September 20 2011 10:56AM
After a summer spent in anticipation of our national obsession's return to the city, the Jets open their pre-season account with a split-squad pair versus the Blue Jackets. It's not a moment too soon, either, because there's only so much time anyone should spend picking apart the compostions of logos or sweaters. The game's still the thing, and tonight, we'll get our first look at a few of the gents that this site will focus on for the next several months.
The MTS Centre lineup includes the team captain, the club's number one pick from this summer, and a giant lightning rod, as well as most of the Manitoba products in the organization. I suspect Mark Scheifele will rate most of the attention, if for no other reason than curiousity. He looked quite good amongst his peer group during the Penticton tournament, so this will be the first opportunity to obsevere him in action against grown-ups.
Further down the roster, Alex Burmistrov will work with local products Jason Gregoire and Shayne Wiebe. The club needs Burmistrov to be a serious contributor this year, which is patently unfair for a 19 year old, but the team's absence of depth will place him in a top nine role at worst. He did show a few signs as last year progressed that he might be able to take on bottom six comp, and the team seems to believe he's responsible enough in his own zone to take on a larger piece of the action this season.
(Edit: Ken Wiebe has updated lines in the Sun, with Janne Pesonen working between Ladd/Antropov and Scheifele centering Maxwell and Kevin Clark.)
The backline has a mix of NHLers and prospects, with Dustin Byfuglien leading the way. The Roseau native has had a couple of weeks that he might well prefer to forget, but it appears that the stuff about his weight was a bit exaggerated, and as he advised the press last week, he was never weighed as part of his arrest for BWI, so any numbers floating aroung the internet were speculative. He's scheduled to work with fellow vet Mark Stuart.
The Jets will also dress two of their better D prospects in Arturs Kulda and Paul Postma. The latter scored 45 points in 69 games for the Chicago Wolves last season, which is a fairly healthy number for a defender. The blueline is pretty crowded at the moment, but another solid year from Postma might allow Cheveldayoff some roster flexibility when a trade opportunity arises.
Ondrej Pavelec will get two periods to work the rust off before handing things over to try-out vet David Aebischer. Pavelec was decent in the main last year, posting a .928 EVSV%. Another year of that will go a long way to making the team competitive. Aebischer is headed to the AHL or Europe barring a major injury to Pavelec or Chris Mason.
Mason will lead the Columbus part of the club this evening, and he'll be joined by worthies like Kane and Wheeler. I won't see any of this game given that I'll be in attendance at MTS Centre, but the one young player down in Ohio whose performance might hold some interest is Zach Redmond. The Ferris State grad looked very smooth in Penticton, and although he's likely to be headed to St. John's as well, he looks as if he might be a player down the line.
The Jackets made a significant number of changes this summer, but this evening's games will take place with several top players on the sidelines. Rick Nash is taking the night off, Jeff Carter is nursing a minor injury, and Kristian Huselius is on the shelf long term, so much of the potential firepower for Columbus will be in suits. In all honesty, the remaining players on their combined roster might finish 31st in a 30 team league. Winnipeggers will have the chance to see Ryan Johansen as well as former Wheatie Matt Calvert, and Zach Bogosian will have a chance to run his older brother Aaron, who will be headed back to the AHL after camp.
In the big scheme of things, these games really aren't much more than a chance for the vets to get a few of the kinks out for the Jets, since there really isn't much chance of someone playing their way onto the main squad, a fact acknowledged by Claude Noel earlier this week. Still, it's a chance to evaluate players against someone other than the rest of the roster, and for those of us in the pews, it's the first chance in 15 years to see our own team in action, splintered as the roster may be. Game times are 6 CT in Columbus and 7:30 CT in Winnipeg, with the Winnipeg part of the double dip on TSN Jets for those of you that have that channel. At any rate, enough talk. Let's go.