Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.
After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.
Already a subscriber?
Already a subscriber?
Kristian Vesalainen and Brendan Lemieux will soar to St. Louis with the Winnipeg Jets this afternoon.
The two young forwards — one a Finnish-born 19-year-old and the other the offspring of one of the NHL’s all-time great agitators and playoff performers — cracked the 23-man roster to start the 2018-19 season.
Tucker Poolman and Logan Stanley are likely headed to Des Moines, Iowa, at the end of the week, instead. The two young defencemen were trimmed from the roster Tuesday and will begin the season patrolling the blue line for the Jets’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Manitoba Moose. The Moose open the AHL season Friday against the Wild.
NHL teams had until 4 p.m. Tuesday to get down to 23 players. There are four regular-season games slated for tonight, including a showcase matchup north of the border between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the visiting Montreal Canadiens.
Winnipeg begins the real campaign Thursday night in St. Louis against the Central Division-rival Blues. Game time is 7 p.m.
The Jets are down to 14 forwards, seven defencemen and a pair of goalies. Nic Petan will start the year as a non-roster player. He remains in the Vancouver area with family after the sudden death of his father last month.
Vesalainen, the Jets’ first-round pick in 2017, is expected to skate on a line with centre Jack Roslovic and left-winger Nikolaj Ehlers. Lemieux, a second-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 2014 and the son of ex-Canadiens star Claude Lemieux, will likely join Marko Dano as the team’s healthy scratches in St. Louis.
Stanley was assigned to the Moose Tuesday morning, while a decision on Poolman wasn’t announced until later.
Poolman played 24 games with the Jets in ’17-18, his rookie campaign, and was a regular in the press box along with Dano. He’ll get big minutes playing with the Moose, and is readily available should the Jets suffer injury troubles.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice said when it comes to whether a young player’s development is best served playing in the AHL or practising with his NHL teammates and observing game action, no general rule applies.
“Sometimes it depends on the player. I do think there are guys who have to be in a game and have to get minutes to improve and then there are guys that can watch and be around practice and get better there,” Maurice said.
“Picking out who those guys are isn’t always easy, but you know what, this is not a developmental league.
“The situation we were in (two seasons ago), we were absolutely in development mode. We were playing guys that probably, based on the quality of their play, would have played a few less minutes. But we knew that. But now, when you talk about this group, we’re going to try to win a bunch of hockey games this year and be as good as we can possibly be. We won’t be pushing kids into positions that they’re not ready for because we have enough people not to do it.”
Following Tuesday’s fast-paced skate, top-line centre Mark Scheifele said there’s a definite buzz within the organization that the authentic NHL season is close at hand.
“Yeah, we want to get the season going already. It’s been a good training and we’re excited we’re getting close now,” Scheifele said. “Obviously, it’s going to take time to grow and bring it all together.
But at the end of the day, I think we want to be consistent right off the bat.”
Winnipeg suffered a pair of lopsided losses to kick off the ’17-18 season but turned things around in a hurry, finishing second overall in the NHL (52-20-10) and winning a pair of playoff rounds.
Scheifele said maintaining a level vibe on the ice and in the locker room should serve the Jets well again.
“Obviously, we had a great season. The biggest thing we did well was we dealt with adversity,” he said.
“We started off pretty junkie and we battled back to finding our game quick, and not really riding that roller-coaster whether there were ups or downs. We tried to stay even keel and that’s what it takes in an 82-game season.”
Scheifele, who had 23 goals and 60 points in 60 games last year, plays up the middle on one of the league’s most potent trios, with Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor on the wings. None believes a major offensive outburst this winter will materialize without sustained effort.
“At the end of the day, talk is cheap. We have to go out there and continue to play the style we know how to play and do what it takes to help this team win,” he said. “We feel as a line if we put our best foot forward every night, it will help our team succeed, which, at the end of the day, will help us succeed individually.”
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).