Winnipeg Jets season preview: It’s time to take off this year
Plus: With the acquisition of Tyler Myers at last season’s trade deadline, the Winnipeg Jets have quietly built one of the most tenacious top-four defensemen groupings. Led by Myers, Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom and Jacob Trouba, the unit has a nice mix of size and offensive ability. Winnipeg also has a strong blend of proven veteran forwards and a host of playmaking prospects that are just itching for NHL time.
Minus: The difference between a great Winnipeg Jets team and an okay Winnipeg Jets team could stem from between the pipes. Whether it is Ondrej Pavelec or Michael Hutchinson, there will always be some amount of concern in net. Pavelec set a career-high last season with a .920 save percentage, but was that a stroke of luck? Prior to last season, Pavelec’s career save percentage was .906. Hutchinson has 41 games on his NHL resume, and while he looked decent last year as a backup, 41 games is not a lot of experience.
X-Factor: Nikolaj Ehlers
Nikolaj Ehlers posted 86 goals and 205 points over the past two seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. That’s more points in the last two seasons than any other player in the QMJHL. Ehlers is NHL-ready, and if he can convert his stellar junior play to the NHL, the Jets will have a sure-fire top-six forward on their hands. Those don’t grow on trees.
Prediction: The Jets sneak into a wild-card spot with a complete team, top to bottom. While the goaltending may not be pretty, it will be adequate enough to land the city of Winnipeg their first playoff win in 20 years.