WINNIPEG, MB – Since the 10th of August, the Moose have added six new players to their roster. Coaches and fans alike are busy eyeing potential lineups and wondering which lines and pairings will lead the team to success. Headlined by the signing of Red Wings first-round draft pick Evgeny Svechnikov. The other five players include AHL journeyman Evan Polei, seasoned goaltender Philippe Desrosiers, Riviere-du-Loup product Tristan Pomerleau, the Wichita Thunder’s (ECHL) top-scoring defenseman Dean Stewart, and the Huntsville Havoc’s (SPHL) rookie leader in goals Isaac Johnson. Recap complete. Now let’s get to the fun part, pure and utter speculation.
With the upcoming NHL season looming over the heads of Manitoba Moose fans, it’s safe to assume that the Winnipeg Jets will be taking some Moose players to start the season. This means the Moose are likely to lose one or more of the following: Cole Perfetti, David Gustafsson, Kristian Vesalainen, or Dominic Toninato. On the bright side, the Jets have a pretty stacked defense and that should keep the Moose defense relatively intact.
Now, onto where the free-agent signings might slot into the lineup. Due to their ability to play effectively in the bottom six, we’re going to assume that Vesalainen and Toninato are taken by the Jets. This leaves us with Perfetti and Gustafsson for our speculative lines.
Top Six Forwards
|Left Wing||Centre||Right Wing|
|Jeff Malott||David Gustafsson||Evgeny Svechnikov|
|C.J. Suess||Cole Perfetti||Austin Poganski|
Fans of the team last year will be quick to notice the changes on the right wing. Both are new to the team, but with a slightly higher 0.54 points per game and his pass-first tendency, Svechnikov is a better fit on the first line than Austin Poganski. However, Poganski does bring more scoring prowess to the second line than the Moose had last season. Therefore, even with the Moose losing their top scorer last year, Nathan Todd, this revamped top six can pick up the slack.
In terms of the bottom six, that is where the newly signed Polei and Johnson will fit in. Yet, with the likes of Peter Krieger (LW), Cole Maier (C), and Kristian Reichel (RW) likely making up the third line, the new guys may be fighting it out for a spot on the fourth. Now, let’s pivot to defense, where the Moose are looking great for the upcoming season.
Top Four Defense
|Ville Heinola||Declan Chisholm|
|Dylan Samberg||Johnathan Kovacevic|
If all four of these guys are still on the Moose when the season starts, this is a no-brainer. The Moose simply can’t go wrong with how they choose to pair these four players. With that being said, I paired them based on their preferred side, a balance of offensive and defensive acumen, as well as previous pairings last season. In terms of free-agent signings Pomerleau and Stewart, similar to Polei and Johnson, they will likely be fighting it out for the final spots on the team.
Lastly, let’s talk about the final line of defense, the goalies. The returning Mikhail Berdin will be given every chance to keep his starting job, but he will have stiff competition. The newly added Desrosiers may have posted a worse goals-against average at 3.05 last season, however, he did have a .916 save percentage compared to Berdin’s .897. This large discrepancy could allow Desrosiers to snatch the starting job if it continues throughout the upcoming season. Oh, and both goalies might have to worry about the return of Eric Comrie if the Jets sign a more experienced backup. Comrie has yet to prove himself at the NHL level, but we all know he can be a great AHL goalie.
Looking at this Moose team, they have all the building blocks in place for a great season. The top six are formidable; there’s a perfect mix of offensive talent and defensive capabilities on the blueline, and they have a dependable duo between the pipes! At this point, it looks like injuries on the Jets are the most significant obstacle the Moose may have to overcome. This team has the potential for a great year, so long as they stay intact.
That’s all for my pre-preseason speculation. If you agree with my lineup predictions or if you happen to think I’m out of my mind, I’d love to hear from you over @FPHMoose.
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