Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Winnipeg Jets
For the last 16 years (12 with The Hockey News) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
The 17th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Impact of changes – Off the ice, the moves freed up enough cap space to sign and keep the team’s young star players for years to come. Actually moving forward and doing that is another article (Winnipeg has yet to sign either of Patrik Laine or Kyle Connor). On the ice, the team sees a considerable downgrade. Add in the fact that neither Laine nor Connor are in camp, and Dustin Byfuglien is in limbo (he is rumored to be mulling retirement!), and this team actually has eight key players to replace rather than five.
A year ago we were mulling over how the PP time would divvy up between Big Buff, Trouba and Josh Morrissey, as well as if there would be anything left over for Sami Niku. Today there’s plenty of ice time to go around and in fact, if Byfuglien elects not to return, you could see a pretty huge season from Mr. Morrissey. As for the forwards, this could go one of two ways. While I see the Jets signing Connor, I am on the fence now about Laine. Winnipeg has enough depth to compensate for the loss of forwards, so this will be an opportunity for the likes of Mason Appleton and Jack Roslovic to finally see decent ice time.
Ready for full-time – Appleton has nothing left to prove in the AHL, with 98 points in 116 games there. And he was fitting in nicely at the NHL level until the Jets went and, really unnecessarily I might add, acquired Kevin Hayes at the deadline. He should make the team out of camp and could get some top nine ice time early if the RFA players don’t sign quickly. He does have underrated upside and is one to watch for a quick waiver-wire snag. Read more on Appleton here.
Niku could quickly move onto the second defense pairing if Byfuglien decides to retire. And he will almost certainly double the PP time he was going to get. Suddenly he’s quite draftable, likely approaching close to 30 points this season (again –if Big Buff sits) with upside for even more. You can read our scouting report on Niku here.
Winnipeg’s top fantasy prospect is Kristian Vesalainen. He has tremendous upside and is likely in need of at least a partial season in the AHL. The summer moves could expedite things however and he may make the team right out of camp in a limited role to start. As a fantasy owner, my preference is for him to dominate the AHL for a couple of months and then glide into the NHL with some confidence and momentum, but circumstances may not allow for that.
Eric Comrie has to clear waivers in order to be sent down. He won’t. So the Jets have a problem on their hands in the form of a three-headed goalie monster. And with Tristan Jarry (Pittsburgh) in the same boat, it will be a buyer’s market out there in terms of trading a young quality prospect or backup to a team in need. Comrie has the potential to be a starter, but it won’t happen this season. Wherever he lands.
Andrei Chibisov is a hulking 6-4, 226- pound forward from the KHL. Never drafted, the 26-year-old doesn’t have a lot of upside offensively, but he could be waiver fodder in leagues with Hits and PIM.
Left wing Joona Luoto is a 21-year-old (turns 22 next week) undrafted Finn. He is a solid checking-line player who can also get under the other team’s skin. That will be his ticket to a fourth-line job if he can win one, but he likely destined for the AHL to start. Read more on Luoto here.
Tucker Poolman was a college star who posted big numbers for North Dakota. Once he turned pro, however, he seemed to be cursed. It’s been injury after injury. The Jets hope it’s behind him, especially with the questions surrounding Byfuglien.
Winnipeg Jets prospect depth chart and fantasy upsides can be found here (not yet ready for mobile viewing, desktop only right now)
Fantasy Outlook – Winnipeg finished last season seventh in goals scored and I have them projected to reach fifth this year. But that is with Laine and Connor on the team. And while today I am fairly confident in a deal getting done with the latter, I am not so certain about the former. With a full lineup, the Jets are a young and still-improving team. Blake Wheeler is not going to get any better, but he’s still a top player in the league. Mark Scheifele, Connor, Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Jack Roslovic and even Appleton have another gear or two yet. And on defense we haven’t even scratched the surface on what Josh Morrissey can do. But here we are in late (ish) September and we do not know the status of three very important players. This could be a ‘C’ team if all three players sit out. Or worse. For the purpose of the grading I will assume that Laine and Connor each settle up in time to play at least 75 games, and that Byfuglien settles his personal issue and gets back before November. In net, things are great. Many fantasy owners doubt Connor Hellebuyck, but I believe last year was just an off-season. He had a very strong finish with nine quality starts out of 14. His two backups are both solid. If Vesalainen and Niku both make the team then the prospect pipeline is suddenly surprisingly weak.
Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was A+)
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2019 Offseason Fantasy Outlooks, with their Fantasy Grade (not a measurement or projection of on-ice success, but rather an overall organizational ranking from a fantasy hockey standpoint). I shuffled these in the order of how happy “I” would be if my keeper league player was to be traded to this team:
Tampa Bay A+
New Jersey B+
San Jose B
Los Angeles C+
NY Islanders D+