The Jets return to Winnipeg for the first time since leaving in 1996 when they open the season Sunday against Montreal. (Getty Images)
It’s time to welcome the NHL back to Winnipeg - Jets fans are in for a treat. Fantasy enthusiasts, well, not so much. But the tough times won’t last forever; there are definitely some bright lights on this team.
First of all, the Jets boast two of the most coveted offensive rearguards in fantasy hockey. The smallish Tobias Enstrom and the, er, biggish Dustin Byfuglien should again combine for close to 120 points. And while they’re doing that, the team can bring along two players who may eventually be better than both of them in Zach Bogosian and Paul Postma. Bogosian was the third overall pick in 2008 because of his combination of size, strength and offensive skill. The lesser-touted Postma was a seventh round pick in 2007, but has really moved up the depth chart, finishing second on the team in pre-season scoring with five points in four games.
There’s plenty of promise up front, too. Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little are going to be 55-point players this season (give or take) with an upside for as many as 65. Alexander Burmistrov will take some more baby steps en route to becoming a fine top-sixer. Veterans Andrew Ladd and Nikolai Antropov will also provide 55 to 60 points.
And then there is newcomer Mark Scheifele. Drafted seventh overall this past summer, Scheifele made a huge splash in the pre-season, winding up with eight points in five games. Coach Claude Noel had this to say to the Winnipeg press: “You watch him, he has high hockey intellect and I've said that all along. He is clever and his teammates realize it. He's smart. I'll be stunned. I'll guarantee you, he'd have to be a complete failure in these nine games. He also knows he's here day-by-day and he's not guaranteed anything, but I would be stunned to see him go back.”
Look for Scheifele to be in the Calder Trophy conversation come April.
But with all of that promise, the team is still young and they didn’t exactly make a splash in the summer. Instead, the new management – and I’m very impressed with the management team that was put together – elected to make small, smart moves at bargain prices. They understand they are unable to put a Cup winner together for this year. It looks more like a three- to five-year plan. Two key acquisitions: Eric Fehr and Brett MacLean - both young players with a lot of upside.
Fehr, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, was buried in a deep Washington system. He was consistently seeing ice time in that 10- to 13-minute range yet still managed to score 21 goals in 2009-10. In Winnipeg, that ice time will increase and the goals will come. The problem with the 26-year-old is he gets hurt a lot. His back and shoulder will often cause him to miss at least 10 or 15 games per season.
MacLean, picked up this week off waivers from Phoenix, is one of the more underrated prospects. Critics point to his foot-speed as something holding him back from NHL stardom, but all I see is great hockey sense, phenomenal hands and consistent production. He should start on the third line with his new club so watch him work his way up the depth chart. And don’t completely rule him out of Calder consideration either.
No, the Jets aren’t a Cup contender. Not this year. And as a team, their plus/minus will kill you in a roto league. But there is a lot of great, young depth here to provide some hope.
Islanders prospect Kirill Kabanov has fallen into disfavour in a lot of keeper leagues thanks to the much-publicized reports of attitude problems, arriving late for practices, not to mention the decline in offense at the junior level last season. He is an excellent “buy low” target because the latest publicity he’s been getting is how his work ethic has improved and his overall attitude towards his hockey career has done a complete 180. He had a solid camp for the Isles and with another step forward in 2011-12, he could very well earn a spot next year. Nobody questions his skill level and upside.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.