We always have the draft lottery, Winnipeg Jets fans
With very little chance of making the playoffs, it's next year time for the Jets.
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With the NHL trade deadline now in the rearview mirror, along with any realistic hope of playoff hockey this spring in Winnipeg, it’s next year time for the Winnipeg Jets.
If the finality of the Jets’ predicament in the standings hadn’t yet set in, it certainly did Thursday night. Andrew Ladd, the only captain the Jets have known in Winnipeg was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for young winger Marko Dano and the Hawks’ first-round selection in the upcoming NHL draft, along with a conditional third-round pick if Chicago wins the cup.
The Jets still have 20 games remaining in the regular season, along with 12 at MTS Centre before the golf clubs come out. But while the post-season dreams of players and fans will have to wait until next season, there is still a lot to be gained from the final quarter of this season.
The home stretch of the season will be all about the future and continuing to develop a number of young players. Not exactly what veterans such as Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglien envisioned after last years’ franchise-record 99 point season, but both leaders have expressed optimism going forward, in particular Buff who backed it up by resigning for five more years here in Winnipeg.
Up front, the newly acquired Dano along with Joel Armia will certainly be given plenty of ice time and opportunity to develop, show they belong and can help the team win games. Andrew Copp, who has played sparingly centering the 4th line all year will likely enjoy some increased ice time in different situations with different line mates. Nikolaj Ehlers will continue to get top line minutes with Wheeler and Mark Scheifele, while Alex Burmistrov will have 20 more games to show he should be included in the team’s future plans.
On the blue line, Paul Postma finally has the chance to play regularly with the departure of Adam Pardy to Edmonton on waivers and the injury to Mark Stuart. After a miserable year sitting in the press box, he along with Ben Chariot should see much more ice and be given the chance to sink or swim against NHL competition. First rounder from 2013, Josh Morrissey, will also likely make his regular season NHL debut after playing all season with the Moose in the AHL.
In net, the Jets have two of their most exciting young prospects in the organization stopping pucks with the Moose. Don’t rule out seeing Connor Hellebuyck again and maybe even Eric Comrie get a call up at some point before the end of the year.
If the final 20 games of the season provide opportunity and growth for the young future of the Jets, maybe this season won’t be looked at as such a disappointment in years to come. Right now it’s all Jets fans have got.
That, and hopes of winning the NHL draft lottery.