5. Drafting Nikolaj Ehlers
When the Jets drafted Nikolaj Ehlers 9th overall in the 2014 draft, people instantly became excited with the potential and skill that the Denmark native possesses. He can beat you outside with his speed or cut to the middle of the ice and use his hands or he can fire a lethal shot. The point is he has a lot of skill.
During the preseason Ehlers showed that even if he’s not physically ready for the wear and tear of the NHL: his skill and speed certainly could hold its own in the league. Many pondered whether Ehlers could stick with the Jets this year; ultimately the Jets made the right decision with sending Ehlers back to junior.
Team Denmark must be very pleased with the decision as Ehlers has been phenomenal during the World Junior Hockey Championship so far.
Nik Ehlers helped Denmark win its first ever game at the World Junior Hockey Championship when they defeated Switzerland 4-3 in the shootout.
Ehlers is one of, if not the most promising prospect in the Jets organization. Don’t be surprised to see him in a Jets uniform as soon as next season.
4. Bryan Little records the first Jets 2.0 hat trick
If anyone deserved to score the Jets first hat trick, it would be Bryan Little. Bryan Little has came to work ready to compete day in and out, not just for the Winnipeg Jets but for the Atlanta Thrashers as well. He has anchored the Jets first line for the last three seasons in superb fashion. Little is truly one of the leagues most underrated players.
There were fans standing for several minutes, clapping constantly for a moment that was long overdue. The moment of triumph brought chills to Jets fans.
3. Out with the old, in with the new.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has not had much success with offseason acquisitions. He has made some questionable decisions and he has handed out some questionable contracts. This past offseason the Winnipeg Jets let forwards Devin Setoguchi and Olli Jokinen walk. The two were brought in with the hopes of giving the teams bottom six a boost. On July 5, 2013 the Jets acquired Setoguchi from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a 2014 second round draft pick. After one dismal season, Setoguchi was allowed to walk and the Jets gave away a second round draft pick for an AHL player. The Jets also overpaid for Olli Jokinen. The Winnipeg Jets brought in Jokinen on July 2, 2012 when he signed a two year 9 million dollar contract. After two seasons to forget, the Jets let Jokinen walk as well.
Cheveldayoff received a lot of criticism for those two moves. Those critics were silenced when the Jets filled in those two roster sports with two players that have made big contributions for the team this year.
This offseason, the Winnipeg Jets inked Matthieu Perreault to a three-year, 9 million-dollar contract. The former Anaheim Duck and Washington Capital has been an energizer bunny of sorts for the Jets. Displaying his versatility by fluctuating between centre and left wing, Perreault is the perfect example of the type of player that the Jets have lacked; a second/third line player that plays well on the power play. The point is, Perreault is better than Setoguchi.
The replacement for Olli Jokinen on the Jets third line is hulking rookie centre Adam Lowry. Lowry has done everything expected and more. In his first NHL season, he has already instilled a great deal of fear in his opponents. Whether it’s a board battle, a scrum in front of the net or just overall compete in both ends of the ice, it seems as though Adam Lowry wins. Lowry does the little things right and he continues to make strides, game by game. Lowry is better than Jokinen.
2. The Hiring of Paul Maurice
On January 12 2014, the Winnipeg Jets decided to make a change. The Jets fired head coach Claude Noel and hired Paul Maurice on an interim basis for the remainder of the season. Since that day, Paul Maurice has made a significant impact on the direction of the Jets. In Maurice’s first ten games as the Jets coach, the Winnipeg Jets had an 8-2 record. Suddenly, a season that seemed lost became a season filled with hope. Despite the fact that Maurice and the Jets finished off the remainder of the year with an impressive 18-12-5 record, the team ultimately missed the playoffs.
Nevertheless, Maurice had instilled some hope in to the Winnipeg Jets players and with the fan base. Upon the completion of last season, the Jets inked Maurice to a four-year contract extension. Heading in to this season, the Jets were written off by almost everyone. The most exciting thing surrounding the Jets in the offseason was the thought of possibly landing coveted 2015 draft eligible forward Connor McDavid.
As the 2014-2015 NHL season halfway point approaches, the buzz around the Jets is nowhere in the same ball park as it was before the season started. The Jets currently find themselves in the number one western conference wild card spot. Paul Maurice has come in and changed the culture of the Winnipeg Jets. He has implemented the principles of strong defensive hockey and hard work with this team and it is seeming to pay off.
Since Maurice began his tenure as the Winnipeg Jets head coach, he has supplied hope. Maurice took over as Jets head coach in the midst of a five game losing streak. He turned the team around, started winning games, and from then on the Jets started to move in the right direction. If the Jets make the playoffs this season, Paul Maurice certainly deserves some consideration for the Jack Adams Award.
1. The Emergence of Michael Hutchinson
During the Jets first 3 seasons, there wasn’t much positive talk regarding the man that occupied the team’s goalie crease. Now, people cannot stop talking about the guy that is standing between the pipes for the Jets. Since Michael Hutchinson joined the Winnipeg Jets on a full time basis this season, he has done wonders for the Jets. People outside of Winnipeg are starting to take notice.
Pretty interesting seeing Hutchinson take the net from Pavelec in Winnipeg. He leads them to playoff spot, it'll be one of stories of year.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) December 29, 2014
Hutchinson has slowly stolen the throne from Pavelec and is emerging as the team’s number one goaltender.
It really isn't far fetched to include Hutchinson as a Calder trophy favourite. After all, he has been one of the best goalies in the NHL this season. He certainly has the numbers to prove it.
Hutchinson is one of the main reasons the Jets have found themselves in the thick of the race for a wild card spot. It really is fascinating that Michael Hutchinson is doing what he is doing at the NHL level. Hutchinson was drafted 77th overall by the Boston Bruins at the 2008 NHL draft. After being kicked to the curb by the Bruins, Hutchinson had to work his way up to the NHL.
Nearly a year ago, Hutchinson was in the ECHL playing for the Ontario Reign, which is where his successful career in the Jets system started. Hutchinson dominated at the ECHL and AHL level, progressively improving every step of the way. Last spring, Hutchinson was a key component to the St. Johns Icecaps Calder cup run. On full display to the hockey world, Hutchinson shined. He posted a 21-2 record accompanied by a .923 SV% and a 2.30 GAA. When it mattered most, Hutchinson delivered.
Heading into the season, people didn't think Hutchinson would jump to the NHL and challenge Pavelec for his starting job. The Jets even had there doubts of Hutchinson's ability, so they acquired goaltender Peter Budaj from the Montreal Canadiens, as insurance. At the halfway point of the NHL season, Hutchinson has provided the insurance in between the pipes that a team wanting to get in to the playoffs needs to succeed.