Another year has come and gone for the Winnipeg Jets, where the veterans got to play major minutes and the younger players were relegated to 10 minutes or less of ice-time per night. Forward Jansen Harkins was yet another victim of this situation while being coached by Paul Maurice and later Dave Lowry.
Harkins is a member of the infamously great 2015 NHL Draft class, where he was selected in the second round. He played in the WHL, ECHL and AHL before joining the Jets and has been with them since 2019-20. In 2020-21, the 25-year-old played just 26 of 56 games with Winnipeg, serving as a healthy scratch for the other 30 games of the season.
According to PuckPedia.com, Harkins is now coming off of a two-year, $1.45 million contract and is set to become a restricted free agent with arbitration eligibility this off-season. He’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agency after the 2023-24 campaign.
With that in mind, let’s discuss the positives and negatives regarding Harkins’ third NHL season.
This past season, Harkins reached new highs on so many different levels. For starters, the left-hander played 77 games – setting a new career-high in that regard. In total, he scored seven goals and 13 points. He also registered his first career multi-goal game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Mar. 20.
According to NaturalStatTrick, Harkins recorded all 13 of his points during a 5-on-5 play. The Jets’ second-round pick from 2015 improved his shooting percentage, too, increasing from 6.3 per cent in 2020-21 to 10.5 per cent in 2021-22.
Though Harkins only took 44 face-offs this past season, he won 28 of them, resulting in a 63.6 per cent face-off win percentage. Harkins utilized every bit of his 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame to generate significantly more hits this year, picking up a career-high 51. Over his previous two campaigns, he had only logged 19 total hits.
Most notably, Harkins scored a nifty little goal – his third of the season – against the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 2, 2022, where he danced around forward Chandler Stephenson before firing his shot into the net.
As for Harkins’ advanced metrics, his Fenwick For (45.8 per cent) and Corsi For Percentages (44.5 per cent) at 5-on-5 weren’t great. The Ohio native was primarily limited to Winnipeg’s fourth line and only averaged 9:29 minutes of ice-time per game.
Yet, we only got to see Harkins in as many games as we did is because of the departures of last season’s fourth line – including Mathieu Perreault, Nate Thompson and Trevor Lewis. To make matters worse, Harkins missed five games due to COVID-19 and a concussion.
Given his fourth-line assignment, I thought we’d witness Harkins earn some penalty-killing time, however, we only saw him on the ice for 1:06 during these situations. That’s not ideal. He probably should’ve received dramatically more short-handed opportunities. But alas, that wasn’t the case.
The first thing Harkins will need to do is re-sign with the Jets this summer. Still, considering his limited success and that he’s only played 132 career NHL contests, chances are he’ll be offered a short-term bridge deal once again.
With a new contract and head coach, who’ll hopefully play him closer to 12 minutes per night, Harkins could play a type of game that’s more suited to his player-maker style. If Harkins is granted extra ice-time, we could potentially watch him score upwards of 12 goals and 26 points next season.
I’d love to see Harkins receive additional work on special teams, as well. Who knows, maybe a new head coach would give him a chance to play with some of the club’s top forwards again, too.
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