouba (out with a lower-body injury) by the time the playoffs roll around, turning into quasi-trade deadline additions.

The Jets, who have scored 13 goals in their past two games, are as good as any other team in the league when they’re firing on all cylinders. A recent adjustment to their lines — one that included putting 20-plus goal scorers Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine on the third unit — has diversified Winnipeg’s top-nine to a scary extent.

The Jets have three lines that are capable, at the moment, of putting up a lot of points on any given night. So the argument that the Jets don’t need to add someone to their top-six, or even their top-nine, has some merit.

That said, as the old sports cliche goes: there’s always room to improve. The Jets could still use some depth on the fourth line. Matt Hendricks, while a good presence in the room and a decent penalty killer, isn’t the quickest player on the ice. Joel Armia shows flashes of brilliance and then goes on long stretches where he’s mostly invisible. The return of Brandon Tanev from injury will be useful in that regard. But adding a budget center could be the shrewd move general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff needs to solidify a solid fourth-line combo.

On defense, Ben Chiarot has played admirably in place of Trouba but he may be a surplus to requirements when Trouba returns. One wonders what Cheveldayoff is thinking when it comes to Toby Enstrom, however. The diminutive defenseman had a tough outing in the physical department during the Jets last playoff appearance — their only visit since returning to Winnipeg — during the 2014-15 season. And his injury history should have the Jets thinking about at least shoring up that possibility.

The Jets could turn to Chiarot’s size and physicality in a similar scenario or could turn to the trade market for another option.

This is a good headache for any general manager. The Jets are one of the top teams in the NHL without having made a trade thus far this season.

Their goaltending has been spectacular, their power play has been lethal and their penalty kill is up near the top. Bell MTS Place has become a place teams go to die and the Jets, at the moment, would have home-ice advantage in the first round.

It makes for an interesting week leading up to Monday’s trade deadline.

Here’s a look at what the Jets could be/are considering:


Rick Nash: A pricey rental player that would add size and scoring to the Jets top-six. But pricey is the key word here and it’s unlikely the Jets want to dig into the farm to own a guy for a couple months.

Mike Hoffman: Skilled and quick with the ability to score. He would be a good fit for the Jets, but as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on the weekend, Hoffman has a limited no-movement clause and Winnipeg is on the list. With term left on his deal, the price wouldn’t be cheap either.

Patrick Maroon and Mark Letestu: Two depth forwards that would bolster Winnipeg’s bottom end. Maroon isn’t the fastest guy around, and he’s not scoring 27 goals like he did last season playing with Connor McDavid. But a fresh start after not getting a contract in Edmonton might be just what Maroon needs to get his confidence up and running. Letestu, meanwhile, offers bottom-six depth up the middle. Matt Hendricks, currently occupying the fourth-line center role, didn’t play in last year’s playoffs for the Oilers. He could make way again depending on what the Jets do at the deadline. These would be cheaper options.

Ryan Hartman: It would be odd for the Chicago Blackhawks to trade a 23-year-old budding forward to a divisional rival, but stranger things have happened. Hartman had 19 goals in his rookie season last year and is playing on a very poor Blackhawks team this year. The price tag is likely high on him as well.

Mats Zuccarello: The New York Rangers announced they were holding a yard sale, and Zuccarello is a name that’s been thrown around when it comes to the Jets. Zuccarello is a good penalty killer and plays a game, not unlike Mathieu Perreault, who the Jets covet. Zuccarello also comes with an extra year on his contract. and could help the Jets beyond this season.


Nick Holden: Continuing with the Rangers fire sale, Holden could be an option. He’s a left shot defenseman that could fill in for an injury to Enstrom. Holden’s possession metrics don’t jump off the page, but he’s a serviceable third-pairing guy who can play bigger minutes in a pinch.

Jan Rutta: One player the Blackhawks may be willing to part ways with is defenseman Rutta, who is on a one-year entry-level deal that’s set to expire at the end of this season. Rutta shoots right and has better possession metrics than Holden.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Winnipeg Jets providing blueprint on handling devastating injuries

Getty Images

The injury bug paid a visit to Winnipeg and left a six-to-eight week piece of adversity on the doorstep of the Jets on Monday

The Jets announced that top defenseman Jacob Trouba will be sidelined for up to two months with a lower-body injury he picked up last Thursday, handing the Central Division-leading Jets the third such lengthy diagnosis this season.

Losing your No. 1 center and your top-line defenseman in a span of a month is less than favorable, but if any team has shown the blueprint to dealing with seemingly massive blows to a roster this season, it’s the Jets.

They’ll certainly need to refer to it going forward.

Perhaps the most impressive trait when it comes to their ascent to the top of the Central has been their ability to navigate the harsh realities that come with each and every NHL season.

Injuries have, are, and always will be a mainstay for every team. It’s a fact of life in the NHL and one teams try to prepare for with depth. Some succeed while others fail.

The Jets are proof this season that the latter is attainable despite some significant knocks to key players.

Here is the lengthy list of other Jets who have gone down this season:

  • Mark Scheifele — injured after falling into the end boards following a hit from Edmonton Oilers defenseman Brandon Davidson in the second period on Dec. 27. Diagnosis: 6-8 weeks with a shoulder injury
  • Adam Lowry — an upper-body injury likely sustained against the Buffalo Sabres on Jan. 5. Has missed eight games (will return to the lineup on Tuesday).
  • Dmitry Kulikov — injured after getting drilled from behind by San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl on Jan. 23. He’s out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. (UPDATE: Kulikov could play Thursday, Jets coach Paul Maurice said Tuesday).
  • Brandon Tanev — missed seven games after picking up a lower-body injury on Dec. 29 against the New York Islanders.
  • Toby Enstrom — missed eight weeks and 23 games with a lower-body injury he sustained back in October.
  • Dustin Byfuglien —  sidelined for 10 games after a Dec. 9 tilt with the Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Steve Mason —  missed seven games with a concussion in late November and early December and has now missed a further six with another concussion.

Every team deals with injuries. Not every team deals with injuries well. The Jets have dealt with the injury bug in impressive fashion.

Mark Scheifele’s injury could have been a season-altering blow. Losing your No.1 center isn’t a desirable thing to have happen, and Scheifele was having a career year and helping those around him do the same.

But in the 12 games he’s missed since getting injured, the Jets are 8-2-2.

“You look at what we’ve been able to do with (Scheifele) out of the lineup,” Lowry said on Monday in Winnipeg. “You lose your No.1 center, who was having an all-star campaign when he went down, and it seems like (Blake) Wheeler just slots into the middle and our team gets rolling.”

Wheeler’s move from right wing to center has been exceptional in Scheifele’s absence and has allowed for the boat to be a little less rocked down the middle for the Jets.

Trouba’s injury comes on the heels of the Jets losing Kulikov indefinitely.

“A key piece, right? It’s not just losing the player, he’s also playing right at his peak. His game in Anaheim was outstanding. He was really good,” Maurice said shortly after confirming reports of Trouba’s injury. “If we have an area of depth, and we do, it’s right defense. So that’s the one place if we have a guy go down, that we have players there who want the minutes, that can handle the minutes.”

The Jets will slot Tyler Myers up with Josh Morrissey in attempt to fill the minutes Trouba was commanding. Myers has shown he can handle the workload.

“Obviously (Trouba) is a big loss,” Myers said. “We’ve dealt with injuries the past month here. For us as a group, it’s just focusing on the same thing we have and that’s our game plan and executing.” 

Helping the Jets with Trouba out will be the defensive corps’ familiarity with one another. The Jets blue line was ravaged last year, including Myers, who was limited to just 11 games because of a groin injury.

“You can take it back to the last few years since I’ve been here. Everyone on the back end has played with a lot of different partners throughout my time here. We’re pretty used to switching things up. It’s just a matter of talking it out and getting used to each other quicker rather than later.” 

The Jets will have to be quick learners again.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck