Part 12 in my "State of the Franchise" series.
Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great.
Current Rankings List:
20. Tampa Bay
22. Los Angeles
25. New Jersey
30. San Jose
#19: Winnipeg Jets
Top Fws: Evander Kane*, Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd
Top Ds: Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien
Top G: Ondrej Pavelec
Top 3 Under-23s:
1. F Evander Kane (21)
2. D Zach Bogosian (22)
3. F Alexander Burmistrov (20)
Top 5 Prospects
1. F Mark Scheifele (19)
2. F Carl Klingberg (21)
3. D Jacob Trouba (18)
4. D Paul Postma (23)
5. D Zach Yuen (19)
Prospect Pool Rating:
Bluechip Talent: C
The core of the team is young and talented with most of its best players all well within their best-before dates. The team boasts a group of forwards that can get the job done; Kane and Wheeler are the key cogs but names like Olli Jokinen, Bryan Little, Nik Antropov, and Burmistrov add depth and skill to the top 3 lines. Byfuglien, Enstrom and Zach Bogosian form a potent 1-2-3 on the backend and Ondrej Pavelec looks like he's just getting started with his ascension into elite status.
While the Jets have 3 solid anchors at the top of their defense, the trade of top 4 defender Johnny Oduya has left the team a little thin behind them; the defense could overall use a little more grit and toughness. Up front, the Jets lack a go-to-player (although Kane and Wheeler have both shown promise). Ondrej Pavelec is solid but he has no proven backup behind him.
The defense position has a couple of notable prospects, each with different attributes: Jacob Trouba is a hard-nosed defender, Paul Postma is a PP QB, and Zach Yuen is a smooth-skating two-way blueliner. Mark Scheifele is a top-quality prospect; he's part of a group of forwards that mixes size with various levels of skill, with Klingberg, Brassard and Lowry chief among them. The forwards group in general has quite a bit of overall grit.
Beyond Mark Scheifele, there isn't any player in the system you would consider to be a top-notch prospect. There's also a lack in potential top 9 skilled forwards in general, which is compounded by the number of players that have hit a wall in the former Thrashers' organization. On the back end, they lack a true high-caliber player and depth behind the top 3 or 4 prospects. The goaltending prospects in the organization are not high-quality.
There's a case to be made that the Jets' previous incarnation was arguably the worst-run franchise in the NHL since the turn of the new millennium. And the Jets followed a similar seasonal path as the Thrashers did, looking as if they could be a playoff team right up until gut-check time, where they bowed out of the postseason race and ended up finishing 11th in the East. The team, playing in front of the best home crowds in the league, ended up losing out on the postseason race due to inconsistency among depth names such as Nik Antropov and Ron Hainsey.
But there is reason to be optimistic again this season. Evander Kane looks like he'll be an NHL star for a long time, Blake Wheeler broke out despite just 17 goals, Zach Bogosian seemed to finally be living up to the hype of his 3rd overall selection, and Ondrej Pavelec was one of the few things keeping the team competitive. And with the annual "Our young guns will improve" in Alexander Burmistrov, Paul Postma and Mark Scheifele, the Jets look like they could be a player in the East if everything works out alright in Winnipeg.
The Jets will hope to build off of a box office success in their first season with playoff success in the second. While nothing is a sure bet in the NHL, the Jets look to be near the top of the teams fighting for the last few playoff berths in the East.