There is hockey today, on this blessed date of October 12, 2016. Seriously. And it actually counts for the season standings! Unfortunately, Winnipeg is not one of those teams vying for meaningful points this evening. That said, we get to enjoy the spoils of the youngest, deepest LW unit tomorrow night against the Carolina Hurricanes. I guess the best things come to those who wait.
The Carolina Hurricanes
The Canes are the slumbering beast of the Metro division. While their record does not show a winning roster, Carolina has the puck-possessing war-machine that is primed to thrive in the new era of the NHL. The off-season saw a number of significant additions to the goal-deprived line-up, including Teuvo Teravainen, Lee Stempniak (winces internally), and Martin Frk. Sebastian Aho should also be primed for an NHL debut soon, which is welcome news for those who adore the Finnish phenom.
This Carolina squad has quietly had one of the better off-seasons of any team in the NHL. The Cam Ward extension was a swing and a miss, but all of the other roster acquisitions should help the upstart Canes to potentially compete for a wild card spot. While it’s too early for Carolina to make a serious playoff push, this is a team that has the ingredients for a successful showcase season.
Tomorrow night’s line-up will include such mainstays as Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner. These guys have been among Carolina’s most productive players and are consistently under-appreciated by NHL fans. Victor Rask has also made the opening night roster. He’s a personal favorite of mine, and I love the positive impact he brings to puck possession.
On defense, the only new name is Roland McKeown. Can’t say I’m familiar with him at all. Jakub Nakladal is not currently with the team due to some visa issues, but should be rejoining the squad soon enough. For a bargain-bin contract at $600K, Nakladal is the perfect RHD for the Canes to add defensive depth.
The Winnipeg Jets
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions for Jets fans. The peaks and valleys of being a Winnipeg fan are numerous, but we’ve reached yet another peak. Hellebuyck and Hutchinson will likely compose a 1A/1B starting tandem, which gives the Jets a much better chance at long-term success. The stacked LW corps also gives Winnipeg some serious offensive punch.
The youthful additions of Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor should provide needed goal-scoring depth, but I wouldn’t expect rapid early returns. The Jets are still growing despite the bevy of talented veterans. Thursday’s game should be a good indicator of how the offense is developing. The pre-season showing was not encouraging, but struggles were anticipated. Let’s hope the forwards have sorted some of the defensive zone issues out.
On the blueline, the noted absence of Jacob Trouba still lingers. The longer he goes without a contract, the lower Winnipeg’s chances of a wild card spot become. I don’t mean to over-emphasize the importance of one player, but Trouba’s impact on the Jets defense is tremendous. We need him, and frankly, he needs us.
I’m not expecting too much from Laine or Connor. The Canes are a very good team, and both players are still adapting to playing in the pro leagues. That said, I feel fairly confident in a Jets win.
Score Prediction: 4-2 Jets
Scheifele, Ehlers, Little, and Burmistrov connect for the Jets. Staal and Rask score for Carolina. Hellebuyck makes 26 stops on the night.