One glance at the rosters the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers are icing tonight, and it's clear that regular season hockey is right around the corner. At the very least, with Chris Thorburn, Anthony Peluso and Mark Stuart dressed, Winnipeg is moving closer to its opening night lineup. Wait.
The coaching staff continues to trot out the trio of Patrik Laine, Bryan Little and Joel Armia. The biggest surprise here is Armia; far from being a bubble player, he's been seemingly auditioning for a top-nine, even top-six offensive role. Whether he's done enough to earn that spot come Oct. 13 is debatable, but Winnipeg's brain trust seems to hold the 23-year-old Finn in fairly high esteem.
Tonight's top-line isn't the team's only familiar note, as Kyle Connor continues to skate alongside Mathieu Perreault. Combined with Alexander Burmistrov, the three of them together isn't just some blogger's fancy stat pie in the sky; it's a realistic possibility for Winnipeg's third line.
"Smart decisions. Trying not to do too much out there and play to my strengths, and that's using my speed" @KyleConnor18 on keys for tonight pic.twitter.com/OcygUBs6U9— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) October 6, 2016
Despite a revelatory preseason, Tanev is still no lock to make the squad, and his fourth line competitors in Chase De Leo and Andrew Copp will be making their cases tonight as well. Even still, would it surprise anyone if Tanev, Thorburn and Adam Lowry were a fourth line this season?
The Winnipeg Jets continue to put Josh Morrissey through his paces. Tonight, it's beside Dustin Byfuglien on the team's top-pairing. Having Morrissey not only on the NHL roster but paired with Buff might create quite the positive domino effect: it enables Toby Enstrom to remain with Tyler Myers, in what is an effective shot suppression pairing; and it bumps
Mark Stuart Ben Chiarot down to third-pairing duty beside Paul Postma. Considering the success Chiarot-Postma has had, this would result in a surprisingly solid d-corps one through six.
(With Connor-Perreault-Burmi possibly a very real thing, bloggers have to move onto their next pipe dream.)
Morrissey and Byfuglien. Have a night kid. #NHLJets— Troy Westwood (@TroyWestwood) October 6, 2016
Of course, tonight also reveals the lack of depth Winnipeg faces when without both Jacob Trouba and just one additional regular d-man. Even with Morrissey alongside Buff, a d-corps sans Enstrom means Chiarot-Myers, which isn't great, and Stuart-Postma, which is worse. Connor Hellebuyck will be the beneficiary of these wonderful circumstances.
Edmonton's lineup tonight is just as if not more NHL-ready. Winnipeg gets to experience Milan Lucic - Connor McDavid - Jordan Eberle, a trio which will likely make many opponents miserable, and not just this season. The Oilers go on to counter Winnipeg's Connor-Perreault-Burmi with Benoit Pouliot, Leon Draisaitl and Jessi Puljujarvi, or as they should be known, the LBJ line. While both are flawed, on paper, the bottom-six edge tonight should probably go to Edmonton.
In Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson and Andrej Sekera, the Oilers are dressing their top three defencemen, while Matthew Benning continues his impressive preseason. It's not a safe bet, but if Benning earns a place on the opening night roster, it'll be interesting to see who he'll have bumped down to Bakersfield. Backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson gets the start, as his now-journeyman NHL career continues.
Have fun folks, and be sure to share your thoughts and observations in the comments section below!
When, Where & How
Thursday, Oct. 6, 8:00 p.m. CT, MTS Centre
Radio: TSN 1290
Online: NHL's Gamecentre Live, NHL Centre Ice
|Left Wing||Centre||Right Wing|
|Patrik Laine||Bryan Little||Joel Armia|
|Kyle Connor||Mathieu Perreault||Alexander Burmistrov|
|Brandon Tanev||Adam Lowry||Chris Thorburn|
|Chase De Leo||Andrew Copp||Anthony Peluso|
|Josh Morrissey||Dustin Byfuglien|
|Ben Chiarot||Tyler Myers|
|Mark Stuart||Paul Postma|
|Left Wing||Centre||Right Wing|
||Connor McDavid||Jordan Eberle|
|Benoit Pouliot||Leon Draisaitl||Jesse Puljujarvi|
|Pat Maroon||Drake Caggiula||Nail Yakupov|
|Tyler Pitlick||Mark Letestu||Zack Kassian|
|Oscar Klefbom||Adam Larsson|
|Andrej Sekera||Matthew Benning|
|Griffin Reinhart||Eric Gryba|