Jets counting on Antropov
|Jets forward Nik Antropov (left), seen here with Mark Stuart after unveiling the team's new jerseys, is expected to be a key offensive contributor this season. (QMI Agency/Chris Procaylo)
WINNIPEG - The first thing you should know about Nik Antropov is that he’s healthy.
The towering Winnipeg Jets forward has moved past the lingering hip pain that dogged him last season, where his production dipped to 16 goals and 41 points in 76 games with the Atlanta Thrashers.
While Antropov wasn’t using the injury as an excuse, it’s evident that having hip surgery last summer certainly hampered his play.
“It’s in the past already, so it doesn’t really matter,” Antropov said Tuesday after the new Jets jerseys were unveiled at 17 Wing Winnipeg. “I’m looking forward to the season — I’ve had a healthy summer and last year I was recovering from the (hip) injury. It’s going to be a great year.”
Talk shifted to Antropov’s expectations for himself.
Since much of the talk surrounding this Jets’ team focused on where the goals might come from, it should be noted that Antropov had seasons of 26 and 21 goals with the Toronto Maple Leafs and just two seasons ago (when healthy) managed 24 goals and a career-best 43 assists and 67 points for the Thrashers.
That prompted the question of whether Antropov might actually hit the 30-goal plateau during the upcoming season?
“I’m not going to call the numbers, but I’ll do the best that I can. I’m looking forward to the season and we’ll go from there,” said Antropov. “If you don’t expect anything from yourself, you shouldn’t be here.”
Much has been made about how most former Thrashers are going to need time to adjust to the scrutiny that comes with playing in a hockey-mad market, but Antropov knows first-hand what it’s like to play in a rabid Canadian city after spending the better part of his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I’ve been in the same situation when I played for the Leafs and it’s great to be back on Canadian soil, where people know and care about hockey,” said Antropov, who spent much of the past summer training in Toronto. “It’s great. People care and that’s the most important thing.”
Antropov is expected to be a key contributor to the Jets this season.
“What can’t be lost in this is that when players get a chance to play in front of buildings like (ours) and in front of excited fans, they get excited as well,” Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldyaoff said Tuesday.
With training camp still a few weeks away, Cheveldayoff said he isn’t sure whether Antropov will be used on the wing or at centre.
“We’ll see how things play themselves out over training camp — the coaches will talk it through,” Cheveldayoff said Tuesday. “Obviously, he played wing for the most part last year, but having the ability to have someone with his size and his abilities in the middle would be a very good thing.”