The Winnipeg Jets, after an up-and-down start to the season, are beginning to gain some respect.
“Boy, they’re going pretty good from what I’ve seen in the last couple of outings. Pace, speed, aggressive, D up ice and involved as much as I’ve seen,” said Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, per the Winnipeg Sun. “Obviously, their top point-producing line tends to get a lot of, and deserves, an awful lot of the spotlight, but (it’s) a pretty damn good, four-line team.”
The Jets (9-7-2) play tonight in Philadelphia, in search of their third straight win. They’ve earned points in five straight, including an 8-2 destruction of the Stars last Tuesday. Center Mark Scheifele is tied for the NHL lead with 21 points, while his linemate, rookie Patrik Laine, leads all scorers with 12 goals.
That the Jets — who started 2-4-0, including that disappointing outdoor loss to the Oilers — have turned it around without injured forward Bryan Little is all the more impressive. Little is an underrated two-way center who put up 42 points in 57 games last season. When he gets back, and it shouldn’t be too long now, they stand to be even stronger.
Of course, Winnipeg did get defenseman Jacob Trouba back, and he’s averaged 25:01 of ice time in the three games he’s played. Trouba has been thrown right into the fire, thanks to an injury to Tyler Myers.
Per TSN.ca, the injury list is still a long one:
But compared to seasons past, the Jets have so much more depth at their disposal. In Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Chicago, Nicolas Petan logged 13:31 and scored a goal — a goal that was assisted by Marko Dano, who logged 13:30. Both Petan and Dano started the season in the AHL, as did call-ups Quinton Howden and Andrew Copp.
Is it any wonder that Alex Burmistrov is reportedly on the trading block? There’s just no room for him anymore. Not will all the young forwards that have already been mentioned, plus Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, and Nikolaj Ehlers.
Meanwhile, rookie defenseman Josh Morrissey has also performed well. The 13th overall draft pick in 2013, he spent last season developing in the AHL, and now the Jets’ patience is being rewarded.
“His consistency,” said head coach Paul Maurice, when the Winnipeg Sun asked what’s been impressive about Morrissey. “It’s funny, because the things I worried most about Josh in his early years and early training camps, the things I thought he might struggle with in the NHL have become his strengths. On breakouts, on dumped pucks into his corner, on battles down low, he’s as good as anybody we have in our lineup right now.”
On top of all that, Connor Hellebuyck is starting to find his game. The young goalie stumbled out of the gates, after the Jets waived veteran Ondrej Pavelec. But Hellebuyck has responded well, his save percentage climbing to .916 after Tuesday’s shut out of the Blackhawks.
“I’ve been chasing it for a while and now I got the monkey off my back,” Hellebuyck told reporters.
He added that the win over the ‘Hawks was a “statement…that we’ve figured it out, and now we know how to play, and now we know we can play it.”