Pionk Exceeding Jets’ Expectations

Neal Pionk has been a solid addition to the Winnipeg Jets’ lineup since he was acquired via trade in the deal that sent Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers. For a player who was being written off before he stepped foot on the ice, he has done well for himself so far.

Neal Pionk Rangers
Former New York Ranger Neal Pionk has been a pleasant surprise for the Jets. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Yes, it is still early, but this is a classic example of past seasons and analytics that don’t mean all that much. A young player who gets a fresh start has endless potential – regardless of what he has accomplished in his first couple of seasons.

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Pionk is Producing

Pionk already has five points through the first eight games and a plus-1 rating. He has averaged just over 23 minutes of ice time per game in a top-four defenseman role. He has averaged over two minutes per game on the power play, with one of his five points scored with the man advantage.

He has also averaged just shy of two minutes per game on the penalty kill and has yet to be on the ice for a power-play goal against. That tells you a lot about the 30th-ranked penalty kill in the NHL, operating at just 60% – yikes.

Pionk has also been averaging just shy of two shots per game with 15 total through eight games; multiply that by 82 and you get 153 shots on net, which would be a new career-high for the 24-year-old.

Analytics Improving

One knock against Pionk after the trade was that his analytics looked bad. While this is true – they did look bad – they don’t tell the full story. At just 24 years old, he was thrown into a new system with new players and coaches – who knows what can happen?

Pionk’s career Corsi for % (CF%) with the Rangers was 43.3% over his two seasons with the club. His average with the Jets is 52%. His career Fenwick for % (FF%) with the Rangers was 43.5%, his average with the Jets is 48.9%. These numbers will be something to watch throughout the season, but it is a great start and worth noting.

Pionk, I think, has pleasantly surprised a lot of people. I mentioned at the time of the trade, and still believe, that he will have a great season. However, the season is 82 games long, so we will revisit the topic come April and see where Pionk is at then.

Pionk – Trouba Trade Not All Doom and Gloom?

One of the biggest offseason trades was considered a win for the Rangers seconds after it happened. The Jets had not yet drafted their 20th overall selection in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and Pionk had barely heard the news when people started calling the deal a bust.

Today, the Jets have a promising young prospect in Ville Heinola (their 20th overall pick) and Pionk is doing far more than anyone expected as part of a rather porous defensive group.

Neal Pionk Winnipeg Jets
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Neal Pionk celebrates with Ville Heinola. (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

This is all happened because Trouba wanted out of Winnipeg and every other team knew it. It’s another job well done by general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. After all, we knew the 20th overall selection was going to be a stud, right? It’s what Cheveldayoff and the Jets’ scouting staff does.

Related: Jets Still Searching for Identity and Consistency

Let’s take a step back from the Pionk bashing and those who doubted him can admit they were wrong, at least for now.