In this post, I’m going to share that four of the Winnipeg Jets young prospects are staying home – but that’s all good because they can play. Given the wacky NHL season, the only chance to find playing time is NOT to come to Winnipeg or North America.
More about that later, however …
Congratulations to Connor Hellebuyck on the Vezina
When writing about the Winnipeg Jets today, it would be remiss not to congratulate the Jets great goalie Connor Hellebuyck for being named the best goalie in the NHL and the winner of the Vezina Trophy. As fans know, the Vezina is awarded annually to the goalie voted to be the best at his position. This season there’s no argument: that would be Hellebuyck.
Hellebuyck’s 2019-2o season was remarkable. There was no doubt that he was the team’s MVP and probably the biggest reason the Jets even made the playoffs. The Jets as a team had the worst luck ever with its defense – except for the team’s last line of defense, the goalie.
To tell how important Hellebuyck was to the team, he played the most games in goal – both Hellebuyck and Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price played 58 NHL games. Hellebuyck was second in the NHL in goalie wins with 31; with only Andrei Vasilevskiy having more with 35. Hellebuyck also had a league-leading six shutouts and he was first in the NHL in saves with 1,656.
To win the award, he beat out the other two finalists – the Boston Bruins’ Tuukka Rask and Tampa Bay Lightning’s Vasilevskiy.
A New Way to Increase Jets Player Development in the Age of COVID-19
In this post, I’m sharing how teams currently are working with their prospects with now only two NHL teams still finishing the Stanley Cup Final. Those teams out of the mix – such as the Jets – are seeking other options that would allow their younger players to continue their development other places of the globe where professional hockey is still being played.
Specifically, with European leagues well underway before the AHL or NHL seasons (and no one really knows when these will start), the Jets are loaning their prospects to European leagues until they can resume play in North America. For some of these youngsters, they are simply staying close to home and taking advantage of the opportunities presented there.
List of Winnipeg Jets Prospects On Loan to Other Clubs
Player #1: Leon Gawanke
The Jets loaned Leon Gawanke to Berlin of Germany’s Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL). Gawanke is a 21-year-old German-born defenseman who was chosen by the Jets during the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He played three seasons with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and showed a nice offensive touch there. During his last season there (2018-19) he scored 17 goals and 40 assists (57 points) in 62 games.
During 2019-20, he played with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose and scored four goals and 26 points in 48 games. Similar to other young players on loan, should the 2020-21 North American season start, Gawanke will return to play here. Given the Jets current situation on defense, Gawanke has an outside chance of making a case that he should become a member of the Jets 23-man roster.
Player #2: Mikhail Berdin
The 22-year-old Russian-born goalie Mikhail Berdin will stay home to begin the 2020-21 season being loaned to SKA St. Petersburg. Berdin was chosen by the Jets during the sixth round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He’s played a couple of seasons now with the AHL’s Moose and last season had a record of 20-21-1 playing in 42 games. His goals-against-average was 2.89 and his save percentage was 0.910.
Like Gawanke, there’s also a possibility that Berdin could be a part of the Jets roster should the organization decide not to bring back Laurent Brossoit who’s entering free agency. If Brossoit isn’t on the roster, it might be a toss up between Berdin and Eric Comrie for the backup job behind Trophy winning Hellebuyck.
Player #3: David Gustafsson
David Gustafsson will be loaned to Swedish team Tingsryds AIF for the start of the 2020-21 season. It will be a good opportunity for the Jets young center to gain some development at home. Gustafsson was a second-round choice of the Jets in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Last season, Gustafsson split time between the Jets and the Moose. He played in 22 games (but just over six minutes of TOI each game) for the Jets and scored a goal. There’s talk that the 20-year-old center might be a candidate to have a regular roster spot with the Jets this coming season. There are high hopes for him.
Player #4: Ville Heinola
This 19-year-old defenseman is a young player to watch. Heinola will also start the 2020-21 season at home in Finland with Lukko where’s he’s on loan. Heinola logged a ton of air miles during the 2019-2o season. He skated in 29 games with Lukko last year (and scored seven assists). The young left-shot defenseman also played three games with the Moose.
However, Heinola also played eight games with the Jets in October, where he scored a goal and added four assists. During those games, he averaged a whopping 18:04 of TOI. Once the 2020-21 season begins, Heinola should almost be a cinch to garner a spot on the 23-man Jets roster.
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