Jets Lines Preview: Jets hope to inject skill on their fourth line

The regular season is just over the horizon. Most teams have made the final touches to their roster and practicing in the lines we’ll see for the start of the season.

The Winnipeg Jets are one such team with their opening roster’s lines looking set, provided injuries do not change things.

We’ll preview the season by looking at some of the lines for the Jets, starting with the Jets fourth line.

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Lines provided by Daily Faceoff

Over the past four seasons, the Jets have been hovering around average in terms of shots and goal differentials, except with the fourth line.

Now, fourth lines are expected to be the line that struggles the most. If they were better than the other lines, they would get more ice time.

The Jets’ fourth lines have actually been some of the worst in the NHL, even by fourth line standards.

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It’s very rare for fourth lines to out shoot their opposition, and even rare for fourth liens to out score. Still, fourth lines matter.

The Jets’ fourth lines have tended to struggle due to playing “safe defensive” players over skill.

While skaters like Eric Fehr, Eric O`Dell, Eric Tangradi, and Tim Stapleton were imperfect and flawed players, they still consistently out performed the likes of regulars Anthony Peluso, Chris Thorburn, James Wright, and Jim Slater.

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Things look to have changed. The Jets have added two prospects to their fourth line and a tonne of skill.

At 5’9 and having scored 358 points in in 252 career WHL games, Nic Petan is not your every day fourth line player.

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Petan’s atypical fourth line profile hasn’t scared off Jet’s head coach Paul Maurice.

Maurice spoke in the Winnipeg Sun to Paul Friesen recently about the difference between the norm and Petan:

The fourth line was always structured as physical guys or penalty killers. Nic’s a power play guy. So that’s the big difference. He handles the puck and moves the puck in that manner. He’s got real good awareness (…) his reads are pretty solid defensively.

Historically teams filled their fourth lines with penalty killers, grinders, and enforcers. The reasoning behind this is to find alternative value to make up for their poor impact on low-leverage minutes.

However, Petan offers an alternative form of supplementary value, The NHL’s new formed 3-on-3 overtime should reduce the number of games going into shootout -and did in the AHL last season. More games ending in extra minutes raises the leverage and value of play in overtime.

Petan helps out the Jets in being a bottom-six forward with enough skill that the Jets can run in overtime, but also can be deployed to rest the Jets more skilled players so they are not exhausted when extra time begins.

We should also remember that last season Chris Thorburn spent more time on the third line than the fourth, and so Petan offers an option that Maurice can promote in the case of injuries.

We at Jets Nation are super high on Nic Petan, and placed him 5th in our Top 20 Prospect Profile series.

The Player Cohort Success model takes a players era-adjusted scoring, age, and height and looks at comparable players in the same league; however, being an exceptional and extremely small player like Petan makes him match to very few players.

There are some very intriguing names that come up. While few match Petan from a qualitative perspective, analytically Petan’s junior numbers have similarity to names like Dale Hawerchuk, Denis Savard, Derek Roy, Mike Richards, and Darcy Tucker.

The other addition, Andrew Copp, takes over Slater’s old role as the Jets fourth line centre and is more of a prototypical fourth line forward.

The one word that describes Copp best would be mature. At only 21-years-old, Copp plays a mature game. He is responsible centre that takes pride in his defensive and faceoff acumen.

Copp fits well with Jets’ system and game plan. He enjoys using his size and strength to his advantage while driving into the dirty areas. While he is not a dynamic forward like that of Nic Petan or Nikolaj Ehlers, Copp has an above average hockey IQ and has a solid top-gear.

Maurice told Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press:

His reads are very, very good. I think I’ve been up here enough time talking about centre-ice men, guys I like on the wing, guys I like at centre. It takes a certain ability to read and switch off in your own end quickly. He’s got size, he’s very strong, very thick. I’ve liked his camp because it’s gotten better almost every day, every game. His penalty killing (Thursday) was much easier for him. With a young player you’re hopeful he gets better, but what you’re really trying to do is figure out how quickly he can fit into certain situations and then start to excel in them.

Despite being a more prototypical fourth line shutdown forward, he has some upside to him as well. 

The 6’2 Copp scored 40 goals and 41 assists in 107 games in the NCAA. His performance has been strong enough to earn 10th in our own Jets Nation Top 20 Prospect Profile series.

The Player Cohort Success model takes a players era-adjusted scoring, age, and height and looks at comparable players in the same league. Some comparable players by this model are fourth line regulars like Adam Hall, Eric Lacroix, Matt Hendricks, and Patrick Dwyer.

There are some higher scoring cohorts though like Anson Carter, Carl Hagelin, and Rich Peverly -a very close match both qualitatively and quantitatively speaking. Statistically speaking, these are likely Copp’s ceilings.