The Jets added another forward to their NHL line-up today, claiming Antti Miettinen off waivers from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Miettinen was available because he was attempting to return to the NHL after playing 20 games with Kazan Ak-Bars of the KHL, and league rules required Tampa Bay to place him on waivers before he could join the NHL team.
Despite starting the year in the KHL, Miettinen is a bona fide NHL-calibre forward. He’s spent the last six seasons as a full-time NHL player, hovering around the 35-point mark pretty much every season. His first three years were spent with the Dallas Stars, and the last three with the Minnesota Wild. He hasn’t been limited to even-strength ice-time, either; Miettinen has been a regular option on both the power play and the penalty kill.
While Miettinen may have played in all three situations and seen extended ice-time with good players in Minnesota, the reality is that he simply isn’t a scorer. Sure, he finishes each year with decent point totals, but that’s far more a function of getting significant ice-time than it is of Miettinen’s offensive talent. As Kent Wilson put it in this year’s Hockey Prospectus, Miettinen is “just good enough to act as a reasonable stop-gap in the top six rotation, but never able to convince anyone that he’s an ideal scoring option.”
What Miettinen is good at is playing key minutes against top opponents. According to McKeen’s, he is “often deployed as a top-line defensive foil given he is a conscientious backchecker well-schooled in body and stick positioning.”
Miettinen is, in short, a coach’s dream. He’s responsible defensively, and because he can play a reasonably successful puck possession game against anyone, he can be put anywhere in the line-up. Is the team chalk-full of offensive talent? Miettinen can play a checking role in the bottom six and kill penalties. Is the team short of capable NHL’ers? Miettinen can pop into a top-six role, adding defensive responsibility and enough talent that he isn’t too out of place.
This is a great player for the Jets to add. He comes at zero cost, and adds a reliable, veteran presence to a line-up that needs it.