Every year all 30 NHL teams have some hope of possibly playing hockey through the spring and lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup in June. In reality there are only a hand full of teams that are legit cup contenders. There are also clubs that are yet at that level, but are looking to be at the big dance come late April. The Winnipeg Jets are in that group. They aren’t yet cup contenders but have the talent and the coaching to possibly clinch a playoff spot for the 2017 NHL playoffs. Here are three reasons why the Jets will make the playoffs this year.
1. The Jets big three: Scheifele, Buff, and Wheeler
No matter what happens Scheifele, Byfuglien, and Wheeler are the three best players the Jets have this season. They are proven NHL players that were the top three point producers for the Jets last season. They are also the Jets new leadership group, one that will lead by example. Scheifele has grown into a perfect first line center for the team and maybe even the best player out of his draft class. He should be able to hit in the thirties for goals and at least in the seventies in points this year.
Dustin Byfuglien is no regular hockey player. Big Buff will be able to run the blue line smoothly this season, while once again hitting up a fifty point season. He should be well rested at the start of the season after barely playing for the US in the World Cup of Hockey. Scheifele and Byfuglien will be solid assistant captains this year behind Captain Blake Wheeler. Wheeler has been the guy to anchor the offence for the Jets the last couple seasons. He’s the only elite forward the Jets had, until Mark Scheifele step up and claim the top center job. Wheeler is easily one of the top ten right wingers in the game today and if the last few seasons haven’t proven that, then this year will. Wheeler finished tied for 6th in the league with points on a struggling Jets team. Just imagine what he will do with Scheifele, a healthy Little, Ehlers, and even Laine. Expect big things this year from Scheifele, Byfuglein, and Wheeler.
2. Youth Movement
The Jets are a young team. One of the youngest in the league today in fact. Half of their top six are under the age of 24. That youth is felt all over the line up from the top players to depth players. All these young, talented players should help provide a spark and some enthusiasm to the vets and help boost the team to a few more wins this year. With youth often comes speed and as we saw in the playoffs last year speed kills in the league today. Players like Ehlers and Laine will help get the fans excited as they fly past opposing teams defenders and help create chances others might not have had in the past.
3. Depth at Centre
One thing the Jets have always struggled with since returning to Winnipeg is depth at center. Ever year so far Bryan Little has been the top line center. Now nothing against Bryan Little, but he is not a top line center in the league. He’s a great second line center, in fact when healthy, he is probably one of the best second line centers. He is a consistently scores in the twenties in goals and fifties in points. He helps a lot on the power play and even the penalty kill. Mark Scheifele on the other hand has shown he is first line worthy. He proved it last year when he took over the first line center duties when Little went down with injuries. Bryan Little fits perfectly as the second line center. Don’t forget players like Perreault and Lowry as the third and fourth line centers. Perreault has had his injury problems since coming to Winnipeg but when healthy he has proven to be productive. Lowry hasn’t been crazy productive. He’s been able to hold his own as well as protect teammates. He isn’t too bad in the face off circle either. The Jets have the best depth at center this year that they have ever had.
The season has yet to start but there are already reasons to show the Jets are a team that could claim a playoff spot when it’s all said and done. The depth at center this year is at it’s best. The Jets have one of the best groups of prospects in the league. Players like Nik Ehlers and Patrik Laine will help out in the coming years. Byfuglien, Wheeler and Scheifele will help lead the Jets to what will be a hard push for a playoff spot. Things are starting to look good in Winnipeg.