The good money’s on the "Play Perfetti" camp being an unhappy bunch Wednesday.
Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice made a case Monday for holding Cole Perfetti out of the Jets’ 2021-22 season-opener against the Anaheim Ducks (9 p.m., SN360).
In fact, the young forward could be skating with the Manitoba Moose when the big club hits California, although an assignment to the American Hockey League wouldn’t come until after Tuesday’s practice.
"This guy’s a good player. He’s a good player and he’s going to play in the NHL and he’s going to be nifty. And I think he’s smart and there’s no arrogance in him," Maurice said of Perfetti, Winnipeg’s first pick (10th overall) in the 2020 NHL Draft.
"What’s the straight line for Cole Perfetti? I’m not sure yet, but it usually means lots of minutes touching the puck because that’s his game. But he’s been good."
And that was the bright, flashing hint the 20-year-old’s NHL debut will have to wait.
"It really almost won’t be about him, as it almost is with all players. It’s really not about the individual players. So, I’m going to take a look at those six guys that are kind of at the bottom and how much movement can I get between all of them in a line. What gives us the best opening-night roster?" said Maurice.
"I don’t want to put somebody in the lineup that I’m thinking, "Ah, if this thing goes south for him early I’ll cut him right back. I don’t want to do that, right?"
The rather cloudy picture for the team’s bottom-six forward group is becoming clearer.
Dominic Toninato should get the nod, instead. He cleared waivers Monday, and a recall Tuesday is anticipated. The Jets are also expected to sign Evgeny Svechnikov to an NHL contract.
Adam Lowry will centre Kristian Vesalainen and Jansen Harkins on the third line. Riley Nash will likely play between Toninato and Svechnikov on the fourth.
Perfetti and defencemen Ville Heinola are likely earmarked for the Moose, leaving the Jets with 22 healthy skaters to begin the season. That’s an appropriate number for now, as the Jets work to remain salary-cap compliant.
The Jets also have Dylan Samberg and CJ Suess still in camp, but both are injured.
Winnipeg is 6-4-0 in season-openers since the franchise moved north from Atlanta in time for the 2011-12 campaign. It’s the seventh time the Jets have started the year in enemy territory but have been successful, winning four of their previous six.
The Jets, who return to the normalcy of competing in the Central Division, play six of their first eight games on the road.
"That’s something everyone is looking forward to, you know, the rhythm of the season. It can be pretty monotonous to just play the same teams over and over again," said Jets captain Blake Wheeler. "Good to go to California, that’s obviously all well and good, but we’re there on business.
"The part of the game that you really remember as you go through the years are some of those moments, some of the things you do away from the rink or in the dressing room or some of those good experiences you have to be able to get together and bond outside of the rink in some places that we get to go. Having just a little bit of a normal rhythm is going to be good for everyone."
Mark Scheifele will serve the fourth and final game of suspension he received in the playoffs and will watch the opener from the press box at Honda Center. Paul Stastny slots in between Wheeler and Kyle Connor on the top forward unit.
Pierre-Luc Dubois will skate between Nikolaj Ehlers and Andrew Copp.
The blue-line pairings include Nate Schmidt and Josh Morrissey, Neal Pionk and Brenden Dillon, and Dylan DeMelo and Logan Stanley. Nathan Beaulieu sticks around as the extra rear-guard.
Connor Hellebuyck, just a season removed from capturing the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie, and Eric Comrie comprise the netminding tandem.
Maurice believes with the additions of Schmidt and Dillon, the Jets are better equipped to excel at prevention.
"I think we can be a very strong defensive team, and (the defence) can get involved in the offence. For us, it will be the balance between those two forces, right? Being a good, defensive team and then utilizing the skill we have up front," he said. "Those defencemen we brought in are a nice balance and able to do that. They’re not 70-point guys, by any means, but clearly they’re not just shutdown guys. They’re hybrid players. They can get involved in the offence.
"Moving the puck is an offensive concept but it’s a defensive concept, too. If you can move it once or twice a period out of your own end, you’re not in defensive-zone coverage. So, you’re defensive numbers should get better."
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).