Jets Camp Opens! (finally)

Dean Belanger
September 16 2011 01:04PM

 

 

It has been 16 years since the opening of the last training camp for the Winnipeg Jets. In what feels like a lifetime (and probably has been for some) the latest installment of the Jets will take their medicals and begin the most anticipated training camp in Winnipeg since 1979. There are not nearly as many questions facing this team as there was way back then but there is that same sense of “who is that guy” in some quarters to be sure.

Here is a look at the spots to be contested in the next coming weeks

Goalies

This is one of the areas that offer little interest. Barring any major injuries or other unforeseen disasters the goaltending is set for this year. Andrej Pavelec enters this season as the clear number one goalie. After an early season scare last year, Pavelec was able to post a career best in games played, save percentage, goals against average, and wins. One of the keys to the upcoming season is Pavelec taking his game to another level. Chris Mason plays the role of solid backup who will push for his fair share of starts. Having been a starter in the past, Mason can be relied upon to run with the ball if need be. In what was an interesting move, the Jets invited former Colorado Avalanche goalie David Aebischer to camp on a PTO. Not sure if that is simply to push Mason or perhaps offer a solid veteran to the farm system and act as insurance against injuries. One of the highlights of the rookie tournament was the play of Edward Pasquale and it should be interesting to see how he looks at the next level.

Defense

This is another area of strength for the team entering this season, especially when you factor in the signing of Zach Bogosian. Even with the impending legal troubles for Dustin Byfuglien, defense is still the strength of this team. They have a solid blend of offensive players in Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, and Ron Hainsey. They also have Mark Stuart and Johnny Oduya to round out the top six. Last season Bogosian played most of the tough minutes and it should be interesting to see how this coaching staff hands out the assignments. It would appear that the top 7 is already set and the real battle is for 7 and 8. The depth chart to my eye looks like this:

  • Dustin Byfuglien
  • Tobias Enstrom
  • Zach Bogosian
  • Ron Hainsey
  • Johnny Oduya (Upcoming UFA)
  • Mark Stuart Randy
  • Jones (Upcoming UFA)
  • Brett Festerling
  • Derek Meech

I noted the upcoming UFA’s because it would seem unlikely to me that Winnipeg will let these players walk so expect a trade at some point in time.

Forwards

This will easily be the most interesting position to pay attention to. First round pick Mark Scheifele was outstanding in the rookie tournament and cemented his position as top prospect in the organization. It is obviously too early to count on Scheifele to make the team this year and another year in junior will serve him well. The top six would appear to be set, but after that it’s open season for the next 8 forward positions. I would expect a monster season from Evander Kane as he is poised to breakout in his third season. It should be interesting to see what happens with Nik Antropov. Apparently he played the majority of the season injured last year and struggled. He’s also one of the top paid players on the team and unfortunately that matters to some. With two years left on his contract, I have a feeling he is the early leader in the “player that catches the most heat” department. I’m really interested to see where Eric Fehr fits in once he returns to health. One of the big problems Atlanta had last year was a quality third line. That may not be an issue this season in Winnipeg. Kyle Wellwood was an excellent signing and should be a great 7th forward. He’s exactly the kind of player you need on your roster. He is someone who can play in the bottom six and fill in on the top six if injuries arise. Ignoring the line combinations, he would be the depth chart going into camp:

  • Andrew Ladd
  • Evander Kane
  • Bryan Little
  • Blake Wheeler
  • Alexander Burmistrov
  • Nick Antropov
  • Eric Fehr (Injured)
  • Kyle Wellwood (Upcoming UFA)
  • Tanner Glass (Upcoming UFA)
  • Chris Thorburn
  • Tim Stapleton (Upcoming UFA)
  • Patrice Cormier
  • Carl Klingberg
  • Ben Maxwell
  • Jim Slater (Upcoming UFA)
  • Jason Jaffray
  • Kenndal McArdle
  • Aaron Gagnon
  • Spencer Mahacek
  • Jason Gregoire

Training camp invitees are Troy Bodie, David Koci, and Janne Pesonen. Look for Jason Gregoire and Carl Klingberg to push for a spot. If they start the season in the minors they may push for a roster spot later in the year.

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Dean has partied at Portage and Main (Bombers 1984,88,90) and cried (Jets rally 1995). He fondly remembers seeing Selanne's first goal, when Ellett scored in overtime, and not so fondly when they drafted Sergei Bautin. Is also a fan of the NFL Vikings and Raiders, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Oilers, and loves MMA. Participates in the best hockey pool ever and is addicted to Fantasy Football. He also has a weird fascination with the Bearcats. You can follow him on Twitter @bearcats_dean
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