What do the Jets new additions bring to the table (doppelganger edition)

Winnipeg Jets (Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)
Winnipeg Jets (Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports) /

The “Summer of Chevy” is upon us. The Winnipeg Jets added 8 players to their roster in the span of 48 hours. Gabe Vilardi, Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari, Colby Barlow, Zach Nehring, Jacob Julien, Thomas Milic, and Connor Levis – welcome to the Slurpee capital of North America.

Vaya con dios Pierre-Luc Dubois.  We wish you well in your future endeavors. As the venerable J. Peterman would put it, “thank you for a job….done”.

To start, kudos to Kevin Chevaldayoff for presiding over what seemed like an impossible undertaking – procuring good value for PLD despite a seemingly narrow market for his services. Getting Montreal’s second-round pick in addition to Valardi, Iafallo and Kupari for a player Montreal fans had been coveting for years – priceless.

For those that watch the NFL and NBA Rookie Drafts, the NHL version is their muted cousin. Absent are the outrageous sartorial choices, and the general ballyhoo surrounding the event. Outside a few mullets, and creative jacket linings – the NHL Draft is a relatively strait-laced event. The Jets used the 18th pick overall to select Colby Barlow, a sharp-shooting left-winger with a high hockey IQ and favorable leadership skills.

Between the draft and a quasi-blockbuster trade, there is a lot to unpack. Let’s take a closer look at three of the more high-profile trade and draft acquisitions of the last 48 hours: Vilardi, Iaffalo, and Barlow. If you’ve visited this space before, you might be familiar with the empirically vetted Winnipeg Jets doppelganger series. If not, Part I, Part II, and Part III are readily available. Each of these new additions has a celebrity counterpart, and each adds value to the Jets roster.

Colby Barlow

The Winnipeg Jets now have a ‘type’. With successive first picks in the draft, they’ve selected “gritty leaders”. McGroarty and Barlow share a two-way ability and a propensity for leadership.

Are the Jets’ choices a result of a protracted splintering of the locker room? Who knows, but circumstantially, it seems the Jets are focused on character as much as skill in the first round. By all accounts, Oliver Moore (selected 19th by the Blackhawks) represents a higher upside with his elite speed and burgeoning skill set. The Jets chose the weaker skater, but a kid who captained the Owen Sound Attack at the ripe age of 17.

The pick was lauded on the draft broadcast, and I concur that building a team with character, as opposed to a team with characters – is a good strategy. Barlow can score, and is sound defensively, but will need to work on his skating to reach his full potential. In all though, thanks in part to Arizona’s questionable selections (and attire), the Jets landed a good prospect.

Doppelganger: Barlow is a dead ringer for John Wick – complete with the waspy beard and flowing locks. Let’s hope he can shoot like Wick:

Gabe Vilardi

This sums it up nicely:

A two-way top 6 forward just coming into his own – does that sound familiar? It should be because that is exactly what the rented PLD was billed to be. Vilardi hasn’t been as prodigious on the offensive end, but unlike PLD, he plays actual defense. Questions abound for his future, including a nagging back problem, but he should fit in nicely with the Jets’ new-look top 6.

Keep in mind that Vilardi tore his ACL back in 2020 which hindered his development, and 2023 was the first year he flashed his 1st round potential. He’s not the play driver PLD is/was, but is a better finisher – something the Jets sorely lacked in the second half of last season.

Doppelganger: Young Vilardi looks like a young Jason Biggs. The resemblance is less relevant now, much like Jason Biggs’ career.

Alex Iaffalo

The Jets had space in the vacated heartthrob slot with Axel Jonsson-Fjällby hitting unrestricted free agency. Enter, Alex Iaffalo. Unlike AJF, Iaffalo is solid 3rd line forward with a proven defensive track record. His 14 goals last year would have made him the 6th highest Jet in that regard, and his GAR and WAR totals would have been 5th (Vilardi 4th) on the Jets.

Iafallo is signed through 2025 – so a long enough runaway to assess his fit in Winnipeg. The Jets have been starving for bottom 6 forward depth for years, and Iaffalo mitigates the hunger.

Doppelganger: Its not perfect, but if you squint, Iaffalo has traces of Aquaman – Jason Mamoa. Aquaman is a solid role player in the superhero universe, much like Iaffalo.

The PLD trade has reignited Jets fans, but more unknowns than certainties exist at this time. The Hellebuyck and Schefiele rumor trains have docked momentarily, questioning the validity of their imminent departure. New is not always improved, but the Jets have taken some positive steps for the future of the franchise.