“Guess who’s back? Back again?”
Cole Perfetti, as an embodiment of hope anyway. Given his popular association with “Mom’s spaghetti”, it seems fitting to announce the quasi-return of the burgeoning rookie via Eminem parlance.
Perfetti skated “officially” for the first time on Saturday since suffering an injury against the New Jersey Devils back on February 19. The Jets are 12-13-2 in his absence, and while linear causality can be rebuked – he was missed.
Perfetti wasn’t likely to win the Calder (regardless of injury), but he was having an impressive rookie season. Perfetti’s calling card is his vision, but as a relative neophyte, he has proven to have some defensive acumen:
Questions about his size, speed and durability persist – but he unquestionably belongs as a top 6 forward for the Winnipeg Jets.
Other than reassuming the role as Mark Scheifele’s BFF, Perfetti’s return signals an opportunity to reconfigure the Jets inconsistent forward lines. The first instinct is to return Perfetti with Scheifele and Wheeler, as they have played together more than any other Jets’ trio this year. If the insistence is that Wheeler remains in a top 6 role (another article altogether), then the 91-55-26 line makes the most sense:
Outside of the Jets’ coaching room, it is plainly evident that Nik Ehlers should garner first line minutes. The team would be unwise to break up the pairing of Connor and Dubois, so the revised lineup would look as follows:
Does this require Scheifele to once again shoulder the burden of “lesser” teammates? No doubt, but that line had a very solid 54% xG% in a large sample size. Namestnikov is the top 6 casualty, but despite playing solidly, he does not have the playmaking upside for the role – nor was he brought in to assume it.
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In Saturday’s game against the Predators, all three top lines were cooking, but one game does not constitute a large enough sample size to dissuade from the above configuration. All of this assumes that the Perfetti sighting wasn’t premature, and is predicated on his return to form in a timely fashion. It also assumes that the Jets are around long enough for him to resume play. Otherwise, this thought exercise is much like another Eminem line, “the clock’s run out, time’s up, over, blaow!”