Winnipeg Jets Season Review
2018-19 Record (47-30-5) 99 pts
The Jets season was a rocky road filled with confusion and turmoil. A team that came within a few games of the Stanley Cup final struggled to find their way through the 2018-19 season. A season that left a feeling of disappointment, a sense of let down. The team never found their previous identity, ultimately leading to defeat at the most important time of year. The dream came unraveled at the hands of the eventual Stanley Cup Champion, St. Louis Blues.
A dominant team stuck in limbo, players like Patrik Laine tried to regain their confidence and form. A season that started with so much promise, so much upside, only ended in utter defeat and question. If the Jets want to regain their identity they have to work, that’s going to be a key reason to regaining their previous dominant attitude. It’s going to be hard, losing key pieces like Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba. While losing Trouba, this team possesses all the weapons to be a high-flying and hard-to-handle team again.
Season MVP: Blake Wheeler
Without a doubt, Blake Wheeler deserves to be recognized as the season MVP. Scoring 20 goals, 71 assists and 91 points, only Nikita Kucherov and Connor McDavid had more assists. Wheeler will be heavily leaned on to right this ship, not only with his offensive production but his leadership skills and drive to win games. Wheeler never takes a shift off, game in and game out, he’s always giving it his all. The Jets need to follow suit to be a team that can regain their swagger and it’s all going to start with Wheeler.
Most Improved Player – Jacob Trouba
This is going to come as a tough pill to swallow for Jets fans with Jacob Trouba being shipped off to the New York Rangers. However, his jump from 24 points to 50 points was no accident. Trouba isn’t and hasn’t been a flashy, dynamic defenseman at any point in his hockey career. His smarts and hockey sense, however, did dominate when they needed to. When Dustin Byfuglien went down with an injury, someone had to step up and fill an offensive role from the back-end for the Jets, and that someone was Trouba. Scoring eight goals and 42 assists, Trouba more than filled that role for the Jets. No other player made a tremendous jump in points like Trouba did, especially in the role that he played with the Jets.
Biggest Disappointment: Patrik Laine
How can a 30 goal forward be the biggest disappointment? How does that seem logical? Easy – Patrik Laine scored 24 of his 30 goals before the turn of 2019. That’s right, he scored all of six goals for the rest of the season, that’s only six goals in 43 games, which is atrocious. Not only did he lay an egg for over half the season, but he was also abysmal in his own end, tied for the tenth worst plus\minus. This season chalks up to be a season that he would surely love to forget. Don’t fret Jets fans, Laine has the skill set to still be one of the deadliest players in the game, he just needs to find his confidence again.
Top 5 Prospects
Kristian Vesalainen – An interesting prospect, to say the least, he’s a great package of size, speed, and skill. His consistency has been a concern, however, if he figures out how to piece it all together he will be a deadly weapon in an already impressive Jets arsenal. Vesalainen has all to the tools to be a very effective top-six forward. Expect him to join the Jets for the majority of the season.
Sami Niku – From seventh round to top-five prospect, Niku has the build of a modern NHL offensive-defenseman. Niku is a great skater with impeccable vision and a very accurate shot from the point. It has taken Niku some time to adjust to the North American style of hockey, and it’s a steep learning curve. He took big strides to find his identity this past season. Expect Niku to be a seventh d-man again, unless he is able to take a spot from one of the others at camp.
Ville Heinola– An averaged sized, puck-moving d-man. Heinola was selected by the Jets in the first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He played a prominent role for his team in Liiga at the young age of 17, being taught responsibility and the speed of the sport versus men. While Heinola doesn’t do anything particularly flashy, he does a lot of little things really well. He does need a couple of years in other leagues before he’s able to contribute to the Jets.
Luke Green – 2016 third-rounder Luke Green had a down year, to say the least. Marred by injury, in his first pro-year, he was only able to muster three points in 11 games. The rest he spent recovering from injury. Green is a mobile, offensive-defenseman with good size and the right tools to be a point-producing player. He will need time to develop. Give him another year or two and he will be contending for a Jets roster spot.
Mason Appleton– A fast skating player with good vision, able to find his teammates with a crisp pass, and is always dangerous offensively. Appleton had a taste of NHL action and surely wants more. He was the odd man out in the Kevin Hayes trade. Don’t be surprised to see him crack the roster come October.
This team needs this more than ever, a breakthrough season from a young player. The Jets are going to need Jack Roslovic to become a viable third-line center for them, maybe even a top-six center at times. They also require a good season from Nik Ehlers and Laine. As the saying goes – when it rains it pours, some times players slump for seemingly no reason for way too long. If the Jets want to contend, they need good seasons from both of them.
The Jets have to start firing on all cylinders and not stop, never let their foot off the gas pedal. This team has all the offensive weapons, the defense and the goaltending to make some noise, they, however, can’t take a night off. Players like Laine, Ehlers and even Bryan Little need to find ways to help produce some secondary offense. The defense is going to have to find a way to fill in the 50 points that Trouba can no longer provide. That will have to come from a group effort. This team is primed and ready for a cup run. Don’t overlook them or they will make teams pay.
Joel Hawreschuk is a contributor at Overtime Heroics. You can follow him @JHawreschuk
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