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Projecting the Winnipeg Jets Opening Day Roster

This morning the Winnipeg Jets announced they were sending 20 players to St. John’s. In this post I will try to predict who will be on the Jets’ opening day roster.

As of now, 38 players remain in camp; of those 38, three of those players are currently injured.

Claude Noel addressed the media after the cuts were announced; he said a few things that were telling in trying to piece together this roster.

Noel on the target number of players:

“After the next two games, we’ve got to get a workable number, which should be around 25. 25 healthy close to that, not including injured players”

“I don’t know what our roster will hold, will it hold 22, or will we be playing with 23, these things work themselves out, you at least like to have an extra defensemen and an extra forward, maybe two in one of those positions.”

Here is some useful information on roster limits, for the purposes of this article; we will be selecting 25 players who will be on the roster, before they get down to 23 for opening day.

Noel on players with one-way contracts:

I don’t think we’re going to be an organization that reassigns one way contracts to the minors, there are some in the National (Hockey) League that do that without missing a beat, but we don’t believe that’s an efficient way to operate.”

“If a player can play ahead of a player, a contract becomes a stumbling block, at the end of the day you’re trying to find a way to maneuver things so the guy that deserves to play (gets to play)”

This quote leads me to believe that all players with one-way contracts will most likely be on the team. The only way they wouldn’t be playing at the NHL level is if they were to be traded.

Here are the 20 players on one-way contracts, or players on two-way contracts who have a 99.99% chance of making the team (Kane & Burmistrov)

Player on One-Way Contracts

G- Ondrej Pavelec
G – Chris Mason
Total: 2 Goalies

Ladd – Little – Wheeler
Kane – Burmistrov – Antropov
Glass – Wellwood – Thorburn
_____ – Slater – _______

F – Kyle Wellwood
F – Tim Stapleton
F – Tanner Glass
F – Andrew Ladd
F – Bryan Little
F – Jim Slater
F – Chris Thorburn
F – Blake Wheeler
F – Nik Antropov
F – Evander Kane
F – Alex Burmistrov
Total: 11 Forwards

D – Zach Bogosian
D – Mark Stuart
D – Ron Hainsey
D – Johnny Oduya
D – Dustin Byfuglien
D – Tobias Enstrom
D – Randy Jones
Total: 7 Defenseman

Total: 20 Players
Spots Remaining: 5

Making this team is going to be tough; after doing some quick math, we have started out with 38 players in camp, subtracted 20 players who are all but assured an NHL roster spot and have then taken away three injured players who may start the season on the injured list (Eric Fehr, Aaron Gagnon, Kenndal McArdle).  This results in fifteen players fighting for just five spots. Taking into account, one of those five spots is for a goalie, there are fourteen players fighting for four spots (or a 28% chance).

In order to determine who has the best shot at making the roster we’ll go by the process of elimination.

Third Goaltender

Currently the third goalie in camp is Swiss netminder David Aebischer. Aebischer signed with the Jets to a tryout contract.  As per Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press, if the Jets were to sign Aebischer, they would have to come to a financial agreement with his Swiss club Lugano—something we do not believe will be a significant deterrent in the grand scheme of things.

Players on Entry-Level Contracts

These are players who participated in rookie camp, and remain in main training camp. It is likely these players will not make the Jets roster.  Instead, they are still in camp in order to provide management with an extended look at what they can offer in and amongst players significantly older and more experienced than them.

F – Mark Scheifele
F – Jordan DePape
F – Klarc Wilson

In the case of Mark Scheifele, he has exceeded anyone’s expectations.  He currently leads the team with six points in exhibition play. While he may belong at the NHL level (skill-wise), he most likely will not start the season with the big-club. Scheifele is only 18 years old, has only played one season of junior hockey at the CHL level, and with so many players likely guaranteed roster spots due to their contract statuses, he may not get the minutes on the NHL roster that would further his development. It seems like the Jets brass will take its time sending the youngster to back to Barrie where he can hopefully improve upon his 75 points in 66 games from last season and fight for another spot next September. IC’s Richard Pollock wrote about “Scheife-ling Expectations” last week, read it here.

Players on Two-Way Contracts

The Jets have let it be known that they would prefer their younger players to get more ice-time in order to develop. This is considered in trimming down the roster.

Due to the logjam at defense the following players will likely be eliminated.

D – Paul Postma

The 22 year old won’t get the playing time required at the NHL level. It is best to let him start the season in the AHL even though he has performed admirably, especially offensively, in exhibition play thus far.

D – Derek Meech

Meech has the most NHL experience of the remaining players, it looks as if he will start the season in the AHL, but will be back and forth all year in case of injuries or ineffectiveness.

After our process of elimination, four spots remain for the following eight players.

Two-Way Contracts
F- Patrice Cormier
F – Ben Maxwell
F – Spencer Machacek
F – Carl Klingberg

Tryout Contracts
F – Janne Pesonen – has the best shot to make the team of these three
F – David Koci
F – Troy Bodie

We’ll give a spot to the player who has the most NHL experience of the group in Patrice Cormier, he also brings versatility as he can play Centre and Wing. This may allow Antropov to play his preferred position of RW.

Spencer Machacek is the next one to make the team, at 22 years old he has two years of AHL experience where he increased his average points per game from 0.62 to 0.79.

The two remaining spots should go to the more experienced Troy Bodie and David Koci. This leaves Jason Gregoire, Carl Klingberg, and Ben Maxwell to get the bulk of the icetime in St. John’s.

Janne Pesonen is the last remaining name on the list. The veteran Finnish forward is in camp on a tryout. He has shown good hands and on ice vision, of the players on tryout contracts, he has the best chance to contribute.

With two exhibition games this week, the players “on the bubble” will do their best to impress in their quest to earn a roster spot on opening day.