This will be one of the most fun series in the play in round. Both Winnipeg and Calgary have a great dose of skill and size. While Winnipeg may have the deeper and more deadly forward corps, Calgary has the defense corps to do everything they need to do to stop them. This is going to be a series where the other team comes out battle tested and ready to take on whoever they may face in the next round. Let’s jump in.
This is a one series where elite forwards will be on display throughout both lineups. Both the Jets and the Flames have formidable top six forward groups. They each possess forwards that are just oozing with skill and formidable puck skills. This is going to be a fun battle to watch as these two groups go at it. Let’s begin with the Winnipeg Jets who posses one of the scariest forward corps in the entire league. It all start with their captain, Blake Wheeler. He is a strong leader who leads with example and has turned himself into one of the league’s best power forwards over the course of his career (The Bruins just seems to love giving up on forwards with potential huh? *coughblakewheelerandtylerseguincough*). Wheeler has topped 90 points twice and has over 700 points in 931 NHL games. Not to be forgotten is number one center, Mark Schiefele. Schiefele has turned himself into one of the most elite centers in the NHL. He has eclipsed 80 points twice in his career and has 444 points in 519 games. He has the size and skill to compete with any center in the league. Scheifele has five straight 23+ goal season, eclipsing the 30 goal mark twice.
Following them are three sharpshooters in Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers.
All three know how to score and can score from just about anywhere. Connor, Laine and Ehlers are all homegrown Jets players and are living proof of how well the Jets have drafted over the past decade. Laine, the 2nd overall pick in 2016, exploded onto the scene during his rookie season with 36 goals and already has three 30+ goal seasons under his belt. He was almost assured of a fourth but he had 28 goals at the season stoppage. Laine will be counted on to bring the offense. Kyle Connor had a formidable college career and has gotten better each and every year for the Jets. He currently has three straight 30+ goal seasons. Nikolaj Ehlers, while the most inconsistent of the bunch, has four straight 20+ goal seasons and is a guy who can be counted on for offense as well. Throw in Cody Eakin, Mathieu Perrault, Jack Roslovic, Andrew Copp and a few more glue guys and you can see why the Jets have such a formidable forward corps.
As for the Calgary Flames, they have a great top six as well but the depth is where I believe the Jets have the advantage over them. Their top line with Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm carries them but of course, Matthew Tkachuk is nothing to laugh at either. Monahan, drafted sixth overall in 2013, has six straight 20+ goal seasons eclipsing the 30 goal plateau three times. He has 411 points in 541 games. Gaudreau, also known to hockey fans as Johnny Hockey, had the best season of his career in 2018-19 when he put up 99 points. He has eclipsed the 30 goal plateau twice and has 445 points in 464 career games. What he lacks in height and weight he more than makes up for in skill and the chemistry he has with Monahan is undeniable. Lindholm has been a revelation after coming over from the Carolina Hurricanes, along with Noah Hanifin, in a trade prior to the 2018 season. After all his season of being a 40 point player, he became a 70 point guy playing next to Monahan and Gaudreau and nearly hit 60 this year. He has become a completely different player since the trade and now has 132 points in 151 games for the Flames. Matthew Tkachuk is one of the most hard nosed players in the league today and he backs up all his trash talk with a great amount of skill and scoring prowess. Tkachuk made the Flames roster right out of the gate and has three straight 20+ goal seasons, ecliping 30 goals once. His feud with Drew Doughty of the LA Kings is wildly well known. These four form the foundation of the Flames attack but beyond them, the Flames lack the depth to compete with the Jets in terms of forward depth.
This is where the Calgary Flames have the big advantage on the Winnipeg Jets. After the departures of Jacob Trouba (traded to the New York Rangers), Dustin Byfuglien (contract termination) and Tyler Myers (signed with the Vancouver Canucks), their defense corps was depleted this season. They did get good seasons out of who they did have, including the surprising Neal Pionk who put together a nice campaign with 45 points in 71 games but the Flames just have them beat in terms of experience and skill on the backend. Josh Morrissey and Dmitry Kulikov lead the Jets defense at the moment and I don’t see that being enough, along with their lack of depth to give them the edge here over the Flames.
The Flames on the other hand have a fairly good defence corps with Norris trophy winner Mark Giordano leading the way. Giordano had 74 points in 78 games last season and followed it up with 31 in 60 this year. Obviously not as good but he still has a great offensive skill set to work with. Giordano has 483 points in 893 games. Following him are T.J. Brodie and Noah Hanifin who can provide the Flames with solid defense and budding young defenseman Rasmus Andersson. Erik Gustaffson and Derek Forbort are also good in their own end. The edge here is quite simple.
Gonna make this real simple here and this might be the shortest category I write for any of these matchup previews: Connor Hellebuyck has turned himself into one of the goaltenders in the entire National Hockey League and this season, many thought he could even be in the Hart Trophy conversation. He won 31 games and had a .922 save percentage. Cam Talbot and David Rittich are both more than capable goaltenders but Hellebuyck, along with fellow US countrymen John Gibson, are going to competing for the starting job at the Olympics in a few years.
Series Prediction: Jets in Four