With training camp just a few days away and the season in just over a week, it’s time to look ahead at the line-up that Winnipeg will be icing come opening day. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff announced that he wanted a small but competitive training camp, thus not many players weren’t invited which gives us a pretty good idea at who and who will not be on this roster.
How all the players fit in though is another question entirely.
Starting up front with the forwards, many of the same players fans got to see last year will return. As chemistry will be a huge factor this year, the first line should stay relatively the same as last year with Bryan Little centering Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler. This line was consistently the best line Winnipeg iced last year and they will need to be good right from the opening faceoff this year.
The second line will most likely be centered by newcomer Olli Jokinen – a big bodied skilled centerman, which the Jets lacked last year. On one side of him will be Evander Kane but the other side remains a question mark. This spot you assume would go to Alexander Burmistrov, but with the health of the young wingers shoulder, it’s unclear if he will be ready come the start of the season. This opens the door for a little competition, Mark Scheifele may get another shot to make the big club, and with his recent experience on the wing it may be a good fit. The other option may be Antti Miettinen, who started last season incredibly slow and will be trying to bounce back this season.
On the third line I expect to see two former Leafs reunited – Alex Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov. The third spot on that line may go to another former Leaf, Kyle Welwood.
The fan favourite GST line has been broken up with the departure of Tanner Glass to Pittsburgh but look for last seasons late stand out Spencer Mahachek to possibly get a shot playing with Chris Thorburn and Jim Slater, creating the MTS line.
On the back-end the Jets will be missing arguably their top defenseman Zach Bogosian for the start of the season due to summer wrist surgery. The top line will have offensive defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and stay at home Tobi Enstrom.
The second line will be gritty Mark Stuart and Ron Hainsey, one of the main members of the players negotiating team.
The third line is where the defence gets interesting. Grant Clitsome looks like he should get one of the slots while Winnipeg has brought up both Paul Postma and Zach Redmond from St. Johns to compete for the last spot and may end up keeping both around until Zach Bogosian gets back to one hundred percent.
The goaltending is set with Al Montoya backing up clear number one Ondrej Pavlec who comes into this season with something to prove after the legal issues that plagued him over the summer.
The roster will be forced to gel quickly as this will be a key to the season. The teams who are able to play together quickly will have a huge lag up on the rest in the short season. Winnipeg is also still lacking that big scorer who you can count on for 100 points and 40 or so goals, so they’ll need to once again score by committee and get some help from the back-end if they want to make a charge at this years Stanley Cup Playoffs.