The Winnipeg Jets didn’t sign any marquee free agents in the off-season, nor did they acquire any household names via trade.
They also have two of their top goal scorers — forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor — sitting at home waiting to put pen to paper on new contracts.
Dustin Byfuglien is out indefinitely and the team lost several key pieces this summer such as Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, Brandon Tanev, Ben Chiarot and Kevin Hayes.
Add it all up and the Jets desperately need players from within, especially the young ones, to step up this upcoming season. One name that’s expected, and needed, to take on a bigger role is 22-year-old Jack Roslovic.
The third-year forward spent the majority of last season bouncing between the third and fourth lines and finished the year with nine goals and 15 assists in 77 games. Roslovic was quiet down the stretch, as in the Jets’ first round playoff series against the St. Louis Blues, he was pointless in six games.
Roslovic, who took turns playing centre and on the wing, said it was hard to get in a rhythm offensively with his limited role.
"You know, that’s just the depth of our team. It’s really good," Roslovic said on not being able to consistently crack the team’s top-nine forwards last season. "For me, I gotta go out there and try to play my game. I can’t try to play like a fourth-line checker and that’s just the way it is."
Although Roslovic saw his role diminish down the stretch, he was overall pretty happy with how he did in his first full season in the NHL. Roslovic split the 2017-18 campaign between the Manitoba Moose and Jets, where he had 14 points in 31 games at the NHL level.
“I know Jack is waiting for his chance and he’s going to have lots of opportunity to get that chance. Guys got hurt and he ran a long time with Laine and (Bryan) Little (last season). His fitness scores were awesome, so we like that because we know he put the work in. He’s going to get his chance over time." — Jets head coach Paul Maurice
"I liked my game. I’m a playmaker. I like to think of myself as a playmaker. I want to shoot the puck a little more. I definitely want to think about that as a priority for this season and help score goals, and not only just pass the puck and distribute the puck. So, offensively, that was the biggest thing last year," said Roslovic, who was selected 25th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Jets.
"And obviously, as a young guy, it’s tough to play centre and try to develop there and then get switched back to the wing, which I was more comfortable with for a lot of the season because I played it more often. I think that’s something that I’m going to be better at and, you know, really take some time and effort to really focus in on wherever they put me."
Jets head coach Paul Maurice revealed on Friday Roslovic would start training camp on the wing. After the team’s training session on Sunday at Bell MTS Iceplex, the coach was asked about Roslovic’s up-and-down season and what the club expects to see out of him this year.
"We’re hoping more. If I say to you a lot more, it’s not because I’m saying that he’s not where we want him to be. I’m happy with where Jack is," Maurice said.
"I know Jack is waiting for his chance and he’s going to have lots of opportunity to get that chance. Guys got hurt and he ran a long time with Laine and (Bryan) Little (last season). His fitness scores were awesome, so we like that because we know he put the work in. He’s going to get his chance over time. We really like Jack as a player, we were pretty thick up front there, so it was hard to get extra ice time. He’s going to have to fight for his ice time, just like the rest of these guys."
It’s not lost on Roslovic, who spent the off-season back home and trained with members of the Columbus Blue Jackets, that the door is open for him to have a breakout season. It’s unknown when things will be resolved with Connor and Laine, but if it’s not before opening night, Roslovic said he wouldn’t "fall under the pressure" of trying to fill in for them. In fact, he believes he would thrive in a position where the team would heavily lean on him for offensive production.
"You know, we want them back. We want them back as soon as possible. While they're gone, they need someone to do their job and if they can see I can do their job, maybe they keep me there, maybe they don't."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
Updated on Monday, September 16, 2019 at 11:08 AM CDT: Adds quote.