NHL 2016-17 Central Division preview: Young Jets on the rise

NHL 2016-17 Central Division preview: Young Jets on the rise

CSN Chicago will unveil a preview each day for every Central Division team leading up to the NHL's season-opener. Next up: Winnipeg Jets.

There is a lot to be excited about in Winnipeg.

After tasting the playoffs two years ago, the Jets fell to the basement of the Central Division in 2015-16, but they are built to be on the other side of that for a while.

The Jets locked up 23-year-old forward Mark Scheifele, an offensively gifted and reliable two-way center, and playmaking winger Mathieu Perreault to long-term contracts over the offseason, solidifying the core group up front along with speedy winger Blake Wheeler, who led the team with 78 points last season, and versatile center Bryan Little, who finished third among forwards on the club with 42 points.

And we haven't even mentioned the rising young prospects set to join the roster this year.

NCAA standout Kyle Connor, the Jets' first-round pick in 2015, led the country with 35 goals and 71 points during his freshman season at Michigan and was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, awarded annually to the league's top college player. 

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016-17 season, Blackhawks fans!]

Nikolaj Ehlers, their No. 9 overall pick in the 2014 draft, scored 15 goals and added 23 assists during his rookie campaign and is slotted in to begin the season on the top line.

Patrik Laine, the No. 2 overall selection in 2016, has the potential to immediately score 25-30 goals. His heavy shot and quick release has already drawn comparisons to Alex Ovechkin, who Laine models his game after.

The questions on this team aren't up front, though, it's on the blue line and in the crease.

Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom, Tyler Myers and Mark Stuart are all under contract over the next two seasons at least, but the biggest storyline is the uncertainty regarding restricted free agent Jacob Trouba, who requested a trade in September. That's a significant loss, and the Jets have made it clear they won't move him unless they're getting equal value back at the same position, so it may take time.

In goal, Ondrej Pavelec was placed on waivers Monday which paves the way for 23-year-old netminder Connor Hellebuyck to become the full-time starter and Michael Hutchinson to serve as the backup.

Hellebuyck shined during his rookie campaign, finishing with a 13-11-1 record with a 2.34 goals against average in 26 games, all starts. He also owned a stellar .940 save percentage during 5-on-5 play, which ranked second in the league.

The Jets are coming, and while they may not compete for the division crown this year, expect them to be in the hunt for a wild-card spot until the very end.

Other previews: Colorado Avalanche | Dallas Stars | Minnesota Wild | Nashville Predators | St. Louis Blues

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

After being on the receiving end of some racist taunts while he was in the penalty box during Saturday's game against the Blackhawks, Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly spoke publicly about the incident.

Smith-Pelly, a 25-year-old Canadian, reacted to the fans while he was in the box, going up to them from the other side of the glass. He addressed questions from the media about the incident on Sunday.

"I just heard some chanting, some, I guess, racially charged chanting," Smith-Pelly said. "You can tell by my reaction that I got pretty upset.

"What was said this time around crossed the line."

The Capitals released a statement about the incident:

"The Washington Capitals are extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior extended toward Devante Smith-Pelly by a select group of fans during Saturday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Capitals organization strives to be inclusive and has zero tolerance concerning any form of racism. Such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society. As such, it is crucial to confront such appalling conduct, and the Capitals extend their appreciation to the Blackhawks organization and United Center security for swiftly removing the fans from the game."

The Blackhawks released a statement after the game with a similar tone.

Smith-Pelly said this has happened previously in his career.

"It's sad that in 2018 we're still talking about the same thing over and over," Smith-Pelly said. "It's sad that athletes like myself 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same spot saying the same thing. You'd think there'd be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working towards it I guess and we're going to keep working towards it."

The Capitals released the full interview.

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals


Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident: