Which Jets forwards have been leaned on the most? Whose role has fluctuated wildly? Who has been over or underused?
The Jets’ 2021-22 smoothed ice time graph provides, at a glance, answers to those questions in addition to illuminating a number of other trends and takeaways from this season, which is now in its final weeks.
Here, we will take a look at some of what the chart reveals.
Jets Have Leaned Hard on Connor
Kyle Connor has been the Jets’ best offensive player in 2021-22, and he’s made the most of his ice time. The 25-year-old sniper is enjoying a superb statistical season and his best as a professional, with 41 goals and 41 assists for 82 points. He recently became the first 40/40 man in the Jets 2.0 era.
Unfortunately, because he missed three games due to testing positive for COVID-19 last week — the test was only required because he had to travel from Buffalo to Toronto, and at the time, the Canadian government required travellers to provide a negative test before entering the country — he isn’t likely to hit either the 50-goal or 100-point plateau.
Other than the past three games, Connor has been leaned on heavily in all situations, as his 21:51 average time on ice leads all Jets’ forwards. At the very beginning of the season, Mark Scheifele did have slightly more ice time, but at around the 20-game mark, Connor surpassed him and never looked back.
Connor’s ice time has also been above other top six players such as the now-departed Andrew Copp, Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Paul Stastny.
Perfetti Rose Quickly to Prominent Role
Two games in early October on the bottom six was nothing compared to Perfetti’s role through January and February.
Perfetti was sent down after the Jets’ first two games of the season — but after racking up 15 points in 17 games for the Manitoba Moose — was placed on to the Taxi Squad on New Years’ Eve and elevated to the active roster during a large-scale team COVID outbreak in early January.
Perfetti’s usage between Jan. 6 and Feb. 17 — on the latter date, he suffered an injury against the Seattle Kraken that will keep him out for the rest of the season — indicate a show of faith in the top prospect from the Jets’ brass i and that they believed him capable of producing in the NHL. The fact they sacrificed a potential Entry-Level Slide by allowing him to play in 18 games further illustrates this faith.
Perfetti was given a true chance to strut his offensive stuff on the second line alongside Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kyle Connor during that stretch recording two goals and five assists and playing 15-plus minutes nine times.
While his season was cut short — he suffered another injury while rehabbing the injury he sustained from a hard Jamie Oleksiak hit and isn’t even skating right now — everything Perfetti did this season was quite encouraging. He should have little trouble establishing a big role next season.
Sanford Getting A Fair Shot
Zach Sanford has been given a fair shake in his first seven game as a Jet, as illustrated by his near-vertical peak on the graph.
Since being acquired at the Trade Deadline from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a 2022 fifth-rounder, the 6-foot-4 left-winger has risen from the third line with Adam Lowry and Mason Appleton to the second line with Dubois and Wheeler.
A strong forechecker with some offensive upside in addition to his size, Sanford has drawn two assists, played an average of 15:37, and dished out 18 hits.
The 27-year-old is an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. Thus, his relatively high ice time can be seen in two ways: as the Jets trying to get the absolute most out of a “rental,” or as the Jets taking him for a “test drive” to see if he’s worth re-signing this summer.
Svechnikov Has Been on a Rollercoaster
No player has been on more of a roller coaster ride than Evgeny Svechnikov, as illustrated by the swooping hills from decent heights to near the very bottom.
Svechnikov, a Detroit Red Wings castoff who came into the season on a PTO and impressed Jets’ brass enough to capture an NHL gig, began the season with Connor and Dubois on the second line.
Reunited with Dubois — an old teammate of his from the pairs QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles days — Svechnikov had seven points by mid-November. From mid-October through the end of November, he played double-digit minutes in 19 straight games.
Through December and January, he was relegated to a checking-line role or to the press box. He missed three games due to injury, was a healthy scratch at times, and had only three points from Dec. 1 through Feb. 23.
During the aforementioned stretch, the now-departed Paul Maurice and current interim head coach Dave Lowry tossed a number of players onto right wing to play with Connor and Dubois to see who would stick, but no one — not Kristian Vesalainen, Adam Brooks, nor Perfetti due to his injury — did stick for long.
Finally, the solution dawned on Lowry and Svechnikov replaced Brooks during the Feb. 21 game against the Flames. Svechnikov and the line heated up and the Russian had a three-game goal streak and four-game point streak through late February and early March.
Related: Jets Need to Keep Svechnikov on 2nd Line With Connor & Dubois
Svechnikov has bounced around again lately. Most recently, on March 30 against the Buffalo Sabres, he was again moved to the bottom six, being swapped for Sanford. He is now playing with Adam Lowry and Mason Appleton on the third line.
Vesalainen’s Role Has Deservingly Decreased to Zero
Kristian Vesalainen’s role was never very big this season, and now he doesn’t have one at all.
The 2017 first-rounder and now 22-year-old is trending into “bust” category. He has been touted as a player with high-end offensive talent, and has shown flashes of such with the Moose, but he was rarely in the right position on the ice this season with the Jets to showcase his skills.
Nothing he’s done has warranted an extended look on the top six, and he did not provide the bottom six with much of anything; not secondary scoring with just two goals and one assist in 53 games, not shutdown defence, and not maximum effort.
Just prior to the Trade Deadline, Vesalainen was sent down to the Moose and struggled even there. “I just watched every single one of Kristian Vesalainen’s AHL shifts this year and I am just completely puzzled by his continued lack of urgency/engagement,” AHL writer Jacob Stoller Tweeted on March 26.
Vesalainen recorded zero points in five games before getting injured blocking a shot. He remains on the shelf.
Considering the Jets acquired Appleton, Morgan Barron, and Sanford on Deadline Day, it doesn’t appear Vesalainen will play anymore NHL games this season, even if he gets healthy. The Finn is a restricted free agent this offseason and it’s become increasingly difficult to see where this once-highly regarded prospect fits into the Jets’ future, if at all.
What other trends and takeaways does the “Smoothed ice time” chart illustrate for you? Comment below.