The Winnipeg Jets activated forward Gabriel Vilardi off injured reserve Thursday, per a team announcement. Head coach Rick Bowness told reporters this morning, including Jets radio commentator Mitchell Clinton, that Vilardi will be a game-time decision tonight against the Oilers.
Vilardi, 24, had missed the past six weeks and 19 games with an MCL sprain sustained in the Jets’ third game of the season. Vilardi, who had notched one assist in his first two games as a Jet, was injured early in an October 17 contest against the Kings, his former team.
If he does play, it’s unclear where he’ll slot in the lineup. Vilardi began the season in a prominent role, skating on the first line alongside Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele. It’s evident the Jets have high expectations for the young forward as he continues to overcome significant injuries, a common theme in his development since the Kings selected him 11th overall in 2017.
The most valuable piece sent to Winnipeg in exchange for forward Pierre-Luc Dubois last summer, Vilardi was coming off a breakout season in which he scored 23 goals and 41 points in 68 contests, all career-highs. He posted strong underlying numbers in the process and put up a solid 52.5% Corsi share at even strength. He continued his strong play in the postseason, notching four points in five games in the Kings’ first-round loss to the Oilers.
After missing significant time, don’t expect Vilardi to return to his previous first-line role, at least not immediately. Vilardi took line rushes with Morgan Barron and David Gustafsson on the team’s fourth line in practice today, likely indicating where he’ll skate tonight if he returns to the lineup. He’ll have to unseat Nikolaj Ehlers, who’s currently riding shotgun with Connor and Scheifele. Ehlers has had a somewhat disappointing start to the season, though, recording just 11 points in 21 games.
Vilardi is in the first season of a two-year deal signed with Jets post-trade, earning him $3.44MM per season. He will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2025.