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?
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
#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
#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
#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
#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
#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
#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.
#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
#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
#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.
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
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.