NHL Team Preview: Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets have made the playoffs for four consecutive seasons, but they may have a tough time returning in 2021-22. Competing in a loaded Central Division, Winnipeg still has some questions surrounding their defense, but with a solid forward group and a high-end goaltender in Connor Hellebuyck, the Jets still have high hopes for the upcoming season.
Knowing that the blue line needed some help, the Jets traded for Washington Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon. Though he isn’t a high-end scorer, Dillon is a reliable puck mover who doesn’t make many mistakes on his end. Last season, Winnipeg allowed the third-most shots per game (30.6) of any playoff team, only trailing the Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers. The Jets will lean on Dillon to aid in shot suppression.
Similarly, Winnipeg also traded for Vancouver Canucks defenseman Nate Schmidt. Schmidt was clearly unhappy with the deal after he was traded from Vegas to Vancouver and wasn’t a great system fit for the Canucks. However, he’s already taken to his new Jets teammates.
“They’ve kind of just fit right in,” Winnipeg forward Adam Lowry said. “Different players and different styles, but both pieces that, in years past, we’ve been missing. (Dillon) is huge. He’s going to be great on the back end. I think he compliments some of our smaller d-men well. You’ve seen what he’s done in his career. He’s a great defender. He moves the puck well, he’s big, and he’s hard to play against. He makes going to the net miserable.”
“And (Schmidt), he’s loud, he’s fun to be around. He moves the puck well, and he’s a great skater. I think they both come in and fit in, and, hopefully, that continues, and we see the positive impacts they have on their team.”
To add forward depth, the Jets also signed center Riley Nash. An excellent defensive center, Nash grinds opposing offenses to a halt; however, don’t expect him to contribute much in the offensive zone.
One player who will need to step up for Winnipeg to see success this season is Pierre-Luc Dubois. Last season, the Jets acquired Dubois, the third overall pick in the 2016 Draft, by sending Patrik Laine (who went second overall that same year) to the Columbus Blue Jackets with additional pieces rounding out the deal.
Dubois initially struggled to adjust to his new team, but he was starting to find his footing towards the end of the season. However, despite playing for a non-playoff team, Laine (10 goals, 11 assists) put up better numbers than Dubois (eight goals, 12 assists) following the trade.
During the playoffs, Dubois added three assists in seven games, and late in the regular season, he was dealing with an undisclosed injury.
Healthy and ready to go for the 2021-22 campaign, the Jets will need a big season from Dubois if they’re going to return to the playoffs.
Connor Hellebuyck is as steady as it gets between the pipes. Over the past three seasons, no goaltender has more regular-season time on the ice than Hellebuyck (166 games, 9575:28 TOI). The next closest is Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy (147 games, 8849:16 TOI). Hellebuyck, the 2020 Vezina Trophy winner, should be in for another heavy workload in 2021-22.
Finally, Jets fans can look forward to Cole Perfetti’s NHL debut. Taken 10th overall in the 2020 Draft, Perfetti should fill in for Mason Appleton’s spot in the lineup this season after Appleton went to the Seattle Kraken during the expansion draft. Perfetti can play either center or on the wing, and he excels in creating time and space for himself and his teammates. He is a sleeper pick for the Calder Trophy at +4000.
Winnipeg Jets Season Predictions and Odds
2021-22 Over/Under Point Total: Over/Under 92.5 (both are -110) Central Division Title Odds: +1500 (fourth-best) Western Conference Champions Odds: +1600 (seventh-best) Stanley Cup Odds: +4500 (tied for 17th)
* All odds provided by Action247 Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
**All views expressed are my own. My picks are my own and are not a guarantee, bet at your own risk.