Winnipeg Jets celebrate a goal by forward Mark Scheifele (45) against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first period of a preseason NHL hockey game in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Woods)

Winnipeg Jets' Need For Forward Depth

It is almost certain that Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler will form the Jets first line.  Newly acquired Devin Setoguchi, Evander Kane and Olli Jokinen will most likely fill out the rest of the top-six forwards.

More than likely, these six forwards will be relied on to carry the offensive load for Winnipeg in the 2013-14 season.

And after two seasons without any depth scoring from their last two lines, the Jets are on the track to having another season without consistent play from their bottom-six forwards.

Not to mention, the Jets have lost their top four scorers from their bottom-six last season — those being C Nik Antropov, C Kyle Wellwood, C Alexander Burmistrov and RW Antti Miettinen.

The other returning forwards for Winnipeg include Mark Scheifele, Jim Slater, Eric Tangradi, James Wright, Anthony Peluso and Chris Thorburn — who combined for only 16 points in the 2012-13 season.

The management attempted to bring some talented players into the bottom-six forwards by signing free agents Michael Frolik (from Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks) and Matt Halischuk (former Nashville Predator).

While both players improve the depth of their forward unit, the bottom six still don’t seem to have enough firepower to take pressure off the top scoring lines.

So who should they go for?

Well, former Vancouver Canucks left winger Mason Raymond has been a name in the Jets rumor mill over the past couple weeks.  Rumor has it that the Jets offered up a one-year contract to Raymond and he rejected it, in hope of a better offer.

If Winnipeg can convince Raymond to join the team, the forward can provide solid penalty killing and the ability to shift up and down the depth chart.

The 27-year-old also scored 15 and 25 goals in his past two seasons in Vancouver — giving the Jets exactly what they lack in their bottom six.

While Mason Raymond will be a great addition to the lineup, he won’t fill in the hole that Winnipeg has at center — after losing four centers in free agency.

The center options still available on the free agent list are very slim though.

But, Islanders center Brad Boyes seems to be the best fit for the Jets.  Boyes has been very consistent in his offensive game throughout his NHL career and last season with the Islanders, he put up 10 goals and 38 points in 48 games.

While Boyes may want a guarantee in the top-six forwards, he won’t get that with the Jets just yet.  But it might come down to either playing this season in the NHL or not — which will make him settle for a bottom-six role.

The last two seasons for the Jets have taught us that quality depth is very important to be successful in the NHL.  The organization must focus on finding consistent and reliable production from their depth forwards — which could turn them from a .500 team to even a playoff team.

However, it is still unknown if Winnipeg will continue to stick with quantity over quality.



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