Are you ready? We’re back to the 82-game regular season format, which means more joy and also more pain. It’s a roller coaster of emotions every season because there are always surprises, and the good ones can make us feel like geniuses while the bad ones feel like belly flopping into an empty pool.
But we’re all gluttons for punishment, so we might as well stay as informed as we can to later rationalize why the fantasy hockey gods hate you. Yes, they specifically hate you.
2021-22 Fantasy Outlook: Winnipeg Jets
Last season: It was a Jekyll and Hyde season and we shouldn’t have been at all surprised the Jets were both the sweeper and the swept. The Jets held Connor McDavid to just four points in four games (crazy to think how that’s already a good result) and won three straight overtime games to sweep the Oilers in the first round of the playoffs as the underdog, only to have trouble scoring themselves and were promptly swept by the underdog Habs. The lack of consistency characterized them all season; they were .500 at home, had just one winning streak that lasted more than three games and lost nine of their last 12 games. Meanwhile, Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers firmly established themselves as elite players, Neal Pionk emerged as a bona fide second-pairing defenseman and Connor Hellebuyck finished top-four in Vezina voting for the third time in four seasons.
Best option: Kyle Connor, LW
It’s close between Connor and Ehlers, but Connor gets the edge because he’s their top shooter on the power play and generally gets more playing time. Mark Scheifele is still a good option but center tends to be a deep position in fantasy, and with so many wingers now having center eligibility, the pool has become even bigger. That leaves Connor, who would’ve been on pace to score at least 30 goals over 82 games for the fourth straight season, and becoming just one of eight players to do so. That’s both elite production and elite consistency and a player who can sit on your active roster for an entire season without any worry, especially in season-long roto leagues. THN’s Pool Guide is projecting Connor to score 70 points, one of four Jets forwards to do so, but he could easily outpace Scheifele, Ehlers and Blake Wheeler.
Hidden gem: Cole Perfetti, C
Pierre-Luc Dubois is the popular pick for this category and he can certainly be a dominant player at his peak. But I’m not entirely convinced that he can turn into that player so quickly, with really just one outstanding season and one good playoff series under his belt. Dubois still has a ton to prove, not to mention his scoring opportunities will be limited with at least four players ahead of him.
Offensively, he doesn’t really profile as a top scorer because his production on the power play has never been particularly good, and if his playmaking and faceoff ability are less than optimal, it makes him a fairly awkward fit at center. It would not be surprising to see Dubois moved to the wing in favor of Stastny again.
Perfetti, on the other hand, was one a handful of 19-year-old’s who spent the season in the AHL, and the results were immediate. He finished second in scoring with 26 points in 32 games, and despite his smaller stature was every bit the playmaker he had been advertised. The 10th overall pick in 2020, Perfetti remains at the Jets camp as of this writing and has a good chance to crack the roster.
His inclusion could balance out the Jets’ offense and provide them with further flexibility. Perfetti is simply a name to keep an eye on for fantasy managers right now because the moment he’s put in the top-six, he’s going to have some really good wingers to play with. He’s projected to score 37 points, according to THN’s Pool Guide, tied with Paul Stastny and two behind Andrew Copp.
Goalies: Eric Comrie finally gets a chance to play a full-time NHL role, even if it’s to be a backup for Connor Hellebuyck, who will continue to be a workhorse. It should be unanimous that Hellebuyck is the second-best goalie in the league behind Andrei Vasilevskiy, and now that the Jets have really beefed up their defense – once a strength but a weakness once Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers left – with Nate Schmidt and Brenden Dillon, Hellebuyck’s job should be easier. Of course, nothing really is easy in the Central Division, but tough opponents mean the Jets will have to keep leaning on Hellebuyck until Comrie has proven he can help shoulder some of the load. In nine career appearances, Comrie’s save percentage is a paltry .873. Once Vasilevskiy is drafted in the first round, don’t hesitate to draft Hellebuyck in the second round because the quality of options dives off a cliff after the top two.
Outlook: The Jets have no real weakness and that will make them tough to beat. There’s no shortage of options in fantasy, but I should throw some caution into the wind with Wheeler, who has continued to be a consistent scorer but whose shooting volume and two-way play dropped off considerably last season. Of their four main forwards, Wheeler carries the most risk, and at 35 years old is unlikely to have as much of a chance as Connor, who turns 25 in December, and Ehlers, who is barely a year older, to set career highs.