Following one of the most chaotic off-seasons in recent years, the 2021-22 regular season has finally arrived – rejoice hockey fans – and here at JetsNation, we couldn’t be more excited to kick off what’s expected to be a critical year for the Winnipeg Jets.
But before the 82-game schedule begins, our staff came together, well, in our group chat that is, and decided to make some very interesting predictions regarding the upcoming campaign. Granted, some of these may jump off the page, and perhaps not in an attractive way, however, that’s all part of the process.
So in the spirit of excitement, let’s dive into our four bold predictions heading into this season.
Thomas Hall’s Bold Prediction: Nikolaj Ehlers will finish top-five among the league leaders in scoring
Nikolaj Ehlers has been knocking at the door of this conversation for quite some time now and assuming he stays healthy in 2021-22, this might finally be the year where he breaks out and positions himself among the league leaders in scoring.
Granted, Ehlers’ ability to accomplish this feat might be limited if he continues to receive approximately 16:00 minutes of ice time per game, however, his explosiveness at 5-on-5 could make up for that lack of top-line playing time. As we witnessed during the pre-season, the 25-year-old already appears to be in mid-season form, meaning he could be poised for an extremely strong start out of the gate.
But once the regular season is all said and done, Ehlers may not only lead the Jets in several different offensive categories but could also be featured among the leaderboard throughout the NHL as well.
Oh, the things that could be if Paul Maurice put Ehlers on the first powerplay…
90 points for Ehlers?! I love the guy but 90 points is a tall order for No. 27, especially since he will be putting Team Denmark on his back at the 2022 Winter Olympics – I’d expect closer to 80 points for Ehlers.
Mike Gould’s Bold Prediction: Josh Morrissey bounces back in 2021-22
In the span of just a couple of seasons, Josh Morrissey has gone from being an excellent two-way defenceman to one of the least valuable players in the league — according to Evolving-Hockey, that is. The site’s Goals Above Replacement (GAR) model once rated the Calgary product near the top of the Jets’ hierarchy, with his 10.4 GAR rating in 2017–18 ranking fifth on the team (behind only Patrik Laine, Ehlers, Mark Scheifele, and Mathieu Perreault).
However, after a steady decline over the last two seasons, Morrissey’s -6.1 GAR figure — heavily dragged down by his defensive play both at 5-on-5 and shorthanded — ranked eighth-lowest in the entire NHL in 2020–21. With Brenden Dillon and Nate Schmidt now in the fold for Winnipeg, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict Morrissey’s role will be strategically reduced in 2021–22.
He’ll no longer lead the Jets in average ice-time at 5-on-5 and might not even sniff the PK. But he’ll certainly continue to be the Jets’ top option on the power play and he should see more usage in the offensive zone. If, generally speaking, Morrissey can get back into his comfort zone, we could see material improvements to his game both on offence and defence.
With Schmidt by his side, I think we’ll witness huge improvements from Morrissey this season, particularly defensively. It’s been a few seasons now since he’s been paired with another blueliner who’s reliable and can communicate effectively – I’m expecting big things from him in 2021-22.
With more competent defenders joining the Jets this offseason, a lot of pressure has come off Morrissey’s shoulders. I talked about this on Jets Nation Radio and I think Morrissey probably has a career turning point and will be on the cusp of being an elite NHL defenceman by the end of the 2021-22 season.
Matthew Coyte’s Bold Prediction: Cole Perfetti, Ville Heinola will both be starters by December
Both Cole Perfetti and Ville Heinola possess too much skill to sit in the press box for an extended amount of time. Perfetti’s path might be a tad more achievable than Heinola’s, but I still think that they’ll quickly distinguish themselves. It’s difficult to imagine Perfetti not being an improvement over any of the Jets’ current fourth-line players thanks to his speed and creativity.
For Heinola, *asks Magic 8-Ball* an injury on the backend may open up a spot for him and he’ll never look back.
I’ll even go a step further, Perfetti will record exactly 25 points this season, and Heinola will finish the campaign playing alongside Dylan DeMelo on the third pairing.
As much as I’d love to watch Perfetti spend half a season in the NHL, unless another forward suffers an injury, it seems very unlikely. As for Heinola, with Nathan Beaulieu on the roster, the youngster will continue to be blocked.
Heinola will have to wait longer than December to join the Jets full time as he’ll have to wait on several injuries to happen. Beaulieu will have first dibs on a defensive spot, but once Heinola is playing for the Jets there’s no getting him off the team. Perfetti was electric in the pre-season, but I think he needs another year to get a little stronger down in the AHL. Unless a top-six forward is out for a long stretch, I would rather Perfetti rip up the AHL for another season.
Angus Hout’s Bold Prediction: Eric Comrie won’t be on Winnipeg’s roster come playoff time
I want to have faith in Eric Comrie, but with the current body of work he’s shown me, I don’t think he’ll be the backup for the Jets once the playoffs begin. I think the Jets will ultimately either trade him to a team that needs a goaltender at some point in the season or place him through waivers as the corresponding move for an improvement at that position.
Either way, I think Mikhail Berdin will play more NHL games this season than Comrie.
Completely agree about Comrie not being a reliable backup, but due to salary cap restrictions, I’m just not sure how to effectively improve that position this season. But hey, never say ever – as some Canadian singer once said.
I’m curious what the Jets might be able to fetch for Comrie at the deadline. Could be part of a larger deal to bring in a ringer? We’ve seen crazier.
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