Hustler: Halfway through the season, it’s time for the Winnipeg Jets rookie report
There have been growing pains, but there's plenty of hope for the long-term future of the team.
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After making the playoffs last year, the Winnipeg Jets made an organizational decision in the offseason to move on from a number of veteran players and go young. Now past the halfway mark for the campaign, there has been considerable growing pains as evidenced in the standings, but plenty of hope for the long-term future of the team.
JC Lipon became the sixth Jet rookie to skate for the Jets when he made his NHL debut Monday night at MTS Centre. We’ll wait to comment on his NHL time, but with so much riding on the youth of the team, here is our midseason rookie report for the Jets’ freshman class of 2015-16.
Nikolaj Ehlers: (1st round 13th overall 2014 - 46GP 8g 9a 17 pts) Ehlers, the most hyped rookie coming into the season, had a great start to his NHL career breaking out of the gate with four goals in his first nine games. An extended slump followed, along with time on the 3rd line, but Ehlers has seemed to find his confidence playing alongside Mattieu Perreault and production has improved. Ehlers is a fast, talented and exciting player and will be a huge part of this team going forward.
Andrew Copp: (4th round 104th overall 2013 – 42GP 1g 3a 4 pts) Copp joined the Jets out of the University of Michigan and has spent the season centering the Jets fourth line. Playing with a number of different linemates, Copp has averaged around seven minutes a game. While production has been limited, he has the size and skating ability to be an effective depth forward in the NHL.
Nic Petan: (2nd round 43rd overall 2014 – 14GP 1g 0a 1pt, now with Moose) Petan, an offensive dynamo in junior hockey, had a great preseason and made the team out of camp. Starting on the fouth line, he showed flashes of brilliance, but was miscast in a bottom line role. The team wisely sent him to the Moose to play more and get used to the pro game. With 15 points in 23 AHL games, Petan still has great potential and should be in the mix for a roster spot next season.
Joel Armia: (1st round 16th overall 2011 – 15GP 2g 0a 2pts) Armia, one of the pieces acquired by the Jets in the blockbuster Evander Kane trade last season, did not have a great camp and started the season with the Moose. Called up in December he played sparingly on the fouth line most nights, but has now shifted into a bigger role due to injury. The 6’3” 205-pound forward has NHL size and speed and has recently shown some glimpses of real offensive upside. Armia needs to continue to make the most of the opportunity presented with so many forwards out of the lineup.
Connor Hellebuyck: (5th round 130th overall 2012 – 19GP 2.00GAA .932 SV %) Starting his second pro season this year with the Moose, Hellebuyck was thought to be the Jets goalie of the future. After an injury to Ondrej Pavelec in November, the future is now. Hellebuyck has been brilliant since taking over the as the Jets No. 1 net minder and will likely be one of the two goalies on the Under 23 team in the World Cup. Of all the Jets rookies this season, Hellebuyck has had the biggest positive impact. The Michigan native looks like the long-term answer for the Jets at the most important position in hockey.