The Winnipeg Jets close the books on October with a solid 4-3-2 record and a .556 points percentage, while sitting 3rd place in the Central Division.
Nashville does play tonight, and in theory could take the third spot from Winnipeg if they beat the Canucks in regulation.
But that is a minor detail when all is said and done.
The Jets have generally played well, as their record suggests. And while their special teams are a massive concern, as we detail here, the Jets also have plenty of reason for optimism.
Here are the three most encouraging things so far.
Oh, and since it’s Halloween, I guess I’m supposed to do something gimmicky and spooky here.
Cole Perfetti and Rasmus Kupari give plenty of reason for future optimism
Cole Perfetti entered this season with a reasonable amount of fanfare and optimism. He had an unspectacular, yet solid rookie season last year, playing to a 48 point pace before his season was cut short, limiting him to 51 games.
And despite his role as the second line center ending after just two games, he’s been a staple in the top six, playing left wing alongside Vlad Namestnikov and Nik Ehlers for most of the season.
He’s been good for one or two real dangerous, heady passes per game, and his strengths are on display every game. For a 21 year old forward with less than 100 NHL games to his name, that is a good sign.
So was this wonderful display of puck protection, balance, and vision.
(And clearly Jets twitter has me covered for corny Halloween puns here.)
He’s still leaving himself a bit vulnerable to painful body contact, but he should do better with that over time.
Jets fans should be optimistic about his start to the season, and hopefully he can earn more ice time soon. It was also nice to see him on the first power play against the Rangers last night, too. Unimpressive skaters with great vision and hands like Perfetti should especially thrive on the power play. It’s important he gets those opportunities
When it comes to Kupari, he’s been showing why he was at least worthy of being a first round pick back in 2018. It’s all about the toolkit.
He’s six foot two, skates like the wind, has good hands, and a seemingly indominable engine that doesn’t stop. Kupari has been less impactful of late than early on, but he’s provided plenty of energy in each game.
As the season goes on, he’ll be a candidate too to play up the lineup as injuries and inconsistencies inevitably hit the team.
I like him as a future middle six forward. He’s also been getting 1:46 of penalty kill time per game, which is good to see. A second power play and penalty kill guy that can play on your second and third line is a valuable player for the Jets to be developing.
I hope they continue to find ways to put him on the ice.
Compete, hard work, discipline, battle, and team buy in
This section will have no stats, but will rather be about how it’s felt watching the Jets this year.
And other than one stinker against the Los Angeles Kings, this team has played hard, played well, and generally been consistent and fun to watch.
That’s what was so inspiring about last year’s Jets early on. They won pucks on the forecheck. They were a constant wave of harassment for the opposition. And they inspired confidence and belief as a fan watching.
This year has that team, but because their forward group is so much deeper, it’s all the more challenging for the opposition.
This team has likely downgraded in its firepower, but has improved as an overall team. They’re rolling four, good lines, each with their own identity.
It’s just fun to watch a team that battles every night. And, even more important, the Jets seem capable this year of sticking to an identity, a plan, and a playing style regardless of the score. In the past, we’ve seen Winnipeg’s top players try and force their way to offensive chances, giving up risky, profusely frustrating counter attacks
This team hasn’t been prone to that too much, so far.
And last night’s relative snooze fest against the Rangers was a testament to that.
This team grinds, they battle, and with a Hellebuyckian-sized brick wall guarding the twine, it gives the Jets a chance to win each night.
The Jets’ defence core might actually be good; 2022-23 Morrissey is real
The main concern for the Jets coming into the season was their defence group. Winnipeg’s forward group is significantly deeper than last year, as Axel Jonsson-Fjallby’s demotion to the AHL suggests, after playing 50 games for the team last season.
Connor Hellebuyck in net needs no explanation.
But two thirds of the Jets’ D pairings are playing really well – the top and bottom pairs.
It all starts at the top, where Josh Morrissey has continued right where he left off from last season’s explosive, Norris-vote receiving year. He’s 28 years old, right when defensemen are often at their all-around peak, and he is most certainly playing that way.
Without that development, the Jets’ blue line would be a train wreck.
Dylan DeMelo continues to do his best as a top pair defenseman – something he is not – but his handedness and play style complement Morrissey very well. He can make savvy plays on the breakout, and keeps it simple in all three zones.
The second pair is the concern, as noted here.
While Dylan Samberg wasn’t quite deemed ready for a top four assignment according to the Jets coaching staff, he continues to crush third pairing minutes alongside Nate Schmidt. Samberg’s SAT Close% is 64.3, while Schmidt’s is 61.7.
It’s encouraging stuff, and in combination with the fact that they often play with the Jets’ 2nd and 4th line, it means that the Jets are winning those sheltered minutes and matchups.
Two thirds of the Jets defence pairings are playing very well, and the Jets could be a meaningful trade deadline move away from icing a pretty good group on the back end.
Which is something that was far from a given when the season started.
Bonus: The best third line the Jets have had in years
I couldn’t hit ‘publish’ without mentioning Adam Lowry and his role on a destructive third line.
Lowry, Mason Appleton, and Nino Niederreiter have been critical to the Jets success of late, especially with the top line slowing down after their hot start.
Appleton has bounced back nicely after a very questionable 2022-23 season, and Niederreiter complements those two well with his size, cycling ability, nose for the net, and lethal shot.
A staple of the early Jets iterations was a strong third line. The Jets haven’t had that since Andrew Copp left, and given that there’s no sign of a truly elite forward on their way to Winnipeg, having a great third line is a necessity to help the Jets keep the puck and maintain momentum.
The third line does that, and they generally do it pretty well.