When Bryan Little was injured in the Winnipeg Jet’s season opener, it was originally believed that he would only be out for a short time. Yet, two weeks later he has not made his return and head coach Paul Maurice stated yesterday that he could be out for another month. The team backed up those words today, placing Little on the injured reserve.
The team’s second-line center and a key point producer, Little’s long-term absence will certainly mean trouble for the Jets. The team is already off to a disappointing start, with just two wins thus far, and now they are missing one of the centerpieces of their team. A holdover from the Atlanta Thrashers days and a career member of the organization, Little has always been relied upon to play big minutes for the team. A strong two-way player who is a perennially puts up 40+ points, Little’s absence will be felt in all aspects of the game. Unlike the loss of unsigned Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg does not have the same depth up front as they do on the back end, and are not structured well to deal with the loss of a key forward. The team certainly hopes that Little returns before the end of November.
In his stead, the Jets have called up Marko Dano from the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. Once considered a top NHL prospect, Dano has had an interesting few years. A first-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013, Dano made his debut in 2014-15 with 21 points in 35 games, playing a complete and exciting game. He caught the eye of the Chicago Blackhawks, who asked for Dano in the Brandon Saad trade. However, Dano failed to find his footing in Chicago, and was once more traded after putting up just 10 points in 34 games. This time he was shipped to Winnipeg as part of the package for Andrew Ladd and finished the season with the Jets, recording eight points in 21 games. Dano failed to make the team out of camp this week, but will now get his chance to stick at the NHL level with Winnipeg. The 21-year-old winger has a ton of skill, and if he can put it all together like he did as a rookie in Columbus, that will greatly help the Jets cope with the loss of Little and turn their early struggles around.