The Winnipeg Jets roster is filled with potential. Five years after Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and his scouting staff have taken over the franchise, the roster is shaping up to be filled with the teams home grown talent. Which Jets players could have a breakout season this year? Here are 5 candidates.
Last season Mark Scheifele set season highs in goals ( 15), assists ( 34) and he fell one point shy of 50 points. Scheifele surely did not endure a sophomore slump, rather he proved to be an important component to the Jets top six. Scheifele has also progressed in terms of his overall strength.
Summers with workout guru Gary Roberts have seemed to pay off for the 22 year old. Scheifele reported to camp this season with 10 lbs of added muscle and in the process of his weight gain he shed 1% body fat. Scheifele is no longer a prospect. He isn’t even terribly young by NHL standards. Scheifele is ready to embark a bigger role with the club and take the next step in his career.
This season, if coach Paul Maurice keeps number one centre Bryan Little on the wing ( as he has during the course of the pre season), Scheifele essentially becomes the team's number one centre. Being the team's number one centre and being surrounded with weapons on his wings could provide quite the boost.
Scheifele has all the tools for a breakout year. Don't be surprised if Mark Scheifele hits that 55-60 point range. Don't blink on this guy.
This could be the perfect year for Jacob Trouba to break out. The Winnipeg Jets are going to have to make some big decisions in the coming years regarding their defensive core. Dustin Byfuglien is a pending free agent and he realistically could be traded.
In the event that the star defenceman leaves, Trouba could end up seeing a large share more powerplay time. Even if Byfuglien stays with the team, Trouba is going to need to prove he can handle a bigger workload. Trouba has the look of a future #1 defender and he has some real offensive skill.
The Jets aren’t asking Trouba to solely produce points and cheat on his defensive duties, but he might be able to do both. If Trouba can log top minutes ( in the 25 minute range ) and convert on a few more of his numerous offensive chances, he could be a big time breakout candidate.
After a two-year hiatus from the only NHL franchise he has known, Alex Burmistrov is returning to the prairies. Burmistrov is a very curious case. Nobody really knows what to expect from the Russian forward, because nobody has really been watching him for the last two years.
Over the summer I spoke to Russian journalist Igor Eronko about Burmistrov's play over the last two years.
He had this to say…
"He started really well, used his speed, made plays, did undress defenders, scored some pretty goals, but the team he played for is a very structured defense first team. So he has become less and less creative over time doing what coach wanted him to do although quite reliable 200 feet C, who’s good in faceoffs and can put the physical pressure at times. After 1st season he made team Russia and won world champion title playing 4th line C and his line was pretty good doing their job, also he was useful in PK."- Igor Eronko
Burmistrov seems to have enrolled in to a 200 foot hockey boot camp while overseas. If Burmistrov were to occupy the teams third line centre position, he would present the team with a package of defensive play and offensive skill in the teams bottom 6. But its not a lock for Burmistrov to play up the middle. Coach Paul Maurice could always change things up and have him play on the wing. There have even been talks of Burmi filling in the right wing position on a line with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little. If he were to play there, the points would come too.
This is where the real hype is. The ‘ Dashing Dane’ has been exciting many ahead of the 2015-2016 season. He has the skill to be a special player. I’d make the argument he is the most skilled player the Jets have drafted in the Cheveldayoff era. You could see it in the first pre-season game against the Wild, he has NHL ready tools. Playing alongside Alex Burmistrov and Matthieu Perrault, the trio presented an undersized yet immensely skilled line that provided solid play in both ends.
If Ehlers wants to breakout and be an impact for the Jets in his rookie season, he’ll need to clean up some areas of his game - such as his play against defenders one-on -one. In the National Hockey league, defenders are more capable and they wont give the forward as much room to play as they do in junior hockey. Ehlers looked a little rattled by that at some points against the Wild.
It is easy to say Ehlers will put up impressive numbers with the Jets because of his 100 point campaigns he put up in Halifax. But as we have seen over the years, junior hockey success does not always transfer to NHL success. What puts Ehlers over the top is his unbelievable speed and skill that truly can blow one away. His nifty hands could be a valuable asset to one of the Jets power play units, and that'd be a great set up for the rookie.
Ehlers seems ready to take the next step in his career and suit up for the Jets. If Ehlers is in the right situation and can figure out the small things needed to become a full time NHL player, he could really be a force for the Jets.
Heading in to this season, Tyler Myers has been rather overlooked by many Jets observers. After joining the Jets mid-season last year in the Evander Kane blockbuster trade, Myers was all over the box score, night in and night out for the Winnipeg Jets. He recorded 15 points in 24 games.
Myers was submerged in a toxic environment when he was in the basement of the NHL standings in Buffalo. After winning the Calder trophy in 2010, Myers slowly saw things devolve into a tire fire in Buffalo. Required to do too much on both ends of the ice, Myers was not given the support that is often needed for a young player who is entering NHL waters.
In Winnipeg, Myers isn’t the only guy that can be counted on from the back end. Because of this, Myers can play his offensive game while others carry a bigger, defensive load. At times Myers played with Toby Enstrom, that may change this year with Maurice promising to get his big three right handed D men a more even split in ice time.
Myers is in the same ballpark as Trouba in regards to minutes. If Dustin Byfuglien leaves Winnipeg this year, next year or the year after, Myers is going to be called upon to be a top pairing guy. Can he handle the tough minutes and assignments? Only time will tell.
Myers is an under the radar breakout candidate but don’t be surprised if Myers records 40+ points this season, he certainly is capable of it.