The 2016-17 Jets feature the most forward depth this lineup has seen since NHL hockey returned to Winnipeg. Captain Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Mathieu Perreault and Mark Scheifele form a capable nucleus -- and in Scheifele's case, to the tune of an eight-year contract worth $6.125 million annually.
Around them, Nikolaj Ehlers is no longer the hot new thing. That role is now bestowed to 2016 second overall selection Patrik Laine and, to a lesser extent, Kyle Connor. The list of names goes on and on, but folks have heard enough about how rich a prospect pool Winnipeg possesses. Suffice to say, the Jets have more talented forwards than they know what to do with.
The enthusiasm of having Patrik Laine & Co. up front has certainly been tempered by Jacob Trouba's trade request. While Winnipeg's d-corps isn't automatically a lost cause without Trouba, his absence may require Josh Morrissey to be NHL-ready right now, a tough ask of a 21-year-old with one NHL game and a single AHL season under his belt. How the situation plays out both on and off the ice is anyone's guess at this point. Speaking of uncertain situations, even though Connor Hellebuyck was the lone bright spot in net last season, it's not yet clear if he'll start the year with Winnipeg or in the AHL. If Winnipeg again turns to a Ondrej Pavelec-Michael Hutchinson tandem, the 2016-17 season may be more about Nolan Patrick than playoffs.
- Can Patrik Laine live up to expectations?
- Is it time to give the keys to Connor Hellebuyck?
- Will Winnipeg's defense survive without Jacob Trouba?
BEST CASE SCENARIO
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff pulls a rabbit out of a hat, trading Trouba for a left-handed defenseman of roughly the same age and quality. The organization concludes that winning trumps tenure, deciding upon Hellebuyck as its starting netminder. Laine and Ehlers both crack the 40-point barrier, while Scheifele makes it back-to-back seasons with over 60 points, this time also scoring 30 goals. Depth, goaltending and middle-of-the-pack special teams lead Winnipeg to the postseason promised land once more.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
The Jets blink and end up with a pennies on the dollar return for Trouba. Morrissey falters, Laine falters, Brian Strait becomes a lineup regular and fans are treated to the Pavelec-Hutchinson farewell tour. Despite all this and wretched special teams to boot, Winnipeg proves just good enough to draft outside the top five next June. Nolan Patrick goes to Edmonton.