Don't sleep on the Jets, the surprise threat to win the North Division

Avry Lewis-McDougall
·4-min read

The Scotia North Division has been thrilling, almost every game is a must-watch and so far Toronto and Montreal sit at the top.

How much longer they stay atop the division remains in question, thanks to the Winnipeg Jets.

Winnipeg currently sits third in the division with a 7-3-1 record and is currently riding a two-game win streak, after taking two of three games from their last set against Calgary. The Jets have also yet to lose back-to-back games. The Jets, at times, haven’t made things easy on themselves as five of their wins have come in games where they trailed but they’ve found ways to take two points as often as they can.

Winnipeg’s offense ranks among the upper half of the league, averaging 3.55 goals per game, a better mark than clubs with elite scoring options like Edmonton and Colorado. Mark Scheifele is leading the way for Winnipeg with 14 points this season, while Kyle Connor ranks second in the NHL with four power play goals

Nik Ehlers has also remained one of the key cogs in the Jets offence. Ehlers has put up 12 points this year and considering that earlier in the campaign he was playing less than 17 minutes a night, he’s found a way to still produce with whatever ice time has come his way within the Jets’ top-six forward group.

WINNIPEG, MB - FEBRUARY 2: Goaltender Laurent Brossoit #30 of the Winnipeg Jets is congratulated by teammates Paul Stastny #25, Mark Scheifele #55, Andrew Copp #9 and Derek Forbort #24 following a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames at the Bell MTS Place on February 2, 2021 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)
Don't sleep on the Winnipeg Jets, who could shock the world and win the Scotia North Division. (Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Blake Wheeler also has 11 points in 11 games but at the same time, it’s been an odd start to the season. Wheeler’s Corsi For percentage is among the lowest on the Jets at 45.8% and he’s been on the ice for over 10 of Winnipeg’s 21 goals allowed at five-on-five. Wheeler still has the support of head coach Paul Maurice, who passionately defended his play in a Feb. 3 post-game scrum and spoke how the advanced stats, haven’t told the complete story about his captain.

On the blueline, Neal Pionk has eight points — including six primary assists — in 11 games with seven points coming during even strength. Pionk’s seven even-strength points put him in a tie for second-most among all defencemen in the league.

This week, we’ll see if the Jets make the call to add Pierre-Luc Dubois to the mix against either Calgary or Ottawa.

Winnipeg traded Patrik Laine — one of their faces of the franchise since taking him 2nd overall in the 2016 NHL Draft — and Jack Roslovic to the Blue Jackets for Dubois and a 2022 third-round pick.

Dubois wasn’t able to immediately join the Jets roster due to the Canadian rules requiring him to quarantine for 14 days, but now that he’s out of quarantine, this is a massive play for Winnipeg. Dubois brings so much to a forward core that you can now say runs three-to-four solid lines.

Winnipeg’s center depth is nothing to sneeze at when you look at Dubois joining the likes of Scheifele and Paul Statsny down the middle. If need be, he’s also shown an ability to play on the wing.

At 22, Dubois’ game can still grow and so far he’s shown how dangerous he can be when he gets to the net. Dubois has already put up two seasons of 20 goals or more and if it wasn’t for COVID cutting the 2019-20 season shot, he would’ve possibly had a third, recording 18 goals in 70 games.

At 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, Dubois showed in Columbus how he was able to use his size to get to the net, but defensively he’s also shown how he’s been one of the best two-way centers in the game.

In net, this team does rely on Connor Hellebuyck to recapture the form that saw him take home his first Vezina Trophy last season. Hellebuyck has had hit or miss moments to start this campaign with his save percentage at the start of the year hovering in the .900 range.

In his last start, Hellebuyck made 23 saves in a 4-1 win over the Flames, passing Ondrej Pavelec as the franchise’s all-time wins leader with his 153rd victory. Stringing together a few more strong starts will do a lot for Winnipeg in terms of continuing to try and separate themselves from the pack.

The Jets are an interesting story when it comes to the battle for the North. Winnipeg may not have looked to be a team most thought could contend to take the Scotia North from Game One.

The residents of Bell MTS Place have shown they’re a squad that firmly is planting themselves in the conversation of a team that may do more than simply qualify for a playoff spot.

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