With the Jets expected to cut down their roster either Sunday or Monday according to coach Maurice, tonight’s last game of the pre-season in Calgary will be a final opportunity for some of the bubble players to impress the Jets brass. Can they do enough to earn themselves an opportunity to stick with the big club?
The Jets currently have 19 forwards in camp including Marko Dano, JC Lipon, Michael Spacek, Andrew Copp, Brandon Tanev, Matt Hendricks, Shawn Matthias, Adam Lowry, Bryan Little, Nic Petan, Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers, Patrik Laine, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux, Jack Roslovic, Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor and Mathieu Perreault.
Coach Maurice was asked yesterday about whether there were still spots to be won in the bottom six. “I am one or two guys away. The game’s (tonight vs. Flames) important for a few guys to get into opening night but that’s no guarantee they are playing in Calgary (second game of regular season).” Of course with Adam Lowry and Matt Hendricks nicked up as well as a few other regulars nursing some bumps this could simply be a function of them needing a few more days to heal which could allow a bubble player to stick around awhile longer.
When coach Maurice spoke about role definitions yesterday he indicated that “There’s four or five guys here that are fighting probably for two or three jobs, and all of them could probably play in the NHL. They’re all good players. They are not ready to drive a team yet or a line yet, but they are good players. How they fit becomes more important. What else do they do besides sit on the bench and play the odd 5-on-5 shift. Can they jump in and help you on the power play or can they kill penalties? It is a real important piece.”
The Jets are required to submit their cap-compliant opening night rosters by 4 p.m. CT on Tuesday. Coach Maurice will likely have 14 forwards, seven defencemen and two goalies to get to his 23 man roster.
Based on usage and comments from the coach throughout pre-season when we look at the 19 players listed above we can likely shift them into three categories including:
Appears safe: Matt Hendricks, Shawn Matthias, Adam Lowry, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers, Patrik Laine, Joel Armia, Mark Scheifele and Mathieu Perreault (10)
On the bubble: Marko Dano, Andrew Copp, Brandon Tanev, Nic Petan and Kyle Connor (5).
On way to Moose: JC Lipon, Brendan Lemieux, Michael Spacek and Jack Roslovic (4).
While some of the “on the bubble” players have more talent than guys on the “safe” list a roster spot for them is more a function of the “role definitions” which the coach mentioned. Are guys like Nic Petan or even Kyle Connor better suited playing big minutes with the Moose instead of reduced roles or in the press box? Coach Maurice spoke about guys coming up from the Moose and being plugged into that same role with the Jets.
Some of these decisions could be delayed as stated above with potential injuries heading into the regular season although coach Maurice seemed to indicate that none of the injuries were too significant.
In addition to the extra forwards on the roster the Jets are also carrying eight defencemen and while the coach could opt to carry one less forward, the likelihood is he will only have seven on the roster when the season begins on Wednesday when the Leafs come to town.
If this is the case the question would then appear to be: Will it be Ben Chiarot or Tucker Poolman as that seventh defenceman? While Poolman has played very well this pre-season would his development be helped sitting up in the press box and not playing? Or is he better served being on the top pairing for the Manitoba Moose playing 20+ minutes per game?
How would you make up your Jets 2017-18 opening night roster? Which of these bubble players would you have on your team? What do your forward lines and D pairs look like?
We will find out in the next few days and as always keep it locked to illegalcurve.com and on social media including Twitter | Facebook | Instagram. And you can follow me on twitter as well (@icdave).