Top 6 forward
The Jets boast an impressive array of riches at top 6 forward. The double-edged sword to that is they’re a less extreme version of the Maple Leafs in that that top 6 costs them $40.767 million a season. That’s just over half of the team’s cap tied up in their top 6.
Anyway, the Jet’s 1st line of Kyle Connor, Mark Schiefele, and Blake Wheeler put up 73 points in 71 games for both Connor and Schiefele and 65 points in 71 games for Wheeler. That’s impressive. 2nd line is the re-acquisition of Paul Statsny at center. At 34 it’s tough to say how much gas he has left in the tank, but he could reasonably put up 15 goals and 30 points.
He’s the weak part of the Jet’s top 6. On his wings are Nikolai Ehlers with 58 points in 71 games last season, and Patrik Laine who is persistently in trade rumours due to the fact he’ll probably need a hefty raise on his $6.75 million contract. Good luck getting that in this cap climate. He put up 63 points in 68 games at the age of 22. Impressive.
Is it better than the Oilers? I don’t think it’s better, but IMO it has the same firepower spread out a little more over the 2 lines. I think with the improvements we see in Yamamoto and Kahun and the usual stellar job Nuge does let’s call this a wash. Kassian and Statsny will probably put up the same or similar numbers. They’re not the same player, but they’ll put up about the same numbers.
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Winner: None, it’s a tie.
Bottom 6 forward
Jets 3rd line center is Adam Lowry. He only put up 10 points in 49 games last season but put up 20+ the last 3 seasons before that. Could he rebound? Smart money says yes.
On the wings is Andrew Copp, who has put up 20+ points the last 3 seasons. At age 26 there’s no reason to suspect he won’t do it again. Then there’s youngster Mason Appleton, who has 82 NHL games to his name over the last 2 seasons and has put up 10 and 8 points in those 2 seasons respectively. He’ll turn 25 next January – will the lightbulb come on and push him to 20 points? Hard to say.
4th line center is newcomer Nate Thompson, a journeyman bottom 6 forward who’ll be lucky to give you 10 points a season. He’s played on some pretty lousy teams over the last few seasons, will a better team in Winnipeg make him produce more? Maybe, but usually, you don’t know how a newcomer will adapt until they play a decent amount of games.
On his wings is Matthieu Perreault, a 32-year-old winger whose offence has declined for the last 3 seasons straight. Only played 49 games last season due to injury, so if he can stay healthy maybe he can give you 25 points next season. Youngster Jack Roslovic is on the other side. He’s only 23 and has already put up 2 straight seasons of 20 points in 70+ games.
Not a fan of the cap space being used in that bottom 6, though. Perreault is making $4.125 million for 1 more season with a modified NTC. Lowry is making just over $2.9 million. Copp makes just a shade under $2.3 million. $10 million for 3 bottom 6 players is way too much.
There are 2 extra guys – Jansen Harkins is a 23-year-old who spent the last 4 seasons playing on the Jet’s farm team before spending 25 games with the Jets last season, putting up 2-5-7 in 29 games, which is not bad. If we assume a 70 game NHL season next year, he’d put up 17 points, which is pretty solid for a 4th liner. The other extra guy is Dominic Toretto – I mean, Toninato. Movie reference…..:)
Anyway, Toninato is a pretty generic AHL bubble player who has 5-9-14 in 85 NHL games. 11 of those points came last season with Florida. Winnipeg, despite the questionable use of too much cap space on 3 of these players, I’m going to say your bottom 6 is pretty good depth that’s capable of providing ~ 100 points a season. However, the Oilers is better. Our bottom 6 is capable of more than that.
Winner: It’s close, but Oilers.
With all the cap space being spent on top 6 forwards, part of your bottom 6, and 1 of your goalies one part of your roster has to suffer, and in the Jet’s case I’m afraid it’s here on D.
The D corps is led by a solid player in Josh Morrisey, who hit the age of 25 just before the pause on the season and has put up 31 points the last 2 seasons. Good start. His partner is Dylan Demelo, who was rescued from the Ottawa Senators rebuild at the trade deadline. If he stays healthy he’ll give you a 20 point season. On the 2nd pairing, you have Nathan Beaulieu, who hasn’t cracked the 20 point mark in 3 seasons. Off chance, he’ll do it in Winnipeg, but I wouldn’t count on it. If past history is any indication, maybe 5 points a season.
Then there was an impressive acquisition from the Rangers in Neal Pionk, who in 1 full season in Winnipeg put up 45 points and a +10 in 71 games. Wouldn’t have expected that from him, but he turned 25 over the summer and as such a repeat performance is very likely.
On the bottom pairing is Derek Forbort, who left his offence in LA after he was traded to Calgary at the deadline. Calgary didn’t bring him back, and unless he revitalizes himself he’ll be a coke machine who might give you 5 points a season. On the right side is late bloomer Tucker Poolman, who put up 16 points in 57 games in just his 2nd NHL season at the age of 27. Shooting% was 0.8% higher than career normal, though, so expect a little bit of regression, to be honest.
The extra guy is Luca Sbisa, a guy who can give you 10 points in a part-time role. This D is…..OK, but it’s nothing to write home about. Once again, with Tyson Barrie cleaning up on the 1st PP unit and playing 3rd pairing minutes at evens, this tips the scales towards the Oilers as they’re able to put up just a little more offence than Winnipeg.
Special teams: Oilers PP #1, Jets 15. Oilers PK #2, Jets 22.
This one is going to be short and sweet. This is a pretty easy decision. Winnipeg has a traditional starter-backup combo that is backstopped by Connor Hellebuyck as the starter. Connor Hellebuyck is slated to win the Vezina trophy after going .922 with a 2.57 GAA last season. Can’t beat the best, right? Memo to Calgary, THIS is what you spend a $6 million cap hit on, NOT Jacob Markstrom.
The backup is ex-Oiler Laurent Brossoit, who has an odd habit of having an elite season followed by a mediocre season followed by an elite season, etc. If history is any indication this is his year to bounce back to elite form – as much as a backup can be elite, anyway. This beats the Koskinen-Smith duo handily.