Puck Drop Preview: 2022-23 Winnipeg Jets

2022-23 Winnipeg Jets

Last Word on Hockey’s Puck Drop Previews are back for the 2022-23 season! As the regular season approaches, Last Word will preview each team’s current outlook and stories to watch for the upcoming year. We’ll also do our best to project how things will go for each team over the course of the campaign. Today, we’re previewing the 2022-23 Winnipeg Jets.

2022-23 Winnipeg Jets

2021-22 Season

Note: All metrics provided are from Evolving-Hockey and All Three Zones

Winnipeg finished the 2021-22 season sixth in the Central Division with a record of 39-32-11 (89 points), missing the postseason by eight points. The Jets dealt with several instances of turbulence and instability throughout the season, both on and off the ice. Defensive issues plagued the team all year, with a coaching change proving to bring no relief to the lack of structure in the corps. Reports of dysfunctional leadership within the locker room reached the front stage of media attention by the season’s end and did not really get solved until recently.

Defensive Woes

The Jets were the sixth-worst defensive team in the NHL by expected goals against per 60, with 2.72. An especially poor mark for the Jets in this regard is the fact all but two defenders in the Jets team had an expected goals for percentage above 50%. The top forwards in time on ice for the Jets were near atrocious defensively (including Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler) in 21-22. Perhaps these were all byproducts of an infamously outdated and poorly structured defensive scheme devised by Paul Maurice, who had his scheme eventually picked up by Dave Lowry with similarly low success. Luckily, Winnipeg would later target a coach with more defensive structure to his name.

Mid-season Coaching Change

In December, Paul Maurice resigned as coach of the Winnipeg Jets. At just 31 points in the 28 games up to that point, the issues plaguing the Jets became all too much for Maurice, whose decision to resign on the basis of losing rapport with the players is one admittedly admirable.

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Dave Lowry was hired within the team as interim head coach. This put him in a unique spot as the father of current Jets centre Adam Lowry. Unfortunately for Lowry and the Jets, poor play continued at times. This resulted in the interim tag being removed – alongside Lowry in the role.

2022 Offseason

Off-season Coaching Change

Rick Bowness was hired as the Jets head coach at the start of July. A notably stingy coach that heralds defensive structure (but is not unwilling to play players to their strengths). Bowness brings hope to Jets management and fans alike that the defence of the team can make massive strides. This will hopefully ring true in the team’s top forwards. Depth performers may even be able to get more from the coaching of Bowness. Another aspect of Bowness that has taken effect now is within the locker room. Taking into account the continual reports of locker room issues, Bowness elected to strip Blake Wheeler of captaincy. He has waited to announce any captain for the team in hopes to rebuild the team culture.

Off-season Transactions

Winnipeg was rather quiet in acquiring significant players and did not lose many in total. The Jets added several minor league players, with their largest acquisition coming in the Sept. 2nd signing of Sam Gagner. He’s an aging, once solid middle-six offensive talent whose play has diminished to low levels. Re-signed players include new deals to Mason Appleton, a one-year bridge with Pierre-Luc Dubois, and David Gustafsson. Some of Winnipeg’s departures include Eric Comrie, that’s been backup to Connor Hellebuyck. Adam Brooks and Zach Sanford both left on small deals shortly after the beginning of free agency. The Jets’ largest departure came in Paul Stastny, who left on a one-year deal for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Lineup Projections


Kyle Connor-Mark Scheifele-Nikolaj Ehlers

Cole Perfetti-Pierre-Luc Dubois-Blake Wheeler

Morgan Barron-Adam Lowry-Mason Appleton

Dominic Toninato-David Gustafsson-Sam Gagner

Top Six

Winnipeg possesses an electric, pure play-driving top line in Connor, Scheifele, and Ehlers. They are all some of the best players off the rush in the league, with several modes of offensive attack they display on the rush. However, a major issue that massively plagued this line last season (and for Connor and Scheifele, has become a consistent issue) is their defensive play. While some speculation on how much this issue could be attributed to the poor defensive structures of Paul Maurice and Dave Lowry, the degree of these issues, alongside poor DZ retrieval metrics (as few as negative two standard deviations in categories such as Successful Retrieval %) may indicate individual deficiencies. The arrival of Bowness and his exceeding defensive structures may be a defensive relief. However, it may be at the cost to the fast style of play the three are known for.

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The Jets’ second line appears exciting, but comes with some uncertainties. Perfetti brings exciting prospects to the Jets’ top six with his versatile and high-end offensive abilities approaching his likely first full season in the NHL. Dubois is a solid second-line pivot who possesses excellent offensive abilities off the rush and in-zone. For the Jets, the uncertainties lie within the aging Wheeler. As he ages, his play continues to decline. He’s has not touched the form he once possessed in the late 2010s. His career continues to slowly, painfully decay. Winnipeg’s theme of poor defence applies to this line as well, with all players tagged with defensive issues of varying strengths. Overall, the top six brings an exciting offensive punch to the table, with defence a question that may just very well fade under Bowness.

Bottom Six

The bottom six appear to be rather barren within the projected lineup. A below-average defensive third centre in Lowry and a relatively unknown Gustavsson at the fourth-line spot are worries for the Jets. On the wings, Winnipeg appears especially weak, with the best winger in this half of the forward group Appleton. His impact resembles that of a player typically assigned fourth-line minutes. He’s physical player with a menacing forechecking ability and net-front ability as their best qualities. Despite the fact the variable of coaching may be relevant to this discussion, there is very little to like with the bottom six in Winnipeg. Whether by blandness or lack of NHL play, the Jets’ bottom six offers little to the table by paper.  


Josh MorrisseyDylan DeMelo

Brenden DillonNeal Pionk

Ville HeinolaNate Schmidt

Top Four

The top four in Winnipeg contain some holes but hold elements of promise as well. Morrissey bounced back in big fashion last season, with his best form since the 2018-19 season. He and DeMelo were both solid last season. Each held defensive results that would be considered quite the fresh breath of air compared to the team (only defenders with xGF% above 50% on the team). The defensive masterclass of DeMelo allowed Morrissey to involve himself in attacking play effectively last season. This perhaps becoming the reason for the re-emergence of Morrissey. 

Dillion and Pionk each hold the second spot in the defensive depth chart. Pionk possesses strong D-zone puck-moving abilities. However, he seemed to struggle in O-zone play otherwise last season (a trend not prevalent in some of his previous seasons). Dillion has exited the prime of his career. Bowness’ system may allow him to better achieve defensive results (especially if he is given reduced minutes). However, a decline may be unavoidable for him.  

Bottom Pair

Winnipeg’s bottom pair features two relatively offensive-minded defenders in Heinola and Schmidt. Heionla can create chances from the point with excellent skating, while Schmidt is a defender often involved in rush play. Both contained very mixed results for the Jets. Neither defender was significantly poor in either zone. However, they did not generate or suffocate to any noteworthy degree. Again, the arrival of Bowness may always change how these two achieve results on the team. However, given they play fewer minutes and are not shoved into unnecessary defensive situations often, should see some improvement. Offensive results will always be tricky as long as the forwards they share the most amount of minutes with fail to generate offence at any sustainable level.


Connor Hellebuyck

David Rittich

If there is one thing the Jets can count on year in and year out, it’s consistently stellar performances from Hellebuyck. He has finished in the top 10 in goals saved above expected in each of the last seasons, including a first-place finish in the metric in 2019-20. Given the lack of defensive structure, Hellebuyck has had in front of him during this span (including facing the most shots in the entire league). His stellar play in goal is truly remarkable.

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His calm, efficient game has allowed him to sustain marks that most goaltenders in the NHL have and will not ever be able to (considering the difficulty and high variability of the position in general). Backing him up is Rittich, an ambiguous goaltender with persistent struggles throughout the same stretch of seasons.

Players to Watch

Nikolaj Ehlers

Every time Ehlers steps on the ice for the Jets, it is a treat to watch. The Dane is truly one of the NHL’s premiere offensive talents. He is an incredible skater, with tremendous speed and incredible lateral movement. He is one of the best in performing the art of zone entry deception, with several different ways to create space and move pucks to high-danger areas. Despite last year being considered a down year, Ehlers still potted 55 points in 62 games, with absurd zone entry and passing metrics (one plus standard deviations in nine categories, and two plus in six). At the age of 26, we are still (and will be) watching the best we’ll likely see in the career of Ehlers.  

Cole Perfetti

Perfetti enters his first full NHL season as a fun prospect who could at times captivate fans with his high-end offensive talents. He displays great offensive intelligence in his passing alongside providing for another transition demon within Winnipeg with his speed. In 2021-22, Perfetti had 15 points in 17 games in the AHL last season and seven in 18 in the NHL last season. Injuries prevented him from achieving a larger sample size last season, unfortunately. Perfetti is an X-factor of sorts. His play could become a massive, new source of offensive production that could propel the high end of the Jets’ offence as players such as Wheeler decline in their twilight years.  

Prediction for 2022-23 Winnipeg Jets

For Winnipeg, some things appear as quite the promise. New coach, new culture, same goaltender, etc. Unfortunately, these promises are most likely not going to be enough by the season’s end. The 2022-23 Winnipeg Jets will most likely finish outside of a postseason spot for the second straight season. They can land somewhere between fifth and sixth in the division. The Central features some of the league’s best, including the defending cup champs Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, etc. Concerns with teams like Nashville, Dallas, and even St. Louis definitely exist. However, not to the degree like Winnipeg. The Jets lack sufficient depth in the forward group and do not currently possess a true number one (at least first-pairing) defender. The Jets can expect to be competitive, but just short of the postseason.

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