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Jets count on Jokinen to fill hole in the middle

Tuesday, 21.08.2012 / 11:14 AM / Feature
By John Kreiser  - NHL.com Columnist
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Jets count on Jokinen to fill hole in the middle
The Winnipeg Jets filled their biggest need by signing arguably the best center on the free-agent market this summer in Olli Jokinen.

The Winnipeg Jets filled their biggest need by signing arguably the best center on the free-agent market this summer.

The Jets chased a playoff berth last season without a whole lot of production at center. That should change now that they've signed Olli Jokinen to a two-year deal. While the 33-year-old may not be the offensive force he was a few years ago (91 points in 2006-07), he's a huge upgrade for the Jets -- Winnipeg's top four scorers last season were wings or defensemen.

Jokinen also is used to the pressure of playing in Canada, a consideration he doesn't take lightly.

"Very excited about joining the Winnipeg Jets and getting a chance to play in front of the loudest fans in Canada!," he said via his Twitter account after the signing.

Jokinen isn't going to make anyone forget Wayne Gretzky. But he's been remarkably durable (1,042 games and at least 76 in every season since 1998-99) and consistent (292 goals, 391 assists, seven 20-goal seasons and at least 50 points in nine straight seasons). He put up 23 goals and 61 points with the Calgary Flames in 2011-12 -- in contrast, no Jets center managed 50 points.

There's no doubt he makes the Jets a better team.

"When you do have the ability to upgrade in any facet of the center position, you have to take a good, long look at it," Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said after signing Jokinen. "We believe strength down the middle will give you a lot of success in the long run."

At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Jokinen provides more muscle up the middle on a team that didn't have much size at center.

"We're excited about the opportunity to bring a front-line player, a top-six player into the organization," Cheveldayoff said. "His size comes to the forefront right now; he’s difficult to handle. When he gets moving, he does move very well. He likes to shoot the puck and he’s not afraid to do that."

Cheveldayoff will also look to Jokinen for leadership among the Jets' roster, as well as helping to increase production among their young forwards, including 30-goal scorer Evander Kane. Jokinen's arrival also means the Jets won't have to rush their top prospect, 2011 first-round pick Mark Scheifele.

"Any time you can add a player of this stature, a player that has abilities to make plays and to score, it creates other opportunities for players like Evander," Cheveldayoff said of Jokinen. "You have to respect players like Olli when they're on the ice all the time, and I think that attention helps other players to play their game as well."

Jokinen, 34 in December, is an experienced guy on a young team. Cheveldayoff said the Jets' youth was one of the things that attracted the veteran to Winnipeg.

"He's very excited about being at the forefront of a group that has young players, that has a chance to continue to grow and get better and he's really looking forward to contributing in that regard," the GM said.

Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 48 32 10 6 143 124 70
2 NSH 46 31 10 5 141 107 67
3 STL 46 29 13 4 148 111 62
4 CHI 47 30 15 2 148 108 62
5 WPG 49 26 15 8 138 122 60
6 SJS 48 25 17 6 131 132 56
7 VAN 46 26 17 3 124 118 55
8 CGY 48 26 19 3 140 126 55
9 LAK 47 20 15 12 129 126 52
10 COL 49 20 18 11 128 141 51
11 DAL 47 21 19 7 146 154 49
12 MIN 47 21 20 6 130 138 48
13 ARI 47 16 25 6 108 160 38
14 EDM 48 12 27 9 110 160 33

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Ladd 49 17 23 10 40
B. Little 49 18 20 10 38
B. Wheeler 49 13 23 11 36
D. Byfuglien 49 12 20 9 32
M. Perreault 46 15 14 2 29
M. Frolik 49 10 16 6 26
M. Scheifele 49 7 19 4 26
E. Kane 34 10 12 6 22
A. Lowry 48 6 9 3 15
J. Trouba 33 5 9 5 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
M. Hutchinson 14 4 2 .935 1.90
O. Pavelec 12 11 6 .911 2.52
 
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