Jets breakout candidates in 2023-24 NHL season

The Winnipeg Jets are off to an alright start to the 2023-24 NHL season. Winnipeg is coming off a huge 4-1 win over the red-hot Detroit Red Wings in Detroit. In fact, they have secured wins in each of their last three games. For a team looking to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, these early season wins are pretty important.

The NHL’s Central Division doesn’t carry the star power or intrigue of the Pacific Division. However, that’s not to say there isn’t star power or intrigue in this division. The Jets have two potential Stanley Cup contenders in front of them in the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche. Furthermore, teams like the Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, and Arizona Coyotes could frustrate them to varying extents.

It’s still way too early to start handing out contender or pretender statuses to each team. However, we can look at individual players and see who may be in for a breakout performance in 2023-24. So, Winnipeg Jets fans, here are three breakout candidates you should keep an eye on as the season progresses.

Rasmus Kupari

Rasmus Kupari joined the Jets this summer through a trade with the Los Angeles Kings. The Finnish forward was included in the trade that sent star center Pierre-Luc Dubois to Los Angeles. The 23-year-old wasn’t the main attraction in the deal, but held intrigue for Winnipeg nonetheless.

Kupari entered the league as a first-round pick of the Kings back in 2018. But things just never worked out in the City of Angels for the Finnish forward. His average time on ice for the Kings dipped last season from nearly 12 minutes a night to just over 10. And the Kings decided to take a big swing with Dubois in hopes of winning another Stanley Cup.

Kupari is incredibly fast. In fact, he’s the fastest skater in the entire NHL, according to puck and player tracking data from the NHL. That said, there’s a lot for the 23-year-old to work on. He doesn’t have the hardest shot, and he doesn’t spend a ton of time in his offensive zone when he’s on the ice.

Perhaps this change of scenery can help him figure something out. If he can tap into the potential that made him a first-round pick, the Jets will have quite the diamond in the rough on their hands.

Dylan Samberg

Samberg is entering his second full season with the Jets this year. He entered the league as a second-round pick in 2017. And since then, the Minnesota native has emerged as a rather promising option for Winnipeg on the blueline.

Last season saw him play 63 games while averaging nearly 15 minutes a night. He turned in a rather solid performance. The 24-year-old shined on the third pairing and held his own in a penalty-killing role as well. Samberg played some sheltered minutes last season. But that could change in 2023-24.

Samberg’s ice time has increased in recent games. Against the Kings 10 days ago, he played around 10 and a half minutes. On Thursday against the Red Wings, the Minnesota native played nearly 15 minutes. The training wheels may be coming off soon. If Samberg takes the next step, the Jets may have a legitimate number two defenseman on their hands after all.

Cole Perfetti

Perfetti played 51 games last season for the Jets, and didn’t fare too terribly. He scored eight goals and 30 points in those games. Unfortunately, injuries kept him from playing a full season. The Jets are hoping for a cleaner bill of health this time around.

Perfetti has had a solid start to this season. He has a goal and four points through his first seven games. The former 10th-overall pick picked up an assist against the Red Wings on Thursday. And he has three assists in his last four games. Working on a line with Vladislav Namestinkov and Nikolaj Ehlers has helped matters, for sure.

The former Saginaw Spirit star is playing on the wing for now. However, he can play down the middle. And his future is likely as a center in the NHL. But who knows, perhaps his big breakout season comes as a winger in 2023-24.


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