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Photo Credit: (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

What happened to him? – Kyle Wellwood

It was a brief, but rather impressive two years for Kyle Wellwood after coming to Winnipeg in 2011. The middle-aged center played two years with Winnipeg but dropped off the map after leaving the Jets. Winnipeg ended up being his last NHL stop, but it’s the way Wellwood left that makes his disappearance interesting. He was only 30 years old when he left Winnipeg and the question remains, what happened to him?

Career Stats

After looking at Antropov a few days ago, it’s another Maple Leafs draft pick making an appearance today. Wellwood was drafted in the fifth round in the 2001 entry draft. He remained in the OHL for two more seasons before spending another two years in the AHL with St. John’s. By his second AHL season, he was tearing up the league with 87 points in only 80 games. That was his stepping stone as he moved into the NHL in 2005 and never looked back.

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Journey to Winnipeg

After bouncing around to various teams including Vancouver and San Jose, Wellwood signed a deal with the Jets on September 9, 2011. It was a one year deal worth 700k. Interestingly, this was the fourth consecutive one-year contract that Wellwood signed in the NHL. Beginning with Vancouver in 2008, he signed three straight contracts for one year. Even odder is that he signed another one-year contract after his first year in Winnipeg which totaled five contracts in a row with a one-year term.

Franchise years

After signing with the Jets in 2011, Wellwood had a career year with 47 points in 77 games. His 18 goals were tied for his career-high and it seemed like the 28-year-old found a new home to rekindle his career. One of Wellwood’s highlights comes from his second goal with the franchise as the Jets played the Penguins during their fourth game of the season. It was a perfect start for the Jets as Wellwood finished off a goal merely seconds after the opening puck drop.

After the career year with the Jets, Wellwood crashed back down to earth in 2012-13 as he only managed 15 points in 39 games. Obviously, the point totals will decrease with the fewer games played, but the rates of his scoring also decreased.

Despite the slower production, Wellwood was still a valuable piece within the organization. Digging back through the Jetsnation archives shows a post from 2013 discussing that Wellwood needs to stay with the Jets as he’s a productive secondary scorer.

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Kyle Wellwood’s Worth

While not everyone thought so highly of Wellwood, he had pretty strong results in the two years with Winnipeg. He probably should have had a smaller role, but with the team struggling through the first few seasons, he was a solid veteran who provided some decent scoring in the middle six.

What happened to him?

After two good seasons with the Jets, Wellwood totally disappeared. It was a bizarre situation as he’d recently played quite well for the Jets. He was scoring 0.38 points per game and still wasn’t even 30 years old. Sure, he had bounced around to a few teams and there was always a commitment issue hanging over him, but he likely could have stayed with Winnipeg for a few more seasons and would have provided tremendous value as a bottom-six forward. Instead, Wellwood made his way to Europe and played a handful of games for Zug in the Swiss league. After 9 games played, Wellwood made his way back to North America, but not for hockey. He came back and promptly retired from the game as his “heart wasn’t in it anymore” according to a Swiss news reporter.

While this sounds surprising on the surface, Wellwood had been dogged for years with rumours that he wasn’t committed as a hockey player. He frequently showed up with little conditioning to training camps and didn’t seem to have the same drive and determination as others in the league. While some people held that against him, a lot of that likely had to due with the injuries he sustained over his career. He had numerous injuries during his days in the league which led him to work with HeadCheck Health recently which is a company working to reduce concussion injuries.

In a fascinating interview earlier this year, Wellwood talked to TSN in Vancouver about his career and his decision to retire at a fairly young age. He stated that he didn’t really love the game while playing in the NHL and that his interest in hockey actually peaked in his teenage years. After not really enjoying his career up until that point due to various injuries and other difficulties, it was time to retire and move on to other things.

Honestly, it’s as simple as that. At 30 years old, he hung up the skates and retired from professional hockey.

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That’s what happened to Kyle Wellwood.