Jets All Out Top 25: Top 12

With the impeding start to the 2013 NHL season this afternoon at MTS Centre, here are (finally) the top 12 players as rated by Jets All Out.


#12: Mark Stuart

Last Year's Ranking: 15

This Year's Ranking: 12

Difference: +3

Mark Stuart became a solid part of the Winnipeg Jets blueline last season as well as a fan favourite.

The rough and tumble part of the Jets blueline corps was a shot blocking, hard hitting machine as he finished with 198 hits last season – tied with Brent Seabrook for 28th in the league and second on the Jets behind since departed Tanner Glass.

Stuart's 182 blocked shots was ranked ninth in the league – ahead of the likes of Hal Gill and Barrett Jackman – giving the Jets number five a more defined role as a part of the Jets top four.

The former 21st overall pick by the Boston Bruins has blossomed into a defensive defenseman and one that the Jets dearly need in the lineup night after night.

Though Stuart only missed two games in 2011-12, the team could feel his absence in the shot blocking and defensive zone play.

Stuart's play from his first season in Winnipeg has given a much deserved rise in his stock to the 12th position in the top 25.


#11: Alexander Burmistrov

Last Year's Ranking: 13

This Year's Ranking: 11

Difference: +2

Alexander Burmistrov made himself a fan favourite as well with his flashy style of play and his work ethic.

Despite having only modest improvement in his offensive numbers – up eight points from his rookie season in Atlanta - Burmistrov's biggest improvement was in his defensive play.

His numbers went from -4 in Atlanta to a +12 in Winnipeg as his defensive play improved under Claude Noel. 

His 13 goals was a career high and the ceiling is only to continue to get higher and higher.

Look for him to improve playing alongside European veterans like Alexei Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov and see an increase despite the shortened schedule.

Burmistrov's potential continues to push him up the top 25 list.


#10: Kyle Wellwood

Last Year's Ranking: N/A

This Year's Ranking: 10

Difference: N/A

Not on the list last year was the Jets most surprising player in 2011-12. 

Kyle Wellwood came out of nowhere, signed to a modest one-year deal and had a career season.

Wellwood's 47 points was a career high – former career high was 45 in his rookie season in Toronto – as was his 18 goals which tied his career high.

His offensive production was something that helped keep the Jets in the playoff chase down the stretch, giving the Jets some secondary scoring they did not expect to get from him.

In many ways, Wellwood made up for the lack of scoring from Nik Antropov last season while improving the game of Evander Kane.

If he is able to play with Kane and newcomer Olli Jokinen on the second line, look for Wellwood's assist production to increase.

Another great pickup by the Jets and a welcome additiont to this year's top 25 starting the top 10.


#9: Tobias Enstrom

Last Year's Ranking: 5

This Year's Raking: 9

Difference: -4

Toby Enstrom had a so-so 2011-12 season.

He missed the most time in a row that he has in his career with a early season collarbone injury against Florida and it affected the Jets offensive production from the blueline.

Despite time missed, Enstrom did manage to score 33 points in 62 games and add to that he had a +4 rating, the Jets undersized, puck-moving, Swedish defenseman had a decent season, but nothing All-Star worthy as his season in 2010-11 in Atlanta.

For Enstrom to be successful in Winnipeg, now that he has signed a five-year contract extension this summer, he has to be able to have a defensive partner who can make up for his defensive liabilities.

Because Enstrom is undersized – listed at 5'10", 180 lbs – he needs a partner who can play in the defensive zone and be responsible.

Last year, despite playing with Dustin Byfuglien and putting up good points (Byfuglien was second in defensive scoring), their defensive play needs some improvement.

Look for Enstrom to improve his defensive play under both Charlie Huddy and Perry Pearn.


#8: Olli Jokinen

Last Year's Ranking: N/A

This Year's Ranking: 8

Difference: N/A

The biggest off-season acquisition is the biggest question mark coming into the season.

Can Olli Jokinen improve the game of Evander Kane?

Can Olli Jokinen gel with this younger Jets team?

Now that Chris Mason jetted off to Nashville, Jokinen becomes one of the elder statesmen in the Jets lineup – slated as the centreman who will be playing with the young and up-and-coming winger Evander Kane trying to improve his play and professionalism.

Jokinen's numbers have been steadily improving the last few seasons – 61 points last season in Calgary after sub-50 points seasons in the last few – and the Jets are looking for secondary or perhaps primary scoring to come from Jokinen as well as his helping Kane improve his numbers.

If Jokinen can provide what the Jets signed him to a two-year, $9 million deal, then he would be a steal of a deal.

If he can return to his Florida Panthers-like play, then the Jets will have gone over and above on this deal.


#7: Bryan Little

Last Year's Ranking: 6

This Year's Ranking: 7

Difference: -1

There is no reason that Bryan Little needed to be bumped down a spot, but with the importance on many of the Jets other core players coming to the fore, Bryan Little's good 2011-12 season has gone by the wayside in this top 25 list.

Little's 24 goals was his highest total since he scored 31 in Atlanta in 2008-09.

He seemed more energized last season playing a full season alongside Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd, with Wheeler coming to the fore more as a playmaker.

However, of some concern, his -11 ranking after having a +11 ranking in 2010-11, seems to be something that not only does Little have to work on, but so does the entire first line of Little-Ladd-Wheeler.

For Little, his form is returning and he should be a 30 goal scorer once again in the NHL.


#6: Andrew Ladd

Last Year's Ranking: 1

This Year's Ranking: 6

Difference: -5

Andrew Ladd had just another good season, scoring 28 goals last season.  In the last two seasons, Ladd has scored 57 goals and it doesn't seem he will be slowing down.

The obvious leader of the Jets has to be that once again this season as the Jets will rely on his grit and his speed alongside Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little.

The success of the Jets "top line" all relies on the two-time Stanley Cup Champion and how he leads them through this shortened season.

Ladd, who won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in the season after the lockout, played with grit last year but was inconsistent at times.

For the entire Jets to be more consistent, Ladd has to step up as the model of consistency.


#5: Zach Bogosian

Last Year's Ranking: 14

This Year's Ranking: +9

Zach Bogosian's maturation has continued to improve – last year in leaps and bounds.

One big stat was his plus/minus which dropped drastically from a -27 in 2010-11 to a meager -3 in 2011-12.

His presence in the Jets lineup was dearly missed when he was not healthy.

For the start of the 2013 season, Bogosian's absence will be missed.  He adds grit, determination, and leadership to the Jets back end.

His two-way style of defense is something that makes him the future #1 defenseman of the Winnipeg Jets.

Despite being injured to start a contract year, when Bogosian enters the 2013 shortened schedule, the Jets will be dramatically better.

Jets fans can't wait for seeing #44 skate out full speed across centre as he did many times in 2011-12.


#4: Ondrej Pavelec

Last Year's Ranking: 4

This Year's Ranking: 4

Difference: 0

Ondrej Pavelec is the other looming question mark for the Winnipeg Jets and their success this shortened 2013 season.

Can Pavelec become an elite goalie and not a average goalie?

Of all the goalies with 25 or more wins, Pavelec had the worst GAA (2.91 – nearest was Craig Anderson at 2.84)and second worst save percentage (.906 – only Corey Crawford had worst at .903)

His record tells a larger story – inconsistency.

Sure he won a career high 29 games, but he also lost 28 games.

Consistency is something Pavelec needs to find.  If anything is different his year, younger backup goalie Al Montoya will push Pavelec to be better.

The Jets #1 netminder, who signed an extension this off-season too, has to prove he is worthy of the contract and climb the top 25 list.


#3: Evander Kane

Last Year's Ranking: 3

This Year's Ranking: 3

Difference: 0

Evander Kane is another question mark for the Jets.

Can Kane reproduce another season as he did last year?  Maybe score 20 goals in a shortened 48 game schedule?

Kane's off-season antics are almost as interesting and troubling for Jets fans and management as was Ondrej Pavelec's.

And that is the reason both Kane and Pavelec did not move up the top 25 list.

Kane needs to assert himself more as a professional and show he can play for his team and not himself to be an elite player in the NHL.

With 30 goals last season, Kane elevated his game on the ice.

He also improved his defensive play finishing with a +11 rating versus a -12 the year before in Atlanta.

If Kane can show he can put himself in the rear view mirror and play for the Jets, the ceiling is higher than high.


#2: Dustin Byfuglien

Last Year's Ranking: 2

This Year's Ranking: 2

Difference: 0

With 53 points last season – 41 of those assists – Dustin Byfuglien continued to produce on the blueline as he has become one of the biggest offensive presences on any NHL blueline.

His defensive play has also improved in a slow measure as he enters his third season as a full-time defenseman.

Despite being a combined -10 in his first two season on the blueline – Byfuglien's 106 points in two season has shown how shrewd a move it was to bring Byfuglien from the Chicago Blackhawks before the team moved to Winnipeg.

For the Jest blueline to be successful, Byfuglien will need to continue to improve his defensive zone play.  With the addition of Perry Pearn to the coaching staff and the presence of Charlie Huddy, there will only be an improvement for big #33 for the Jets.


#1: Blake Wheeler

Last Year's Ranking: 7

This Year's Ranking: 1

Difference: +6

The largest jump of any player in this top 25 list, Blake Wheeler has finally showed that there is potential in the Jets big #26 on the wing.

Wheeler, another shrewd move by the team before they moved to Winnipeg, has embraced playing in Winnipeg and on the top line of the Jets.

A big body, Wheeler became more of a playmaker than a power forward last season with 47 assists – tied with Henrik Zetterberg for 16th in the NHL.

The Jets leading scorer in 2011-12, Wheeler did not crack the top 30 in league scoring, but there is the potential for him to do so this season despite the shortened schedule.

Many have said that Evander Kane may be the most impactful player on the Jets. 

But night in and night out, despite his early season and late season troubles last season, the Jets success will be very heavily laid on the young shoulders of Blake Wheeler.

His consistency is key for the Jets success.

If Wheeler plays as he did at the top of his game last season, the Jets will be a force up front with their size, speed, and skill.