Looking at the Winnipeg Jets roster as it is now the top six forward group seems pretty much set with the following players: Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Nik Ehlers, Bryan Little, Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine. Of course that’s in an ideal hockey world where Bryan Little has proven able to handle second line center duties. It’s also in an ideal hockey world where KC and Patty are actually with the Jets and not waiting on new contracts.
Should the Jets start the season without Patrik Laine or Kyle Connor or both in the lineup, or if head coach Paul Maurice wants to experiment with his roster and possibly move Little down to a third line, the question then becomes, who fills in to the vacated spots on the top six?
The candidates for such a fill-in role are plenty and they range from giving a well established and versatile veteran player a chance, to letting younger players who have been steady in bottom six forward roles have a chance to step up, to giving a shot to a rookie or two to make a big impact…
Mathieu Perreault: While his numbers dipped a bit last season, Perreault has proven he can play pretty much anywhere in the Jets lineup and be productive and able to positively contribute to his line’s play. Given his past where he was able to carry lines that featured players like Matt Hendricks and Marko Dano, it’s tempting to find out what he can do playing with a Nik Ehlers or Blake Wheeler. Perreault can stay on the wing where he’s been the last few seasons, but he can also draw in at center and gives the Jets a good second option in the faceoff dot.
Adam Lowry: A lot of people have already typecast him as a third line checking center, but that’s looking past the fact that beyond his ability to help shut down an opposing team’s forwards, Lowry does have enough skill and size to be a constant pain in front of an opposing team’s net. He’s a physical enough presence on the ice that if you put him on a line with two faster wingers his ability to go into the corners and win puck battles and then go to the net to make life tough for goalies is an intriguing thought.
Andrew Copp: Much like Lowry, Copp has done fine in the role the Jets have given him the last couple of seasons, but last year’s career highs in goals and assists suggest that Copp could be even better utilized as an offensive player and just needs a shot at playing with more offensive minded wingers
Jack Roslovic: Roslovic closed out last season not overly happy with how the Jets used him and there were reports of Jack (or Jack’s then agent) wanting to have him shipped out of Winnipeg. Those reports were followed up by a statement that Paul Maurice considers him an important part of the Jets’ future, so why not have that future be now? Unlike the first three players suggested where we’re pretty certain they’d do well in a top six forward role and not have to be completely carried by their linemates, there is no proof that a Roslovic move to one of the top two lines doesn’t result in him just benifitting from the play of two higher skilled players on his wing. Still, if Roslovic’s offensive numbers see a boost from such a move, is that really a bad thing?
Kristian Vesalainen: It’s hard to imagine Paul Maurice giving Vesalainen a ticket to ride shotgun on one of the top two lines this early in his career, but if Vesalainen wants to make an argument for such a move, he only needs to cite Kyle Connor as possible inspiration. KC stalled out a bit early in his NHL career until a fateful switch in the 2017-18 season to a line with Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele helped out his game to the tune of two 30+ goal seasons. One could argue Vesalainen is a more physical and better shooting version of Connor, so seeing him in the top six could be very advantageous for Winnipeg, but it’s just a matter if the head coach is willing to try it out yet again.
Jets Nation, this week’s WWYDW is asking you for alternate top six forward options. If Connor and/or Laine aren’t in the lineup for opening night in October, who would you put in to fill the roles? Would you go with one of the five mentioned above, or do you have someone else in mind? Let us know your thoughts below in the comments section or on either our Twitter feed or Facebook page!