The NHL plans to announce the All-star game reserves on Thursday, so naturally we’re wondering which Winnipeg Jets player will be getting the call to spend some time in Ottawa near the end of this month.
Apparently, there’s no hard and fast rule that every team in the NHL must be represented in the showcase weekend, but we’ll be extremely surprised if the Jets don’t have somebody there. They’re one of the feel-good stories in the NHL this season and have some deserving candidates to boot.
We’re only expecting one to get the chance to participate, but here are five players we think you could make a case for (Bryan Little would be on the list if he hadn’t missed eight games with a foot injury):
1) RW Blake Wheeler — After a slow start, the speedster from Minnesota caught fire in the second quarter of the season and rocketed into top spot in team scoring with nine goals and 32 points. He’s beginning to blossom into the player many projected when he was chosen fifth overall by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
2) LW Evander Kane — His 18 goals are only one away from his career high and his 31 points leave him second in team scoring. He’s had a prolific first half of the season and been a spark plug for a Jets’ offence that has struggled to score goals at times, but was called out for uninspired play by head coach Claude Noel after Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to the Boston Bruins.
3) D Zach Bogosian — The numbers (three goals, 19 points) don’t necessarily jump off the page, but the emerging blue-liner is playing nearly 24 minutes a game and contributing in all situations. He’s taken huge strides this season and might be a sleeper pick.
4) D Dustin Byfuglien — Despite missing the past seven games with a knee injury, Big Buff continues to sit third in team scoring with six goals and 24 points. His -8 plus/minus rating count against him, but he improved his D-zone play significantly after a tough start to the campaign. Was an All-star last season.
5) G Ondrej Pavelec — He’s clearly the Jets first-half MVP after appearing in 35 of 42 games and he’s backstopped the Jets to 15 of their 20 wins on the campaign. Yes, he’s had a few tough outings and those will hurt his chances. The problem for Pavelec is that only six goalies get selected and a lot of others are having great seasons and have posted more impressive statistics as well.
Who do you think will make it?