When I think of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs two things come to mind. As a Colorado Avalanche fan, the game seven loss to the Dallas Stars is pretty far in front, but behind that is the horror injury suffered by Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele at the hands of Matthew Tkachuk. The good news is that Scheifele seems ready to play in the upcoming shortened regular season despite that injury, which gives the Winnipeg Jets 2021 season preview a positive twist.
You can play without your best players at times, but a leader like Scheifele brings much more to the table. Take Patrik Laine for instance. He’s either putting up a record-high number of goals in a month or unable to hit a barn door with a banjo. Scheifele is consistent and that is what the Jets will need this season with a tighter Division and schedule.
Vezina Repeat from Hellebuyck?
The other thing they’ll need is a repeat performance from goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. The Jets net-minder and Vezina Trophy winner was the biggest reason his team was anywhere near the playoffs last season. Given the Jets defense has not gotten significantly better Hellebuyck is going to have to be at that elite level again this upcoming season.
They will also need the aforementioned Patrik Laine to find some consistent form. With one year left on a $6.75 million AAV contract, the Jets are in a perfect scenario with the Finnish winger. As a restricted free agent the haul they could get at the deadline for a hit and miss player could help towards a rebuild. Then again if he lives up to the hype that has surrounded him for years they could have a superstar on their hands who they can rebuild around.
2020 Draft pick Cole Perfetti could see some game time this season, especially with a taxi squad in play, but considering center is not really where the Jets problems lay it’s most likely he sits out. The 18-year-old tenth overall pick is currently with the Canadian World Juniors team. There’s no doubt he’s the future of this Jets side and depending on how Winnipeg sees this season the future could be now.
The Jets biggest offseason move was the acquisition of Paul Statsny from the Vegas Golden Knights. Statsny returns to Winnipeg after spending a season in 2017-18 where he scored 13 points in only 19 games. The 35-year-old proved during his time in Vegas that he can still play a part and the Jets will possibly slide him in on the second line with young stars Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine.
It’s hard to think of any major losses that are going to hurt the Winnipeg Jets going forward. Cody Eakin was acquired as a deadline day deal knowing he would become an Unrestricted Free Agent and the Jets let him walk. The fourth round pick they gave up may seem a little steep, but Eakin had an impact on the regular season with five points in eight games before being invisible in the postseason.
Projected Forward Lineup:
|Kyle Connor||Mark Scheifele||Blake Wheeler|
|Nikolaj Ehlers||Paul Statsny||Patrik Laine|
|Andrew Copp||Adam Lowry||Mason Appleton|
|Jansen Harkins||Nate Thompson||Mathieu Perreault|
Projected Defensive Lineups:
|Josh Morrissey||Dylan Demelo|
|Nathan Beaulieu||Neal Pionk|
|Luca Sbisa||Derek Forbort|
Let’s start by saying I want the Winnipeg Jets to be in the playoffs. There’s a lot of players on there that deserve to be, some of who were mentioned above. They don’t have the depth however and in a condensed season that is going to more important than ever.
With Hellebuyck in net anything is possible though. Of course, if they are outside the playoff spots come the trade deadline could the netminder be on the move? I hear Colorado is beautiful in April.
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