After losing to the Calgary Flames in four games during the 2020 Qualifying Round, the Winnipeg Jets were hoping to take a step forward this past season. They were able to do that this year with the help of Kyle Connor, and with his team-leading 26 goals, he was a major factor that helped this team become successful.
One of the most underrated players in the NHL is Connor. Ever since he started playing full-time in the league, he started to guarantee the Jets at least 50 points every season. He’s the player every team needs to generate offense but is rarely provided enough recognition. Don’t get me wrong, the 24-year-old scores some beautiful goals but he rarely ends up on the highlight reel.
Connor was a major piece to the Jets’ success in making it to the playoffs this past season. Let’s have a look at Connor’s positives and negatives from the 2020-21 season.
What Went Right For Connor
The first positive of Connor’s campaign that popped right off the stat sheet was his decrease in penalty minutes. Connor had 34 penalty minutes in 71 games last season but only earned 12 minutes in the box this past season. I love that discipline and it also proves Connor isn’t a lazy player who just looks for the easy plays. That being said, Connor was a little more aggressive as a player, which saw him go from .25 hits per game in 2019-20 to .32 hits per game in 2020-21, which is a significant increase for a skilled first-line forward.
The other thing that really stood out was the fact that Connor’s goals per 60 minutes (1.5 G/60) and points per 60 minutes (2.9 P/60) stayed the exact same between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. Sure, it would have been great to see Connor step up and score more goals, but you really can’t be upset that he’s registering a point almost every three games.
What Went Wrong For Connor
It’s so hard to nit-pick on such a consistent player. If you look at the final seven straight losses towards the end of the regular season, Connor looked a little lost on the ice without captain Blake Wheeler, who missed multiple games in April due to a concussion that he suffered after a collision with Ottawa Senators forward, Brady Tkachuk.
The one thing that concerned me about Connor was the fact he was on the ice for 59 goals against this past season. That’s a little concerning for a top-line winger, but you can’t even put that much blame on him just simply looking at Winnipeg’s defense – it’s understandable. Obviously, I’m really stretching on things that are wrong with Connor because he shows up every game, competes and makes up for the majority of the goals allowed that he’s on the ice for.
What to Expect in 2021-2022
We can probably expect Connor to play on the top line again with Mark Scheifele and Wheeler, which appears to be the perfect spot for him. Connor has proved his worth to stay on the first line and we know that coach Paul Maurice likes to keep the lines the same when things are rolling, and I expect that top line to keep rolling together next season.
Unless something drastic happens to the top line, I could see the former first-round pick scoring more than a point per game next season. The 24-year-old shows drive and I can see him working hard this off-season to improve his craft for his sixth campaign in the league, which would be phenomenal. If that occurs, the Jets could be a big contender in the Central Division in 2021-22.