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Reintroducing your Winnipeg Jets

Who they are, where they play, in case fans have forgotten

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The dusty ol' tarp comes off and the long-dormant engines fire up on the 2013 Winnipeg Jets in a matter of days.

And a condensed training camp with no exhibition games means head coach Claude Noel and his staff will have precious little time for projects or the implementation of new systems.

Yes, from the very first moment this crew steps on the ice later this week it will be go-go-go toward a quick relaunch into a shortened season.

The Jets likely won't be making a whole pile of changes to an outfit that finished 37-35-10 and eight points out of the playoffs in 2011-12 -- especially compared to some of their NHL rivals -- but they will have some new faces in new places.

And, like every other club sprinting to the playoffs, very little room for error.

With all this in mind, here's a peek at the expected Jet line combinations and defence pairings and a brief sense of every player's readiness for camp and the regular season:

THE JETS: RELAUNCHED

THE DEPTH CHART

THE FORWARD LINES

LWCRW

KaneJokinenWellwood (Scheifele)

LaddLittleWheeler

Ponikarovsky Burmistrov Antropov

Thorburn Slater Miettinen

No. 9 EVANDER KANE

Last season: GP: 74 G: 30 A: 27 Pts: 57 +/-: plus-3

This year: Played 12 games for Dynamo Minsk in the KHL before being dumped in mid-November after scoring just one goal. Criticized for being out of shape; Kane didn't like the trap-heavy style of play. Since his return has been working out and skating in Vancouver, with a pit stop in Las Vegas. Also played for Canada at the World Championships last spring, scoring four goals in eight games.

Expectations/role: Posted a career high in goals last year and landed a fat new contract just before the lockout. Still just 21, the organization believes he can morph into an elite sniper. After bouncing around the lineup last year, could see top-line minutes this season.

No. 12 OLLI JOKINEN

Last season: GP: 82 G: 23 A: 38 Pts: 61 +/-: minus-12

This year: Moved to Winnipeg in late August. Has not seen any real game action, other than a couple of charity contests. But hasn't missed a day at the Iceplex.

Expectations/role: They're huge, frankly. He's slotted in as the No. 1 centre and the Jets like his size and his passing skills. His 61 points was 19th among NHL centres last year and more than forwards like Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Rick Nash, Dany Heatley, Alex Semin and Mike Richards.

No. 13 KYLE WELLWOOD

Last season: GP: 77 G: 18 A: 29 Pts: 47 +/-: plus-3

This year: Said to be training and skating in the Windsor area, where he lives in the offseason.

Expectations/role: Multi-dimensional, just like last season. An intelligent player who can play wing or centre and is a favourite of Noel's because of his versatility. His spot on the top line may depend on how enamoured Jet brass is with Mark Scheifele, but he did post career-best numbers last year.

No. 55 MARK SCHEIFELE

Last season: GP: 7 G: 1 A: 0 Pts: 1 +/-: 0

This year: Put up huge numbers in the OHL with the Barrie Colts (21 goals, 27 assists in 29 games) and was productive on Canada's top line at the World Junior Championships with five goals and eight points in six games.

Expectations/role: Unknown at this point. Although using up a year of his entry-level contract on a shortened season is a factor, know this: if he's ready, he'll stick with the big club. The Jets liked what they saw in Russia and his ability to play on the right side, proven in that tournament, increases his likelihood of staying.

No. 16 ANDREW LADD

Last season: GP: 82 G: 28 A: 22 Pts: 50 +/-: minus-8

This year: Another Iceplex regular who returned to B.C. for the holidays. His last game came in the World Championships for Canada, where he had a goal and five points in eight contests.

Expectations/role: Same old, same old. Captain. Leader. Durable (has missed just one game in the last four years) and a consistent goal scorer, having potted 29 and 28 in the last two years.

No. 18 BRYAN LITTLE

Last season: GP: 74 G: 24 A: 22 Pts: 26 +/-: minus-11

This year: Iceplex regular who returned home periodically. Hasn't played since regular-season finale last April.

Expectations/role: Works well with Ladd and Wheeler and figures to remain either the No. 1 or 2 centre. The Jets would kill to have him return to his '08-09 form, when he had 31 goals in Atlanta.

No. 26 BLAKE WHEELER

Last season: GP: 80 G: 14: A: 47 Pts: 64 +/-: plus-3

This year: Has played in 15 games with Munich in the German DEL and has six goals and 14 assists in 20 games. Before that he was working out regularly with NHL pros in Minneapolis. Should be good to go from the opening puck drop.

Expectations/role: Growing by the game. Wheeler opened up eyes across the NHL last season, leading the Jets in scoring with 64 points -- despite not scoring his first goal until Game 19. Has point-per-game skills.

No. 23 ALEXEI PONIKAROVSKY

Last season: GP: 82 G: 14 A: 19 Pts: 33 +/-: minus-3

This year: Bolted for the KHL went the lockout started. Has four goals and 17 points in 31 games with Donbass.

Expectations/role: A three-time 20-goal scorer the Jets tried to sign last year. He's another big body at 6-4, 226 and will be asked to provide some offensive punch.

No. 8 ALEX BURMISTROV

Last season: GP; 76 G: 13 A: 15 Pts: 28 +/-: plus-4

This year: Played 22 games in St. John's picking up two goals and adding nine assists before an 'upper-body' injury. Skated here last week and looked good before returning to Newfoundland.

Expectations/role: Good question. Burmistrov's skill set always leaves people wanting more. But he is just 21 and already has 150 NHL games under his belt. He's responsible defensively, but needs to mature more as a player. Consider this: didn't register a point in his last 11 games and scored eight of his 13 goals in a 28-game stretch from mid-October to mid-December.

No. 90 NIK ANTROPOV

Last season: GP: 69 G: 15 A: 20 Pts: 35 +/-: 0

This year: Played in 26 games for Astana Barys in the KHL with three goals and 13 assists. Not big production, but at least he'll be in game shape.

Expectations/role: He's 32 now and what you see is what you get: when he's involved, he can be productive. But more often than not he's invisible. Point totals have dropped in the last three years from 67 to 41 to 35.

No. 22 CHRIS THORBURN

Last season: GP: 72 G: 4 A: 7 Pts: 11 +/-: minus-6

This year: Quiet, as far as we can tell. Returned to his offseason home in Atlanta. Smart enough to know his place on team can't be compromised by a poor fitness level. Expect him to be ready ASAP.

Expectations/role: Toughness, leadership and grit. A lot of what Thorburn brings doesn't show up on the stat sheet. Popular player in the room, good teammate.

No. 19 JIM SLATER

Last season: GP: 78 G: 13 A: 8 Pts: 21 +/-: minus-9

This year: Has been working out at the Iceplex, with the occasional jaunt to see the polar bears, Yellowknife and a stint as a weather man. Might not be game sharp, but that should come quickly.

Expectations/role: Will probably get more minutes than you think. He's a solid face-off man who thinks defence first and understands his place on the squad.

No. 20 ANTTI MIETTINEN

Last season: GP: 45 G: 5 A: 8 Pts: 13 +/-: minus-5

This year: Started the fall in Winnipeg, but returned to his old club in the Finnish league, Hameenlinna where he had four goals and eight points in 15 games.

Expectations/role: Hard to tell, to be honest. He was a double-digit goal scorer with Dallas and Minnesota from 2005-06 to 2010-11, but really struggled to score with the Jets. He's 32 now and is on the last year of his contract.

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Entsrom Byfuglien

Stuart Hainsey

Clitsome Redmond (Postma)

Bogosian (injured)

Meech

No. 39 TOBIAS ENSTROM

Last season: GP: 62 G: 6 A: 27 Pts: 33 +/-: plus-6

This year: Played briefly with Salzburg in Austria but has been back in Winnipeg since before Christmas.

Expectations/Role: More important than some might think. He's not only a gifted offensive contributor -- he had 50 points in back-to-back years in Atlanta -- but a player who works well with Dustin Byfuglien. That's not always an easy assignment. Needs to stay healthy.

No. 33 DUSTIN BYFUGLIEN

Last season: GP: 66 G: 12 A: 41 Pts: 53 +/-: minus-8

This year: Nobody has been checking recently, but he was skating regularly with all the NHLers who have spent their lockout in Minneapolis. His last game was the Jets' regular-season finale, other than a charity contest in Chicago.

Expectations/role: Massive (no weight jokes here). For all the criticisms last year, all the ill-timed forays and questions about his fitness, he finished third on the team in scoring and was second only to Ottawa's Erik Karlsson in points among defencemen. With all these concerns about his commitment, it might be simpler to just accept him for who he is and what he brings. And that's still a lot.

No. 5 MARK STUART

Last season: GP: 80 G: 3 A: 11 Pts: 14 +/-: minus-4

This year: Spent much lockout in Winnipeg before joining the ECHL's Florida Everblades before Christmas. Played nine games there and potted a couple of goals. Will be game ready when the season starts.

Expectations/role: Nothing complicated here. Not really a Top 4 defenceman, but the injury to Zach Bogosian might put him there temporarily, depending on whether others can push him out of that spot.

No. 6 RON HAINSEY

Last season: GP: 56 G: 0 A: 10 +/-: plus-9

This year: Spent most of the fall in a suit and tie as one of Don Fehr's chief lieutenants with the NHLPA. In between, he's been in the gym and trying to skate but has spent a chunk of his time in the board room.

Expectations/role: Nothing flashy at all. Was banged up a couple of times last year, but can offer up decent minutes. Given the development of others in the organization and his age -- 31 -- he might be in the home stretch for his days as a Jet.

No. 24 GRANT CLITSOME

Last season: GP: 63 G: 4 A: 13 Pts: 17 +/-: minus-9

This year: Returned to Ottawa during the lockout and did the same as every other NHLer who didn't go overseas or find a team: stayed in shape, skated, prayed for an end to the madness.

Expectations/role: Emerging, perhaps. He's strong as a bull and has a decent shot and gave the Jets some good work after arriving from Columbus. Again, the Bogosian injury might move him up, temporarily, on the depth chart.

No. 59 ZACH REDMOND

Last season: (AHL) GP: 72 G: 8 A: 23 Pts: 31 +/-: plus-9

This year: Has really benefitted from starting the season in St. John's. He has 17 points in 36 games and IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge has raved about his work, calling him one of their best players every night.

Expectations/role: There's a sense he's ready, right now, to be an NHL regular. And the door is wide open for the 24-year-old looking at the Jet defensive depth chart. Might have less offensive flair than fellow prospect Paul Postma, but is a better defender.

No. 4 PAUL POSTMA

Last season: (AHL) GP: 56 G: 13 A: 31 Pts: 44 +/-: minus-14 (also played three games with the Jets)

This year: Missed a big chunk of games to start the season in St. John's and has seven goals and 18 points in 27 games. It's the same issue with Postma: he's got offensive skills, but Jet brass wants him to improve his defensive game.

Expectations/role: He's on a one-way contract, so he'll likely be around. Again, there are some question marks as to who goes where on the Jets' defensive depth chart, so there's room for him if he can be just capable in his own end.

No. 44 ZACH BOGOSIAN

Last season: GP: 65 G: 5 A: 25 Pts: 30 +/-: minus-3

This year: Has been in rehab after having wrist surgery in the summer. Recovery is said to be going well, but a return date is unknown.

Expectations/role: When he gets back -- and that might not be until next month or later -- he'll return to the Jets' top four. The team loves his leadership and his upside and he could be the defensive anchor here for a long, long time.

No. 7 DEREK MEECH

Last season: (AHL) GP: 6 G: 0 A: 2 Pts: 2 +/-: 0

This year: First, last year was an absolute nightmare as he battled through injuries. But he recovered to be solid in the Calder Cup playoffs and has three goals and 17 points in 34 games with St. John's this season.

Expectations/role: Shouldn't be ruled out as a candidate to stick with the big club. Versatile enough to play wing and defence and an intelligent player.

GOALTENDERS

Pavelec

Montoya

#31 ONDREJ PAVELEC

Last season: GP: 67 GAA: 2.91 W-L-T: 29-28-9 SV Pct: .906

SO: 4

This year: Posted some gruesome numbers in 14 games with Liberec in the Czech league -- a 3.50 GAA and .896 save percentage. But the stats were better in six games with Lahti in the Finnish league (2.68, .912) and his play for the Czech Republic in an international tournament in the fall was stellar.

Expectations/role: He's a workhorse and, just like every other goalie in a shortened season, he'll be counted on a ton to carry this club. If he's so-so, the Jets will be watching the Stanley Cup playoffs.

No. 35 AL MONTOYA

Last season: (NYI) GP: 31 GAA: 3.11 W-L-T: 9-11-5 Sv Pct: .893 SO: 0

This year: Spent the lockout in Chicago, his hometown. Many NHL goalies had difficulty finding work overseas -- anywhere for that matter -- Montoya, among them.

Expectations/role: Could possibly be huge. A former first-round draft pick of the Rangers (6th overall) Montoya was an intriguing signing when Chris Mason left via free agency for Nashville. Again, the shortened season means coaches won't have the patience to let players work through slumps and if Pavelec falters, Montoya will be the man.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 7, 2013 C3

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