Is change brewing in Jetsville?

High-profile young prospects could force Winnipeg to retool its roster

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All across the NHL map, training camps are opening this week with questions, answers and -- depending on which organization is being examined -- any number of unknowns.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/09/2014 (3005 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

All across the NHL map, training camps are opening this week with questions, answers and — depending on which organization is being examined — any number of unknowns.

The Winnipeg Jets, of course, are no different. And how some of the questions and unknowns hovering over the franchise right now get answered this winter could very well determine whether this team meets its objective of playoff hockey.

Can Ondrej Pavelec boost his play?

JEFF VINNICK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Youngsters such as towering centre Adam Lowry could allow the Jets to accelerate their plan to bring drafted players to the NHL level.

Are any of Nik Ehlers, Adam Lowry, Josh Morrissey and Nic Petan — part of the growing group of prospects — ready for the NHL right now?

What kind of impact with Paul Maurice have on this crew with a camp and a whole season ahead to teach his system and preach defence?

Does Evander Kane have 30 goals in him again?

All of this is just scratching the surface of the issues and questions that will begin to come clearer when the Jets take to the ice for the first time Friday with the opening of training camp.

With that in mind, Free Press hockey writer Ed Tait offers up a handy-dandy guide to some of the players to watch during Jets camp:

 

TWO NEW FACES

1. MAN IN THE MIDDLE

85 C Mathieu Perreault

Perreault was the only significant addition the Jets made when the free-agent market opened on July 1. At 26 and after signing a three-year deal worth $9 million, Perreault is essentially a younger and cheaper replacement for Olli Jokinen and put up the exact same numbers (18 goals, 43 points) in 13 less games than the veteran Finn, who left for the Nashville Predators.

What shouldn’t be overlooked are Perreault’s possession numbers and his work in the faceoff circle — his 52.6 percentage on the dot led the Anaheim Ducks last year — especially for a Jets squad that finished 28th in faceoff wins at just 46.9 per cent.

He’ll be listed third on the Jets depth chart at centre behind Bryan Little and Mark Scheifele, but given more opportunity here than with Anaheim, may have a chance to boost his offensive numbers.

2. A SPARKPLUG

21 LW T.J. Galiardi

Now with his fourth team in as many years — from Colorado to San Jose to Calgary to Winnipeg — Galiardi does give the Jets some depth for their third and fourth lines. A second-round pick of the Avs in 2007, Galiardi had 15 goals and 39 assists in 70 games in Colorado in 2009-10, his first full NHL season, but his offensive totals have dropped since.

He’s been portrayed as an energy guy who can play both wing and centre but the changes in addresses and the emergence of some of the youngsters in the Jets organization likely means his spot is hardly set in cement.

 

THE YOUNG STARS

42 LW Nik Ehlers

Wowed everyone at the team’s development camp in the summer and then wowed everyone at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, B.C., last weekend. He’s slight at 5-11, 162 pounds, but the skill level of this Danish dynamo is so impressive, the question is can he wow everyone now at main camp? Would another year with the Halifax Mooseheads help or is he better served bringing some skill to the Jets’ left side right here and now?

36 D Josh Morrissey

Was admittedly just OK in Penticton and will have to crank up his game if he wants to stick with the big club. But the same debate applies here with Morrissey as with Ehlers. That is, weighing learning on the fly with the big club vs. the benefits of heading back to the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders.

56 C Adam Lowry

He’s big — 6-5, 200-pounds-plus big — and versatile enough to play wing or down the middle, will drop the gloves if he has to, has some scoring touch, wore the captain’s ‘C’ at the Young Stars and is mature beyond his years. The general consensus is he could use more seasoning in St. John’s, but what’s not to like about that combination of skills?

46 RW JC Lipon

A gritty sandpaper type teammates love and opponents despise, Lipon’s game is probably close to NHL-ready right now. What he already does as a pro doesn’t likely grow a whole lot more in the AHL. Is there a spot for him in the Jets’ bottom six?

38 C Nic Petan

Forget his size and fixate on his skill. He’s another one who, providing he can prove he can run with the big lads in main camp, could make life pleasurably miserable for Jets brass.

72 RW Scott Kosmachuk

He scores, plain and simple. Has worked on his defensive game, but his role in this organization will be to do what he does best: find the back of the net.

30 G Connor Hellebuyck

The top goaltender in U.S. college hockey. He’s big and athletic and the No. 1 gig in St. John’s is his for the taking.

 

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

31 G Ondrej Pavelec

He was the Jets’ MVP in Year 1, posting a 29-28-9 record with a .906 save percentage and 2.91 goals-against average. Since then his save percentage has dropped to .901, his GAA grown to 3.01 and his won-lost record is 43-46-10. It’s not about whether Michael Hutchinson — or any of the goaltending prospects in the system now — can push him, it’s whether Pavelec can save his career.

 

AU REVOIR

These ex-Jets have packed up their hockey bag and sticks and found work elsewhere:

C OLLI JOKINEN: Showed he still had some game with 18 goals last year, but the Jets paid significantly for that production at $4.5 million. Signed with Nashville for $2.5 million as an unrestricted free agent.

RW DEVIN SETOGUCHI: A bust here in Winnipeg, he has now landed in Calgary. Had one 30-goal and two 20-goal seasons in San Jose, but has been an indifferent shadow of that player since.

G AL MONTOYA: He was a perfect backup in his two years with the Jets, giving the club numbers better than No. 1 stopper Ondrej Pavelec and reviving his career in the process. Landed in Florida as an unrestricted free agent and will back up Roberto Luongo.

LW JAMES WRIGHT: Played 97 games with the Jets, scoring twice a couple of years ago, and was an effective penalty killer. But Paul Maurice opted to use his regulars up front more often on that unit and Wright’s awful finishing made him expendable. Signed this week with Zagreb of the KHL.

D ZACH REDMOND: Popular prospect exited the Jets organization for the Avalanche as an unrestricted free agent. There was promise in his game, interrupted by his horrible leg injury, but he’s 26 now and the club has some younger prospects close to prime time.

 

KEEP AN EYE ON

63 D Ben Chiarot

Quietly and efficiently went about his business in St. John’s last season and was named the IceCaps’ top defenceman. Played in his first NHL game last year and at 6-3, 222 pounds has the size to make an imprint.

65 LW Axel Blomqvist

He looks like a flagpole on skates — standing 6-6 and weighing 194 — but he put up decent numbers in Lethbridge and Victoria last year (56 points in 65 games) — and moves well.

 

ALMOST READY FOR PRIME-TIME PLAYERS

4 D PAUL POSTMA: Weird blood-clot setback last year robbed him of a chance to fight for work and when he came back he had to find the trust in a new head coach. The offensive skill is there and if the defensive consistency comes… look out.

58 C/W ERIC O’DELL: Gave the Jets some versatility in 30 big-league games — some question whether he has NHL wheels — and was a point-per-game player for the IceCaps.

71 D JULIAN MELCHIORI: A defensive specialist who had his season chopped down to 50 games in the AHL. Was really on the radar a year ago. Now? Maybe not as much.

48 CARL KLINGBERG: Seemed to find his game in the second half of last year’s AHL season. Had 22 goals in 65 games in St. John’s and chipped in with his first NHL marker and a helper in the Jets’ regular-season finale in Calgary last April.

70 C/W JOHN ALBERT: Another energy-guy type who seems to always be appreciated by his coaches at both levels.

49 D JULIEN BROUILLETTE: Almost a forgotten addition in the off-season. Has been an AHL guy, but also suited up for 10 games with the Washington Capitals last winter, including his NHL debut in a game against the Jets.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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