Top 5 Jets Players of the 2010s

It took the Winnipeg Jets a couple of years to become a playoff contender after they inherited the Atlanta Thrashers franchise in 2011. Since then, they’ve earned a 399-304-80 regular-season record, and have made five playoff appearances in 10 seasons. Despite three coaching changes in that time, they finally became one of the NHL’s elite teams in 2017, and have made the playoffs in four straight seasons.

Their best season was 2017-18, and all five players on this list played on that team. That season, Winnipeg compiled a 52-20-10 record, ranked second in the NHL with 114 points, and it was the only time they made it further than the second round of the playoffs; they lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final. Even though the team didn’t have much playoff success in the 2010s, it had no shortage of elite players. Below are the top five Jets players of that decade.

Blake Wheeler

Starting with the obvious choice, Blake Wheeler leads the Jets in every major skater stat category, including his 223 goals, 475 assists and 697 points. He is the also longest-tenured member of the organization, as he was traded to the Thrashers before they relocated to Winnipeg, and signed a two-year contract with the Jets before their inaugural season. The team named Wheeler captain in 2016, and he’s been a strong leader and fan favourite as a staple on the top line for most of the decade. 

Blake Wheeler Winnipeg Jets Carey Price Montreal Canadiens
Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets and Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Jason Halstead/Getty Images)

Wheeler’s best season was in 2017-18 when he scored 23 goals and 91 points in the regular season before becoming over a point-per-game player in the playoffs with 21 points in 17 games. His line with Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor combined for 20 goals in the Jets’ best playoff run since they returned to Winnipeg.

At 35, Wheeler has started to slow down, but at his peak, he was the most dominant skater to play for the Jets. He could make seam passes on the power play and shrug defenders off while driving to the net and was one of the fastest skaters on the ice at 6-foot-5, which is rare.

Dustin Byfuglien

Dustin Byfuglien is the franchise leader in every major stat category for a defenseman, finishing his Jets career with 528 games played, 102 goals and 363 points. The 6-foot-5 defenceman was adored for his big hits and flashy style. Unfortunately, his tenure with the club came to an abrupt end after he missed training camp before the 2019-20 season, but it hasn’t diminished his reputation as one of the most entertaining players to watch in Winnipeg.

Related: Winnipeg Jets 2.0: Best Players of the Past Decade

Byfuglien’s best statistical season was in 2013-14 when he recorded 20 goals and 56 points. He also reached a near point-per-game pace in the 2018 Playoffs, finishing with 16 points in 17 games before the Jets lost in the conference final. Patrik Laine is often considered the biggest power play threat in those playoffs, but Byfuglien’s ability to make the correct pass or unleash his rocket of a shot was critical in making their power play one of the best in the league. Wheeler may have been the quarterback, but Byfuglien added a dangerous option that made them nearly unstoppable. 

Patrik Laine

Laine was selected second overall in the 2016 NHL Draft, making him the Jets’ highest pick of the decade, and he was an immediate contributor. In his rookie season, he scored 36 goals and 64 points while playing in the top six, and he brought a new element to their power play with his one-timer from the left circle.

The Jets traded Laine in 2020-21, but his four-season run in Winnipeg was arguably a franchise-best for a goal-scorer. Laine leads the Jets 2.0 franchise in goals per game with 0.45 while being second all-time in power-play goals with 52 behind Scheifele’s 56. Despite playing almost 300 more games, Scheifele only leads by four power-play goals.

Laine’s best season was in 2017-18 when he scored 44 goals and 70 points. His time with the organization may have ended badly, but he was an extraordinary player for the Jets. Connor is making his case now, but Laine was a goal-scoring talent that was unheard of in Winnipeg with his ability to take shots from the blue line and beat a goalie clean. His defensive play was always a debate, but he makes this list because he was a big reason the Jets made the playoffs in three straight seasons from 2017-20, and after he was drafted, he helped change the team’s fortunes.

Mark Scheifele

Scheifele has been the Jets’ first-line centre for almost seven seasons. Recently, he has become more of an offensive specialist, but at his peak, Scheifele was one of the most dominant two-way centres in the league.

He was drafted in 2011 with the first draft pick in Jets’ 2.0 history. However, it took him until 2014-15 to become a consistent contributor, and he didn’t fully hit his stride until 2016-17 when he recorded 82 points in 79 games. Since that season, Scheifele has never dipped below a point per game or higher pace.

Mark Scheifele Winnipeg Jets
Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

In the 2018 Playoffs, Scheifele dominated with 14 goals and 20 points in 17 games. Scoring at almost a goal-per-game pace, Scheifele was arguably the biggest reason the Jets advanced to the conference final. He also set a record for road playoff goals in a single year with 11.

Connor Hellebuyck

Connor Hellebuyck was drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Draft, but like Scheifele, he was a late bloomer. He didn’t become the Jets’ starting goaltender until the 2016-2017 season, when he only posted a .907 save percentage (SV%) in 56 games. Now, in the fourth year of a six-year contract worth $6.1 million per year, he has proven he’s worth it and more; he was one of the biggest factors in helping the team become one of the best in the league in 2017-18. But he has also proven that he doesn’t need a good team in front of him to be one of the best goalies.

In his best season in 2017-18, Hellebuyck earned 44 wins and a .924 SV%, both career highs. Although notes that he saved 24.2 more goals than expected in 2019, versus 10.2 in 2017, that means, when Hellebuyck won the Vezina Trophy in 2019-20, he faced a higher quality of chances despite remaining very close to the same SV% that he had in 2017. Hellebuyck has given the Jets a fighting chance at the playoffs every season, and he deserves to be amongst the top five Jets because of it.

Most of the selections on this list are either past their prime, or not on the team anymore. Despite the Jets coming short of expectations in the past decade, the future is looking bright. They have drafted and acquired young talents such as Nikolaj Ehlers, Cole Perfetti and Pierre-Luc Dubois to try and change their fortunes in the near future. With this talent, there is hope amongst the organization that the Jets can put together a successful decade of playoff success.

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