Where were you on Tuesday, May 31? To say that the day was historic is an understatement. In terms of events worth celebrating, it may be the biggest day in Manitoba since the end of World War II. So in commemoration of the NHL’s return to Winnipeg here is the complete depth chart of all active, NHL-quality Manitobans:
C: Jonathan Toews (Chi), Travis Zajac (Njd), Darren Helm (Det), Andrew Murray (Clb), Dustin Boyd (KHL)
LW: Dustin Penner (Lak), Alex Steen (Stl), Matt Calvert (Clb), Nigel Dawes (KHL), Cody McLeod (Col)
RW: Eric Fehr (Was), Jordin Tootoo (Nas), Ryan White (Mtl), Troy Bodie (Car), Colton Orr (Tor)
D: Ian White (UFA), Aaron Rome (Van), Travis Hamonic (Nyi), Cam Barker (Min), Bryce Salvador (Njd – currently concussed), Derek Meech (UFA), Shane Hnidy (UFA)
G: James Reimer (Tor), Brent Krahn (Dal)
There isn’t necesarily a lot of star power beyond Toews, but there are several high quality players here. Zajac is a really good 2-way forward who garnered consideration for the Selke Trophy in ’09-’10. Alex Steen has become a pretty productive offensive player and is fit for any team’s second line. Dustin Penner, while inconsistent, has a unique and impressive blend of size and skill. Darren Helm is an absolute speed demon who is quickly becoming one of the best third liners in the NHL. And while guys like Nigel Dawes and Dustin Boyd are more well known, Matt Calvert is probably the next best offensive player in the group, impressing with 11 goals in a half-season rookie debut with Columbus. The defence is led by the small but skilled Ian White, but Travis Hamonic has the most potential of the group after an impressive debut with the Islanders last year. In goal, James Reimer is the only NHL goalie of the bunch.
Note: This list doesn’t include players who were born in Winnipeg but didn’t actually grow up here, the most notable of which are Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp. (Keith grew up in BC, Sharp in Thunder Bay).
There are also a few really good forward prospects in the mix. Scott Glennie (Dal) and Quinten Howden (Fla) are both first-round picks out of the WHL, and Cody Eakin (Was) and Mark Stone (Ott) are making teams regret not picking them earlier after putting up some impressive post-draft year totals.
On defence, there are a few more potentials. Alex Plante (Edm) was a first round pick in 2007, Colby Robak (Fla) had a solid junior career with the Wheat Kings and a good pro debut, and Jeff Penner (Min) is a quality AHLer who may play a few games in the big leagues one day too.
In goal, Chet and Calvin Pickard both have NHL potential.
Return of the Prodigal Son?
While it’s everyone’s dream to have Jonathan Toews come to Winnipeg as a UFA, that situation looks somewhat unlikely. While it’s exceedingly rare that a player plays his entire career in one city, Toews looks like the type who would do it – team captain, complete player, and Conn Smythe winner. That being said, a lot can chance in 4 years. Both Toews, and his running mate, Kane, are UFA’s in the summer of 2015.
Meanwhile Penner is a UFA in 2012, but his girlfriend is from California and it’s rumoured that he’d like to plant roots there. (One of the reasons why Edmonton traded him to LA). Steen has 3 years left on his contract in St. Louis, while Zajac has only 2 (and his wife is from Winnipeg). The most notable Manitoban UFA is Ian White, but he’s likely to command around $3M, and the ‘Jets’ don’t have much space in their top-6 right now unless they move solid but overpaid guys like Ron Hainsey or Johnny Oduya.
In short, don’t expect a huge influx of Manitoba-based talent in the near term. However, don’t be surprised if, in the coming years, some of the fringe NHL’ers are signed to two-way contracts (one which pays differing amounts depending on if the player is in the AHL or the NHL) in the hopes of reclaiming NHL glory in their home town.