Following a brief playoff run over the summer, which unfortunately ended after just one round, the Winnipeg Jets are hoping for better results this time around as they prepare for training camp to open on Jan. 3.
Considering the 2020-21 campaign will be shortened to just 56 games, there’ll likely be even less room for error over these next few months, meaning the Jets will need to hit the ground running when the regular season begins on Jan. 13. Adding to this, it’ll also be extremely important for the club’s skaters to create as much chemistry as they can with each other in camp to avoid a slow start out of the gate.
But with less than two weeks to prepare for the upcoming season, evaluating the entire roster in such a short period of time could prove to be extremely difficult for the coaching staff. On top of that, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will also be tasked with assembling the team’s taxi squad, which could force him to make some tough decisions regarding some of the organization’s top young players.
“You have to take some certain things into consideration from a player development standpoint,” Cheveldayoff discussed. “But the most important information is going to happen on the ice and seeing where everybody is at.
“Lots of decisions that will be made once the players get on the ice and [are] put in a spot in training camp.”
In particular, the Jets are extremely excited about the progress that defenseman Dylan Samberg – who signed his three-year entry-level contract back in the spring – has displayed over the last few seasons while suiting up for the University of Minnesota Duluth. Now that he’s ready to prove himself at the next level, Cheveldayoff is hopeful the 6-foot-4 blueliner and a couple of other exciting young prospects will provide some much-needed depth at the NHL level this season.
“We’ve kind of been frothing at the mouth for a couple years to you know to get him into the pro ranks and now the time is here,” Cheveldayoff explained.
“You’re looking for that development and you’re looking for those guys to take that next step. We think we’ve got great depth, and we’ve got a couple of guys that we think that there’s a lot of room to grow with.”
Along with looking for some of their top prospects to make a positive impact in 2021, the Jets are also hoping forward Paul Stastny – who was reacquired from the Las Vegas Golden Knights over the off-season – will be able to help fill the vacancy at the second-line center position. With Bryan Little expected to be placed on the long-term injured reserve, they’ll need the veteran center to recreate the strong connection he made with forward Patrik Laine during his first stint in blue and white.
Faced with unusual challenges and obstacles due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all 31 teams across the league will probably encounter some extremely difficult situations as the season progresses. That being said, Cheveldayoff believes the organization that’s capable of adjusting to those problems will have the best chance of coming out on top.
“It’s the team that can adapt and it’s the team that doesn’t get flustered when, you know, something happens – or there’s a delay or your tests don’t show up on time and you have to delay practice for three hours – those are kind of things that we might have to face,” Cheveldayoff detailed. “The teams that can adapt to that and roll with those kinds of punches are the ones that are going to be successful.”