Winnipeg Jets week ahead: Final cuts and tough D decisions

Feb 11, 2023; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks center Philipp Kurashev (23) checks Winnipeg Jets defenseman Logan Stanley (64) in the first period at Canada Life Centre. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 11, 2023; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks center Philipp Kurashev (23) checks Winnipeg Jets defenseman Logan Stanley (64) in the first period at Canada Life Centre. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports /

The final week of preseason and training camp is upon us, and with it, comes the anticipation of final cuts and a look at the roster the Winnipeg Jets will start the season with.

Here’s a look at today’s news and the week ahead.

Winnipeg will play their final two preseason games

The Jets will suit up against the Flames tonight for their 2nd last preseason game, while closing in on making tough decisions regarding their defense core.

Declan Chisholm is injured, making it somewhat simpler, but Ville Heinola, Logan Stanley, and Kyle Capobionco all remain with the team. From what I’ve seen so far, I’d give the edge to Heinola, but his wavier exemption could work against him. I doubt the Jets want to lose Stanley, a former first round pick, for nothing.

The Jets also have a flu bug going around, causing some players to miss the game tonight. Mark Scheifele, Morgan Barron, and Nikolaj Ehlers were all players Rick Bowness noted had the bug and won’t play tonight. They’ve brought an extra forward and defenseman to Calgary just in case.

Brad Lambert and Dominic Toninato were also recalled for the game.

The puck will drop tonight at 8:00 p.m. CDT.

On Thursday, the Jets will wrap the preseason up with a game at home against the Ottawa Senators at 7:00 p.m. CDT.

Bowness noted that “it doesn’t look like Nik (Ehlers) will play on Thursday”, meaning he may enter the regular season with zero preseason games played. That is not great news for the Jets, as they would have loved to get Ehlers some reps alongside Cole Perfetti in game situations.

However, when it comes to Perfetti, Bowness did say he would get to play in both games, meaning his is ready to go after being injured earlier in the preseason.

“Tonight in Calgary will be the true test, and this is what we want,” Bowness said. “We want him against really good NHL lineups and he’s going to get it tonight, and he’ll get it again on Thursday.”

Jansen Harkins claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh Penguins

I’ve long been a fan of Jansen Harkins, remembering him when he was around 22 years old and just making the Jets roster. There was one game where he was promoted to the 2nd line alongside Blake Wheeler, had a great few shifts, and eventually scored.

From there, I thought maybe he might have decent middle six potential. He has a pretty good shot.

But I haven’t quite seen that version of him since, and he is a player who seems to live on the extremes. He’s either really good, given his skillset, or totally unnoticeable. Some consistency would go a long way for him.

Regardless, I’m happy to see him get a chance in Pittsburgh on a team with much less depth. Maybe he can help out Jeff Carter on the third line a little.

That being said, the Penguins still have 20 forwards at camp, and he’ll have to survive at least seven more cuts to make the squad.

Winnipeg Jets send Chaz Lucius and Colby Barlow down

The Jets sent two first round picks packing today, with Chaz Lucius heading to Manitoba, while Colby Barlow will report back to the Owen Sound Attack.

It’s a shame that Barlow never got his feet under him in September, battling what seemed to be a sickness throughout. He was decent at the YoungStars tournament, and I was hoping to get to see him in action against some NHL rosters.

Chaz Lucius, meanwhile, has an important year ahead of him. He’s had trouble staying healthy, and plays the type of game that you only notice when he has the puck. He isn’t super noticeable otherwise.

That being said, when he has the puck, there is clearly skill there. He is crafty around the goal mouth and can handle the puck in ways that others can’t.

After playing just 18 games last year (25 if you include the World Juniors), a healthy Lucius would go a long way. He needs to show he can produce offense at the AHL level, after scoring 5 points in 12 games last year. I’ll be monitoring him closely.

Jets offence ranked 6th best in Canada by Sportsnet

Sportsnet’s Sonny Sachdeva put out an article ranking Canada’s best forward corps, and the Jets ranked 6th out of 7.

I’ll agree with the fact that Edmonton, Toronto, and Ottawa (his top three) are certainly a tier ahead of Winnipeg. Montreal is clearly last. That leaves Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg battling for the best of the middle tier, where he had Vancouver at four, Calgary at five, and Winnipeg sixth.

I agree with Vancouver at 4. But I’d take the Jets group over the Flames. Calgary has a clear advantage at center, where Elias Lindholm trumps Scheifele and, at least for now, Nazem Kadri trumps Cole Perfetti. And though Lowry is an excellent third line center, Mikael Backlund is better. It could be those facts alone that would push many people to rank the Flames ahead of Winnipeg.

But I’ll take Kyle Connor over Jonathan Huberdeau, Nik Ehlers over Andrew Mangiapane, and Gabe Vilardi over Blake Coleman. The Flames do have some interesting younger players like rookies Jakob Pelletier and Matthew Coronato, but I like the overall depth of the Jets group compared to the Flames.

It’s close, but the Jets would get the edge for me.