While training camp isn’t as close as hockey fans would like, Winnipeg Jet fans should buckle up for an exciting training camp. There are many possible training camp battles that could ensue when fall rolls around, especially with the teams forwards. The teams top six is pretty set, but the bottom six is where things get interesting.
Projected Depth Chart
Ehlers – Scheifele – Wheeler
Laine – Little – Stafford
? – ? – ?
? – ? – ?
Those 6 players are pretty much locks to make the team when training camp rolls around. Drew Stafford could drop to a third or fourth line role but he certainly wont be sent to the Moose and that’s why he’s one of my locks to make the team. The third and fourth lines are a mystery at this point as there are many exciting ingredients that could give the teams bottom six a much needed facelift.
Who could make up the teams third Line?
The Jets have a good amount of veterans that could round out a serviceable third line. But one or two of them could be bumped a line down if one of the Jets most exciting prospects is inserted in to the lineup. The real question is if highly touted prospect Kyle Connor can make the leap to the big leagues next year. The Michigan product has NHL ready speed and a dynamic skill set, but will it be enough for him to crack a top 9 roster spot? In my opinion, after that decision is made, the dominos fall with the teams forward core.
In the event Connor makes the leap to the pros, he could fit quite nicely with Matthieu Perreault and I have a hunch another prospect join them on the right side. Things get interesting on that third line right wing spot. Many have pegged freshly signed Joel Armia at that spot but I’d hold your horses on that assumption. Armia did have a strong showing at some points last season but was also pretty invisible during other spurts of the year. His game is still rather raw and he could use more development in the AHL, in my opinion.
Watch out for Nic Petan to fill in that role, he’s one of many wildcards to make the team this year. Petan made the Jets out of training camp last season and looked out of place in his first handful of NHL games. When Petan returned to the Jets lineup later on in the year, he looked like a different player. He was much more involved in the play and fit right in with the NHL style of play with a more complete game.
Who will suit up on the fourth line?
I’m sure a multitude of Jets fans are crossing their fingers that we don’t continue to see Chris Thorburn occupy a spot on the roster, but don’t hold your hopes too high. While It wouldn’t shock me if the Jets continue to play Thorburn every night or so, they can’t give him a regular spot with all the competition at camp this fall.
For that reason I see Chris Thorburn continuing to have a spot on the team as one of the teams spare forwards. The team could run a strong two way shut down line comprised of free agent acquisition Shawn Matthias, with Adam Lowry down the middle and the defensively reliable Alex Burmistrov on the right side. Having players like these can make the Jets a four line hockey team that can fetch more than 3 minutes a night to their fourth unit.
Another possibility that could be considered is having Thorburn go to the Moose and wearing a letter while providing a strong locker room presence and some sand paper to a young Moose team.
Look out for Oak Bluff Manitoba native Quinton Howden to be one of the teams spare forwards and joining Thorburn in the press box. Howden is a solid depth forward with NHL experience that can add a new wrinkle to the fourth line every so often when needed.
On the Bubble
There will be lots of casualties at this years training camp and don’t be surprised if Andrew Copp is one of them. Copp was with the Jets for all of last season and while he played his role of fourth line centre efficiently, competition is getting stiffer at training camp and there are many players that could knock off Copp the depth chart and send him to the minors.
An interesting cut that could be made is Marko Dano. Dano is someone that showed flashes of the potential he posses but didn’t really sell me as someone that can win a top 9 spot on this team. There is certainly more time for him to prove myself and others wrong, but as for now I see him being assigned to the Moose. But it should be noted he has 31 points in 69 NHL games played and has the most NHL experience of the young guys fighting for spots and that’s something leaning in his favour.
It still puzzles me why J.C Lipon hasn’t got serious consideration for a roster spot. HIs gritty orientated game is NHL ready and he could bring a lot over someone like Chris Thorburn. With the current make up of the Jets depth chart, I can’t see Lipon cracking the teams roster but his type of energy will certainly be considered when the team is down a body.
Arguably the Manitoba Moose’s most consistent player last year was 20 year old centre, Chase De Leo. The California native shined in his first professional season despite his team around him being borderline horrendous. Despite finishing a point of shy of the team lead in points, De Leo has a few factors that go against him making the team. De Leo has a smaller build, listed at 5’10, 185 lbs and he could add some bulk to his small frame. In general, a year or two more of quality minutes and opportunity in the AHL is what’s best for De Leo before the Jets can see where he can be inserted in to their lineup.
Brendan Lemieux will give the Jets a tough decision as where he’ll play next season. Lemieux will be right in the thick of a fight for a roster spot. His game has a sort of tenacity and grittiness that was surely inherited from his father Claude that notched 1777 penalty minutes during his 1215 games he suited up in. Lemieux has the skill of a top six player and the two way game and aggressiveness of a bottom six player. That could secure Lemieux a spot on the team but in the event he lands with the Moose, he’ll be surely the next guy up if the Jets need an extra body
Final depth chart projection
Scratches: Howden, Thorburn
No matter what the four lines make out to be when it’s all said and done, the Jets are going to have a sort of depth up front they haven’t had in the last 5 years. If someone gets injured, you wont see Patrice Cormier being the first guy up, those days are done. There will be lots of players knocking on the door for spots that can jump in to the lineup whenever they are called upon.