Winnipeg Jets Player Grades: First 20 games

The first quarter of the Jets season is complete and it’s time for our first instalment of player grades. At the end of each quarter, we will evaluate the performance of each Jets player within that time period. 

Here is my Jets player grades for games 1-21. 

Forwards 

Mark Scheifele

Grade: A+

Scheifele’s stardom is starting to take shape. The 23 year-old centreman has established himself as not only the Jets best centre, but one of the best the league has to offer. His 23 points places him second in the entire NHL and his improvements aren’t just skilled based. He’s looked stronger and more durable than years past and you’ll likely see less and less #ScheifeleDown hashtag floating around twitter because of it. It’s been a real treat to watch Scheifele’s game evolve.

Patrik Laine 

Grade: A+

Not only does Laine’s 12 goals lead all goal scorers, the rookies hot-start has gained attention throughout the entire sporting world. Laine’s impressive start is putting Winnipeg on the map like Teemu Selanne once did when he broke in to the league. Laine’s energy is contagious and he flat out has elite talent. Laine’s production may slow down as teams will start to zero in on him and gradually give him less and less space to work with. Nevertheless, if he stays healthy he’ll surely notch somewhere in the ballpark of 30 goals by the end of the year. 

Nikolaj Ehlers

Grade: B+

Alongside Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine on the Jets top line, we have Nikolaj Ehlers. Ehlers is sometimes overshadowed alongside those two, but Ehlers has been quite impressive in his own right. Ehlers’ 14 assists is tied for top spot in the league and he’s emerged in to a very creative and efficient playmaker. His goal scoring numbers haven’t been flashy, but when your leading the league in assists and contributing in a big way, that’s not a major issue. The goals will come in due time. 

Blake Wheeler

Grade: B 

After recording a career high 78 points last season, Blake Wheeler is quietly having another solid season for the Jets. Overshadowed by the teams youth movement, Wheeler hasn’t got enough attention as he has in the past, which is a good thing. Wheeler is one of the best right wingers in the league, having him as one of your second tier scorers is pretty special. 

The newly appointed captain seems to be embracing his new role as the teams leader. You can often find him talking to younger players and providing tips and words of wisdom throughout the game. It’s important to have an experienced veteran ( that is actually good at hockey ) playing on a young team and Wheeler fits that criteria. 

Adam Lowry 

Grade: C

In his third season, Lowry is in the midst of a bounce back year after enduring a sophomore slump that included a brief stint in the AHL. Lowry is evolving in to a consistent third line centre who can forecheck, lay the body, create havoc in front of the net and even pot a few goals from time to time. The only downside to his game this year ( and the blame isn’t really bestowed upon him on this one) is his performance on the power play, a situation that he doesn’t really belong in.

Nic Petan

Grade: B 

Since being recalled by the Jets, Petan has flourished in a top-six role. Alongside Blake Wheeler and Marko Dano, Petan has shown he has the tools to play in an NHL top-nine and his numbers reflect such. In his 10 games with the Jets this season, Petan has recorded six points and evolved in to a consistent playmaker on the teams power play. If Petan gets bumped back down to the Moose when the Jets injuries heal, he’ll surely be a high-impact player with the Manitoba Moose for a hopefully lengthly Calder Cup run.

Mako Dano

Grade: C+

It’s no surprise that Marko Dano has faired quite well since being brought back in to the Jets lineup. I, along with many other folks penciled in Dano on the Jets opening roster. Kevin Cheveldayoff and Paul Maurice didn’t see it that way and Dano started out the year with the Moose. The energy that Dano has provided in the Jets bottom six is enough to warrant him a spot for the long term, and hopefully the Jets promote him to a full-time player this season.

Joel Armia 

Grade: A

Joel Armia was one of the Jest best forwards to start out the year. The hard working forechecker with a nose for the net was evolving in to a fan favourite before being injured in early November. Armia can play anywhere throughout the lineup and can take on any kind of role he is assigned. Armia’s becoming more and more aggressive and is starting to fill out his big frame, something the Buffalo draft pick had trouble doing in years past.

Andrew Copp 

Grade: C

Copp deserves to stay with the Jets for the duration of the season. During his call-up stint, he’s been one of the Jets best penalty killers and defensive responsible players, he’s exciting to have on your fourth line and can win face-offs. He has lots of upside for a fourth line centre. 

Kyle Connor 

Grade: D 

Connor has had a rough start to the year, there’s no doubting that.  Maybe he should have started the year out in the AHL or maybe he just needs some time to learn the NHL game in the pros, but his injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. Connor will eventually find his footing and maybe he makes a pit stop  in the AHL along the way, but his slow start shouldn’t trigger any alarm bells. 

Shawn Matthias 

Grade: D

Alongside Adam Lowry and Joel Armia, Matthias has looked mediocre when in the lineup. There’s no questioning his ability to cycle and chip pucks in the offensive zone, but his touch around the net is subpar and he muffed many quality prime scoring opportunities. The signing of Matthias seems to have backfired as many of the Jets younger players have out performed Matthias in his role.

Mathieu Perreault 

Grade: B

Moving Perreault from the wing to a full time centre was a smart move by head coach Paul Maurice. Perreault is a second/third line tweaner and he can play either of those roles efficiently. His injury has been felt throughout the lineup as two-way skilled guys like Perreault are a treat to have.

Brandon Tanev

Grade: B 

How can you not love this guy? Arguably the Jets fastest skater and hardest worker is 24 year-old rookie Brandon Tanev. Tanev has helped make the Jets fourth line playable and he’s one of the Jets best penalty killers and overall a really fun competitor to watch. 

Alexander Burmistrov 

Grade: F

The clock is ticking on Burmistrov’s tenure in Winnipeg. In the first quarter of the Jets season , Burmistrov’s inconsistent play has people ( including myself) questioning if he should be in the lineup.  He’s trying to do much in a simplified fourth line role and his defensive game which was once praised, isn’t looking to sharp. It may not be long before he’s put on waivers and ultimately sent to the Manitoba Moose.

Bryan Little

Grade: NA

Little was injured in the team’s first game, thus meaning we can’t really evaluate anything. 

Drew Stafford

Grade: D

It’s hard to give Stafford that kind of grade after only six games, but Stafford was underwhelming when the year kicked off. Stafford’s game seems to be headed on a decline and the four-time 20 goal scorer may see some time on the fourth line when he returns from injury. 

Chris Thorburn 

Grade: D+

I mean, it’s pretty crazy that Chris Thorburn has suited up for 700 NHL games, right? Anyways, his surprising and impressive achievement isn’t going to stop me from grading his performance honestly. Thorburn’s lost his edge as a fighter ( not that the game needs those anymore) and his ” grit” and ” intangibles” really isn’t needed especially with the talented the youth the Jets have in the pipeline. 

Quinton Howden

Grade: D+

There’s a limited amount of things Quinton Howden can do in his game. He’s a chip and chase type of player with limited offensive upside. We’ve seen examples of this when he’s came close to scoring territory but instead ops to softly chip it in the goalies direction. The Jets injuries have been pretty crazy and if things weren’t as insane, Howden likely would have been kept down with the Moose for most of the season. 

Defenseman 

Dustin Byfuglien

Grade: B+

The impact Dustin Byfuglien has had this season can’t be undermined. When looking at his stats, don’t look at the stat that says he scored his first goal in his 18th game. Rather, turn your eyes to leagues leaders in ice-time per game, where you’ll find Byfuglien at the top of the list. ‘Big Buff’ is logging 28:07 a night and he’s done leaps and bounds for his partner Josh Morrissey’s game in the process. 

But there have been slight downsides to his game as Byfuglien can have the more than occasional lapse in hockey judgment and screw up in the defensive zone or pinch far too early. That’s going to happen with his style of game, he plays a risky game and the key is minimizing the impact his mistakes have on his team’s performance.

Josh Morrissey 

Grade: B+

Josh Morrissey’s first full season as a Winnipeg Jet has been awfully impressing. Playing with Dustin Byfuglien is truly a treat, but at times it can be demanding to cover for him as he joins the offensive rush. Morrissey has done exactly what he should be in a top pairing role and has thrived in the opportunity he’s been given. His offensive game hasn’t quite hit it’s stride yet, but it’s only a matter of time before that starts to get going.

Tyler Myers 

Grade: B- 

Myers has continued to play the game he always has. He’s served in a shut-down role and he’s logged decent minutes while averaging 22:12 a night. We may see Myers’ role decrease overtime as Jacob Trouba may overtake his top-four spot down the road.

Jacob Trouba

Grade: C+

Trouba’s current ice-time average of 23:53 may foreshadow that. 

Toby Enstrom 

Grade: C

Personally, I’m not a very big Toby Enstrom fan. But my non biased opinion is he hasn’t been great and he hasn’t been terrible.  He’s sort of an in between for me, which is fine. He compliments Myers well and he can play fine in the role he’s given. That’s probably not the answer many want to here, but there isn’t much positive or negative for me to say.  

Paul Postma 

Grade: D

Paul Postma along with the Jets other bottom pairing guys, hasn’t been great. Postma has played in 16 games this season and he is up to his old tricks once again. While he has the makings of a low-level offensive defenseman he has several defensive lapses in his own zone and while patrolling the blue line. Some analytical folk are in big favour of Postma over Chiarot, but to me, I don’t see much of a positive in either. 

Julian Melchiori 

Grade: D-

Melchiori likely will never crack a bottom pairing spot at the NHL level. His lack of defensive awareness makes him out to be a pylon in his own zone at times. He likely won’t be getting many shots with the Jets down the road unless injuries continue to pile up. 

Mark Stuart 

Grade: D-

This grading isn’t based off his ridiculous contract or his unnecessary playing time, it’s solely on performance, it’s been that bad. Not only does Stuart have the hockey IQ of a 10 year old playing NHL 17 who is constantly attempting big hits , he also brings no value to the team and if anything, hurts the team when he’s on the ice.

Ben Chiarot 

Grade: D

Chiarot is in a similar boat to Postma. His zone exits are horrendous, playing without Byfuglien has hurt his game and he doesn’t even look like an NHL player anymore. It’s been a rough go for Chiarot and he’s been underwhelming to say the least. 

Goaltending 

Michael Hutchinson

Grade: C-

The goalie rotation that the Jets started the year out with may not hold much ground going forward. In the longterm outlook, Hutchinson doesn’t seem to be capable of splitting starts and Hellebuyck is the man going forward. Hutchinson has games where he is fine and and other games, he couldn’t even stop a beach ball. Thus far in to the season Hutchinson’s numbers aren’t pretty. Through nine games, he’s posted a very poor 3.26 goals against average, 8.96 save percentage and 2-4-2 record. We may see Hutchinson emerge in to the team’s full-time backup before we know it.  

Connor Hellebuyck

Grade: B-

While Hellebuyck has been the Jets best goalie, his stat line isn’t pretty either. A 7-6-0 record to go along with a 2.62 goals against average while maintaining a .911 save percentage isn’t too sharp. That can’t entirely be blamed on him as the team in front of him has hung him out to dry too many times. It looks like we could see Hellebuyck take on a bigger role going forward, in part he’s earned it and also due to the fact it seems Hutchinson has lost any edge he ever had.