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Winnipeg Jets Training Camp Battles: Defence

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With 19 in camp, and one other yet to be signed, there’s a lot to talk about with those tasked with defending.

Winnipeg Jets v Minnesota Wild - Game Four
ST PAUL, MN - APRIL 17: Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Winnipeg Jets checks Jordan Greenway #18 of the Minnesota Wild as teammate Joe Morrow #70 looks on during the second period in Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Xcel Energy Center on April 17, 2018 in St Paul, Minnesota.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

As players began to take the ice this morning for the on-ice testing as Winnipeg Jets training camp begins, Josh Morrissey remains without a contract. That is the biggest question hanging over the defence corps as they begin camp.

However, I’m just going to assume he signs by the end of writing this, or that he signs soon thereafter and I’ll slot him in where I feel like slotting him in. Sound good?

Let’s begin.

In 2017-18, 10 players played as defenders for the Jets. Of those, only Toby Enstrom isn’t back. As it would be rather pointless to keep three defenders in the press box with no forwards, somebody or somebodies are going to have to start the season with the Moose or elsewhere.

I’m going to try to project the pairings, based not only on stats and previous chemistry, but also on things that Paul Maurice has said in recent days as well as cap considerations.

First Pairing: Left Side

Winnipeg Jets v Calgary Flames Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

#44 Josh Morrissey 6’0” 195 lbs Shoots Left
2017-18 Regular Season - 81 GP - 7G - 19A - 26PTS - 47PIM
2017-18 Playoffs - 16 GP - 1G - 1A - 2PTS - 6PIM

He’s the best left-shooting defenceman on the team by a stretch, and hopefully will be fore some time. The unit of Morrissey and Trouba did well last year, and I expect that it can and should for years to come.

First Pairing: Right Side

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Winnipeg Jets at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

#8 Jacob Trouba 6’0” 195 lbs Shoots Right
2017-18 Regular Season - 55 GP - 3G - 21A - 24PTS - 34PIM
2017-18 Playoffs - 17 GP - 2G - 1A - 3PTS - 17PIM

Back for another year, and still a restricted free-agent when his contract ends, Trouba will find himself on the top pairing again. He doesn’t do some of the flashy things that Buff does, but arguments can easily be made he’s the better of the two. Arguments can also easily be made the Buff is better. Arguments for everybody!

Second Pairing: Left Side

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Winnipeg Jets at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

#57 Tyler Myers 6’8” 229 lbs Shoots Right
2017-18 Regular Season - 82 GP - 6G - 30A - 36PTS - 48PIM
2017-18 Playoffs - 16 GP - 4G - 3A - 7PTS - 8PIM

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA....oh wait, this is serious?

Paul Maurice has said numerous times in the past few days that Myers will play left side defence at times this season, and I can’t wrap my head around why. Yes, he put up the second most points among Jets D-men last year while playing all 82 games. But left side? He’s not that strong defensively on the right side to begin with. Well, luckily the Jets will probably put him with a quick defender that isn’t prone to getting caught up ice.

Second Pairing: Right Side

Vegas Golden Knights v Winnipeg Jets - Game Five Photo by David Lipnowski/Getty Images

#33 Dustin Byfuglien 6’5” 260 lbs Shoots Right
2017-18 Regular Season - 69 GP - 8G - 37A - 45PTS - 112PIM
2017-18 Playoffs - 17 GP - 5G - 11A - 16PTS - 20PIM

Can we just talk a bit about how good Dustin Byfuglien was in the playoffs last year? Just a devastating force. Probably the best he’s been in years. Third on the team in points. Really, really good.

Buff will be the right side defender on the second pairing regardless of who plays with him. People who do play with him tend to see their numbers improve, for a variety of reasons.

Playing with Myers would make this a huge pairing. Probably slow though.

Third Pairing: Left Side

Winnipeg Jets v Minnesota Wild Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

#5 Dmitry Kulikov 6’1” 204 lbs Shoots Left
2017-18 Regular Season - 62 GP - 3G - 8A - 11PTS - 22PIM
2017-18 Playoffs - 1 GP - 0G - 0A - 0PTS - 2PIM

After back injuries knocked him out of the regular season and relegated him to only one playoff game, Kulikov should be fit to play once the regular season starts. Arguments can be made that there are other defenders that should get into the lineup before him, but he’s making $4.33 million per year until 2020, so he’ll play when healthy.

Third Pairing: Right Side

Winnipeg Jets v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

#70 Joe Morrow 6’0” 196 lbs Shoots Left
2017-18 Regular Season - 56 GP - 6G - 10A - 16PTS - 26PIM
2017-18 Playoffs - 16 GP - 4G - 3A - 7PTS - 8PIM

I like Morrow on the third pair. I’d probably like him better on the left side, but that’s beside the point. Morrow has played right before, and done alright with it so I assume it will keep happening.

Seventh Defenceman

Minnesota Wild v Winnipeg Jets - Game Two Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images

#7 Ben Chiarot 6’3” 219 lbs
2017-18 Regular Season - 57 GP - 2G - 12A - 14PTS - 32PIM
2017-18 Playoffs - 16 GP - 0G - 3A - 3PTS - 15PIM

Maurice likes him, and his contract isn’t waiver friendly, so he probably occupies the press box. Could find himself on the third pairing to start the year, but I think Kulikov and Morrow are better.

First Right-Handed Call-Up

Winnipeg Jets v Nashville Predators Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

#3 Tucker Poolman 6’3” 210 lbs
2017-18 Regular Season - 24 GP - 1G - 1A - 2PTS - 48PIM
2017-18 Playoffs - 2 GP - 0G - 0A - 0PTS - 0PIM

At 25-years-old, Tucker Poolman is getting to an interesting point in his NHL career. Yes, he only has one year of pro hockey on his resume, but at his age he should be entering his prime. He’s currently waivers exempt, so I can see him being sent down to start the year, but he can slot in capably into this lineup, and is arguably better than several names that I have listed above him on the depth chart. But his contract sees him start the year with the Moose.

First Left-Handed Call-Up

Winnipeg Jets v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

#83 Sami Niku 6’0” 168 lbs
2017-18 Regular Season - 1 GP - 1G - 0A - 1PTS - 0PIM
Look at that glorious flow! Niku’s contract, rather than his play, will see him start the season with the Moose unless he scores eight goals a game during the pre-season, but he should see game action at some point this season.

Manitoba Moose

Kitchener Rangers v Windsor Spitfires
Defenceman Logan Stanley #20 of the Kitchener Rangers skates against his former team the Windsor Spitfires on September 28, 2017 at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

Logan Stanley will start his pro career with the Manitoba Moose, possibly on the second or third pairing depending on how Niku and Poolman slot in. He’ll be joined by 2016 3rd round pick Luke Green, veteran Cameron Schilling, Thrashers draft pick Peter Stoykewych, Nelson Nogier, recently acquired Simon Bourque, returnee Charles-David Beaudoin and 2016 4th round pick Jacob Cederholm.

Actually that’s 10 guys, so they won’t all end up with the Moose. Maybe the Jacksonville Icemen are in some of their futures, maybe greener pastures.

Back to Junior

Kingston Frontenacs v Peterborough Petes
PETERBOROUGH, ON - OCTOBER 12: Declan Chisholm #20 of the Peterborough Petes skates away from a checking Linus Nyman #75 of the Kingston Frontenacs in an OHL game at the Peterborough Memorial Centre on October 12, 2017 in Peterborough, Ontario.
Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

It will be back to junior after some big club experience for the youngsters Declan Chisholm of the Peterborough Petes (5th round, 2018), Giovanni Vallati of the Kitchener Rangers (also 5th round, 2018) and Leon Gawanke of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (5th round, 2017).

That does it for the defenders, with lots of competition at both the NHL and AHL levels.

Feel free to tell me how I’m wrong in the comments below. I love comments.