After making the playoffs in the 2014-15 season, the Winnipeg Jets failed to produce a young team that could compete for the playoffs. Part of this is the overuse of players like Chris Thorburn and Mark Stuart, but as well not shoring up offensive depth when it was clear the young players were not able to consistently produce.
However, hope has not been lost. The Jets were able to move up to 2nd overall in the 2016 draft lottery and with the pick, Patrik Laine was selected. Kyle Connor and Laine have both made the opening night lineups. As well, dynamic youngsters like Nikolaj Ehlers, now have a year of NHL experience under their belts.
Lets take a look at three reasons why the Jets fans should be excited for the 2016-17 season.
The Jets have a lot to be thankful for this upcoming 2016-17 season. First, the emergence of Mark Scheifele as a bonafide first line centre.
When Bryan Little was sidelined for the rest of the 2015-16 season, the task of first line centre was placed upon Scheifele’s shoulders. Scheifele did not miss a stride with this increased workload; rather, he emerged as a first line centre, just like he was drafted to be.
Additionally, the 2015-16 season saw Scheifele drive possession quite well for the young centreman. In 5v5 situations, Scheifele had a CF% of 54.02. Additionally, his Goals For over 60 minutes of play stands at 3.41 and his Goals Against over 60 minutes is 2.33. Scheifele is good at producing offence and reducing chances for the opposing team.
Scheifele enters the 2016-17 season poised to continue from his success in the previous season.
The Jets have a genuine youth movement in place. The NHL is becoming a younger player’s game, with the peak years having been discovered to be around 23-27. The Jets have plenty of young talent to go around and some of the talent comes with experience.
Nik Ehlers was brilliant in his first season with the Jets. Ehlers played in 72 games, and had 15 goals and 23 assists. What he brought was not just scoring, but the ability to dazzle and make teammates and fans excited about his play.
Patrik Laine is coming out of the Finish Elite League where he played against good players. Laine had 17 goals and 16 assists with his home team of Tappara. He now brings his elite scoring ability to the Jets’ roster.
Kyle Connor has experience in a more professional environment by playing NCAA hockey for a season. Connor scored 35 goals and 36 assists with the University of Michigan, while being runner up to the Hobey Baker Award. Look for him to bring his trade to the Jets.
Josh Morrissey was briefly called up for the 2015-16 season and has made the Jets’ opening roster. He played 57 games with the Manitoba Moose, scoring 3 goals and 19 assists. Morrissey looks to benefit the most from Jacob Trouba sitting out, especially since Morrissey is a left shot defenceman. He is currently slotting next to Dustin Byfuglien.
Other players players like Nic Petan and Joel Armia are headed into their sophomore seasons and are poised to make a more significant impact with the Jets.
More significantly, the Jets are parting ways with Ondrej Pavelec and this is a very good thing. Pavelec being sent down to the Moose paves the way for Connor Hellebuyck to be the starter for the 2016-17 Jets. Pavelec has not been good and parting ways will allow the Jets to move forward as a team.
Hellebuyck played extremely well for a rookie netminder, especially considering the state of the Jets’ defence over the 2015-16 season. In 26 games played, Hellebuyck posted a Goals Against Average of 2.34 and a save percentage of .918. The best numbers out of all of the goalies who started for the Jets during the 2015-16 season.
Having a young goalie like Hellebuyck gives the Jets stability in the crease now and for the future. Hellebuyck is only 23, afterall.
While the Jets are in the arguably most competitive division in the NHL and will therefore be hard pressed to make the playoffs, don’t expect the Jets to roll over and let teams stomp over them. They have an offensively potent lineup.
Additionally, a tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson should gives the Jets confidence going into the 2016-17 season.
Although there are some concerning questions marks on defence, these should be answered when the Jacob Trouba situation is resolved.
There are a lot of reasons to be hopeful for the future of the Winnipeg Jets and to be excited for the puck to drop on their 2016-17 season.