After being the first team eliminated from last season’s postseason, the Winnipeg Jets have high hopes for this upcoming campaign, but they’ll require every skater to play up to their full potential to ensure a return to the playoffs next summer.
In order to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, the Jets will certainly need to receive quality performances from key role players like Andrew Copp, who’s slated to become a restricted free agent next off-season. Considering the uncertainty regarding the future of the salary cap, which could remain at $81.5 million until league revenue recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’ll be crucial for the 26-year old to perform effectively or he may struggle to earn a long-term contract.
With the 2020-21 campaign shortened to just 56 games, Copp can’t afford a slow start to the season, meaning he’ll need to hit the ground running when training camp opens on Sunday. Following a productive off-season, the 6-foot-1 forward feels extremely confident about his craft and also doesn’t believe the short schedule will impact his ability to produce consistently.
“I feel confident in where my game is at,” Copp discussed. “I feel confident in the work and preparation that I put in [during] the off-season. So I don’t think it’s too different than a normal contract year, you just got to hit the ground running and be ready to go right from the get-go.”
Back before Copp departed for the off-season, he expressed his goal about desiring to compete for the second-line center position in 2021. But with the acquisition of forward Paul Stastny – who was reacquired from the Las Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for defenseman Carl Dahlstrom and a conditional 2022 fourth-round pick – the left-hander’s aspirations have now changed and he’s since been focused on being ready to fill in at that spot if needed.
“I’m just trying to improve my game every day and trying to become as valuable as possible for our team,” Copp explained. “So I feel like, obviously with the addition of Paul [Stastny] – he’s a great player [and] a great friend to me – he’s going to be our second-line center to start the year I would assume. But, injuries happen and I want to be prepared to move up in the lineup as I did throughout last year.”
“So I’m just trying to get better every day and trying to prove that I can play higher in the lineup and be as valuable as possible.”
Over 63 games before the league’s shutdown in March, Copp averaged a career-high 17:42 minutes of ice time per game, producing 10 goals, 26 points, 0.16 goals per game, 0.41 points per game, 121 shots on net, 59 hits, 38 takeaways, 27 blocks, and a 53.0% faceoff percentage.
Adding to his resume from the regular season, the former fourth-round selection also added two goals, seven shots on net, five hits, three takeaways, two blocks, along with a 52.0% faceoff percentage through four playoff contests.
Assuming Stastny remains healthy through camp and into the season, it seems Copp will likely return to the third line and be positioned alongside teammates Adam Lowry and Mason Appleton. Looking at the Canadian division, or the “north” division as the NHL refers to it, the Michigan native believes all seven teams will prove to be extremely competitive and is also preparing for every game to be an intense battle throughout the entire season.
“It’s going to be a very competitive division,” Copp detailed. “I think you can look at the teams one through seven and no matter what way it shakes out you won’t be overly surprised. So, every night it’s going to be a battle. There’s great players on each team and players that you’re going to have to be aware of. So, we’re looking forward to the challenge and we’re going to get to know each other pretty well over the next five months.”