This is part of Jets Day at PHT…
As we have previously noted today, the Winnipeg Jets have been building a team stocked with young talent.
It helps when you can climb four spots in the draft lottery, winning the second overall pick and eventually choosing Patrik Laine (He’s looking to make the leap). It helps when Mark Scheifele, the seventh overall pick five years ago, emerges as a top-line center and a cornerstone to build around up front (He’s under pressure). It helps when Nikolaj Ehlers shows potential in his rookie season. It would help if the Jets can re-sign 22-year-old restricted free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba.
In no particular order, the Jets also have in their system 2015 first-round pick Kyle Connor, the University of Michigan standout forward who had 71 points in 38 games as a freshman, Joshua Morrissey on defense and Connor Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie in goal.
(Speaking of goaltending: Winnipeg had the 23rd-ranked save percentage at five-on-five last season, as per stats.hockeyanalysis.com. From positions 23 to 30 in that category, the only team to make the playoffs was Dallas.)
“We added some depth and created real competition [among the bottom-six forwards], and that is going to put some players that were on our team at the end of the [last] season in a really competitive environment for camp,” head coach Paul Maurice told the Jets website, as per NHL.com.
“It’s going to be a real challenge and we’re looking forward to putting those players under that kind of pressure. For some of these young guys, we’re looking for some growth at camp.”
While the future appears promising in Winnipeg, the Central Division was highly competitive this past season.
The Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks all reached 100 points during the regular season. The Nashville Predators, who, in case you missed it, scored P.K. Subban in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens this summer, finished with 96 points and made it to within one win of the Western Conference Final.
The Minnesota Wild, at 87 points, were bounced again in the first round before they hired Bruce Boudreau as their new coach, so perhaps that gives Minny a boost, as well.
Now, just because those five teams made the playoffs last season doesn’t guarantee them a spot in the Stanley Cup tournament next spring. An 82-game campaign, with a World Cup tournament beforehand, may produce a curve ball or two.
But it shows the standard that has been set in the Central, particularly with the top three teams.
Since moving back to Winnipeg from Atlanta, the Jets have given their diehard fan base one playoff appearance — in 2015. It lasted four games.
Making it back to the playoffs next season is certainly not impossible. It will be a difficult task.
While the Jets have added young talent, they’ve also preached patience with the plan as these players develop.
If all goes according to plan in Winnipeg, it would mean trouble for others in the Central Division.