This is now part four of our 20 in 20 series, where we are looking at 20 different line combinations for the Winnipeg Jets over a span of 20 days.
So far in the series, the combinations have been fairly plain. The only players being utilized are those that have already played in the NHL. This section is where a new face finally makes his way into the lineup, and as I’m sure you can guess by the title, it’s Kristian Vesalainen.
Vesalainen recently made news for his omission at the World Junior Summer Showcase a few weeks ago, but there is no cause for concern as he was held out as a precaution because he will be making his way to Winnipeg for training camp in a couple weeks.
As for Vesalainen’s last season, it was a great step towards making it to the NHL. Vesalainen ended the season with 19 goals and 20 assists in 44 games with HPK. That put him first on HPK in goals and second in points. Furthermore, if the list is sorted by points per game only with HPK, Vesalainen actually ranks first on the team because of his brief stint with Karpat, which lead to him playing a few less games than his teammates. When looking at the entire league, Vesalainen ranked 6th in goals, which is very impressive for a 19 year old kid.
If Vesalainen is already tearing it up in the Liiga, does that mean he has what it takes to make it to the NHL? Not necessarily, but he will certainly be in the mix once training camp rolls along.
SCENARIO SEVEN: Vesalainen Rides With the Big Dogs
Vesalainen – Scheifele – Wheeler
Ehlers – Little – Connor
Perreault – Roslovic – Laine
Tanev – Lowry – Copp
Fun Factor: 7/10
What better way to shelter a rookie goal scorer than by putting him two of the best linemates in the NHL? This worked extremely well with Connor last year because Connor routinely got chances to score without having to create much of the offense himself. Vesalainen would fit well because he is another big body and could add a physical presence that Connor lacks. Wheeler and Vesalainen would be a great tandem in a cycle heavy offense.
I think the second line would help Little improve his game. He would have no chance catching up to Ehlers and Connor with their blazing speed but it might give him a chance to re-rejuvenate his career.
The third line would be really interesting as well because Perreault is excellent at driving the play while Roslovic can do a little bit of everything. Between the two of them, they should be able to set up Laine with plenty of chances.
SCENARIO EIGHT: Vesa-Laine-n
Vesalainen – Scheifele – Laine
Ehlers – Little – Wheeler
Connor – Lowry – Perreault
Roslovic – Copp – Petan
Fun Factor: 10/10
The only thing better than one Fin with a wicked shot is two Fins with a wicked shot. If Vesalainen can play a power forward style, then the trio with Scheifele and Laine would work wonderfully. The best part of the entire idea is that ‘Laine’s name is literally in Vesalainen and it would be fantastic to hear the announcers every time they created a goal together.
Beyond that, Ehlers, Little, and Wheeler could be a dynamic line with plenty of speed and skill. Little has had previous success with Wheeler and they would most likely be able to replicate that. The fourth line is interesting because all three of them are capable of playing well offensively. While they are extremely under-sized as far as fourth lines are concerned, they would be able to make it up with their speed and skill.
As always, let me know your thoughts. Should Vesalainen even make the team? If so, what line does he play on? Also, submit your own lineup combination on Twitter and it might get examined later in the series!
Previously in the Series: