Winnipeg Jets Need Kyle Connor as a Third Option for Playoffs

WINNIPEG, MB - MARCH 23: Kevin Hayes #12 and Kyle Connor #81 of the Winnipeg Jets watch as a member of the Ice Crew picks up hats that litter the ice for Connor's third period hat trick goal against the Nashville Predators at the Bell MTS Place on March 23, 2019 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)
WINNIPEG, MB - MARCH 23: Kevin Hayes #12 and Kyle Connor #81 of the Winnipeg Jets watch as a member of the Ice Crew picks up hats that litter the ice for Connor's third period hat trick goal against the Nashville Predators at the Bell MTS Place on March 23, 2019 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The Winnipeg Jets are headed for the playoffs, and they’d like to see more success than they did last year. That was a good run, to be sure, but it hurts to come away with no hardware.

The Winnipeg Jets have an offense built around Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele on the top line. That line has shuffled in a third member, usually Kyle Connor or Patrik Laine.

Kyle Connor has recently settled in on the second line, alongside newcomer Kevin Hayes and Nikolaj Ehlers. The playoffs aren’t a one-line show, and you’re gonna need some depth scoring.

Kevin Hayes was acquired to help that, and so far he’s doing fine. He had a four point game against Nashville in the clincher, and he’s up to ten points in 13 games. Not bad. An upgrade over Bryan Little, regardless.

Josh Morrissey and Dustin Byfuglien should bump up the scoring on the blueline upon their return, as Jacob Trouba does a decent job of it himself. But Kyle Connor’s emergence has made the struggles of Laine and the regression to the mean of Scheifele and Wheeler a bit more palatable.

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This does not go to say that Wheeler and Scheifele have been bad, but Scheifele has five points in his past ten games, and Wheeler five in his last eight and none in his last three.

Those aren’t bad numbers, but for guys that were on pace to blast 100 points on the season, they’re slowing down. It’s okay. Wheeler has 88 points and Scheifele 80, and both have played in all 75 games, which is nice.

But Connor’s turning the jets on, so to speak. He was just named the NHL’s first star of the week after his hat trick against Nashville gave him five goals for the stretch. Those five goals come with three assists in his last four games, and he’s catching fire at the right time.

His apparent chemistry with Kevin Hayes will be key, as the Jets have a rock solid bottom six that features guys like Mathieu Perreault, Adam Lowry, Andrew Copp and Matt Hendricks. It’s ideal to keep those players lower on the depth chart.

Not that they couldn’t hack it higher up, but four solid lines are so important in the playoffs. And high-end scoring is always necessary, so it would be great to have Connor keep it up.

He’s now the team’s third leading scorer with 61 points (no other Jet has eclipsed 50), and he’s got 32 goals and 29 assists after having 31 and 26 a year ago. His blazing speed and quick shot help him get the edge he needs, and he always seems to be in a good position.

Next. The Trouble With Dustin Byfuglien. dark

The tools were there. But he’s learning on the job now, and he seems to be doing quite well at it. Which is good, because Winnipeg’s gonna need all the help it can get.