The kids have gone back to school and the NFL started last weekend which means one thing for hockey fans…the NHL is almost back!
We are officially 22 days away from puck-drop on the 2017-18 NHL season and it’s time to look at what you should expect from the Jets’ top players.
If you are not familiar with me, I am the Editor-in-Chief of DailyFaceoff.com, where I do yearly projections for all players expected to make NHL rosters this fall. My projections hit the web last Tuesday and today we’ll look at who (I think) the Jets’ top-10 scorers will be during the upcoming season.
1. Blake Wheeler (LW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||82||26||48||74|
Wheeler has been a ridiculously consistent performer and seemingly gets better every season. The 31-year-old is 11th in the NHL in assists (176), 12th in points (282) and tied for 20th in goals (106) over the last four years.
Wheeler combines great size (6-foot-5 / 225 lbs) and skill and comes into 2017-18 with the most stable floor of any of the Jets’ forwards. He rarely misses any time and is a near-lock for 25-plus goals and 40-plus assists.
2. Mark Scheifele (C)
|2016-17 Season Stats||79||32||50||82|
During the 2016-17 season, Scheifele had his best season to-date, posting 32 goals and 50 assists (82 points) in 79 games. While it was an impressive campaign, the 24-year-old scored shot a ridiculous 20.0 percent on just 160 shots—tied for 145th in the NHL.
Entering the 2017-18 season, Scheifele is expected to regress a bit but will still challenge Wheeler for the team lead in points. Look for the 6-foot-3 centre to post goals in the mid-to-high 20’s with 40-plus assists.
3. Nikolaj Ehlers (LW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||82||25||39||64|
Ehlers would be the most talented player on a couple of NHL rosters, but he flies a bit under the radar on a talented Jets’ roster. Ehlers followed up a strong rookie campaign with 64 points (25G / 39A) in 82 games last year and enters 2017-18 with even higher expectations.
Ehlers simply oozes with offensive ability and as long as he continues to fire 200-plus shots per season, he will score 25-plus goals with 40-plus assists for years to come.
4. Patrik Laine (RW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||73||36||28||64|
Laine had a great rookie season, scoring 36 goals with 28 helpers in 73 games. The 19-year-old has an elite shot, but benefitted from a 17.6 shooting percentage—the 10th highest shooting percentage of any player with 200-plus shots in the last decade.
Laine’s shot makes him a candidate to carry a high career shooting percentage, like an Alex Ovechkin, but he is also a prime case for regression in 2017-18. If his shooting percentage drops down to a more maintainable rate it will put him on pace for goals in the mid-20’s. However, the Finnish winger will likely record more than 204 shots this season, which will help balance things out. Look for him to finish with goals in the mid-30’s and assists in the same range.
5. Bryan Little (C)
|2016-17 Season Stats||59||21||26||47|
Little is tied for 41st in the NHL in points-per-game (0.76) over the last three seasons, but tied for 94th in points (141) because he has missed 60 games over that stretch. Little is capable of posting 20 goals and 40 assists, but his durability issues have limited his upside. His 2013-14 season (23G/ 41A) is the goal, but playing in all 82 games is a stretch for the 29-year-old.
6. Dustin Byfuglien (D)
|2016-17 Season Stats||80||13||39||52|
Byfuglien is an absolute beast and ranks among the best defenseman in nearly every category. Over the last four seasons, Byfuglien ranks first among blueliners in penalty minutes (446), fourth in points (206), fifth in goals (70), seventh in hits (821) and 12th in power-play points (74). Those are elite numbers and Byfuglien is one of the few defensemen capable of posting 20 goals and 30-plus assists in 2017-18.
7. Kyle Connor (LW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||20||2||3||5|
Connor possesses an abundance of speed and offensive creativity and turned that into the NCAA Freshman of the Year in 2015-16 and 44 points (25G / 19A) in 52 games with Manitoba (AHL) in 2016-17. Connor appeared in 20 games with the Jets as well and is expected to play a full NHL season in 2017-18.
The 20-year-old’s production will be directly tied to his usage, but should he land a top-6 role he is capable of recording something close to a 25-25 season.
8. Mathieu Perreault (LW)
|2016-17 Season Stats||65||13||32||45|
Perreault posted elite playmaker numbers at lower-levels, but has a career-high of just 32 assists (2016 and 2017) in the NHL. Perreault has played at a 17-goal, 36-assist per 82-game pace during his three years in Winnipeg, but he has missed 48 games over that span. If Perreault could stay healthy for a full season, he has 50-plus point upside, but durability is an obvious concern, making him more of a 40-point player.
9. Nic Petan (C)
|2016-17 Season Stats||54||1||12||13|
Petan has high-end playmaking ability—three straight seasons of 70-plus assists in Portland (WHL)—but had limited upside in 2016-17 because he spent most of the season with linemates like Chris Thorburn. Like Connor, Petan’s production will be tied to how much he plays, but he is expected to see a larger role, making 30-plus assists entirely possible.
10. Jacob Trouba (D)
|2016-17 Season Stats||60||8||25||33|
Trouba missed the start of the 2016-17 with a contract dispute but upon his return he was tied for 26th among defensemen in points from his season debut to the end of season. Trouba plays massive minutes on the Jets’ blueline, but his upside will continue to be capped as long as he is playing second fiddle to Byfuglien in terms of power-play usage. In a full-season, Trouba is capable of posting 40-plus points for the first time in his career.