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.
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.