Jets’ Kyle Connor Becomes First 40/40 Player in 2.0 Era

On Thursday night, with a third-period goal in a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators, Kyle Connor became the Winnipeg Jets 2.0’s first 40/40 man — that is, the first to score 40 goals and amass 40 assists in a single season.

Connor Enjoying Stupendous Statistical Season

The Jets have underachieved in 2021-22, a season they entered pegged by many to be a Stanley Cup contender. The team as a whole has not reached expectations — sixth in the Central Division and battling for but unlikely to achieve a Western Conference Wild card spot — but individually, Connor has met and exceeded them.

In this, his sixth NHL campaign, Connor has already set career highs in goals (40) assists (40), and points (80), with 17 games still to go.

His 40 goals are tied for fourth league-wide, and he leads the Jets in goals by 15 and points by 21. He is the first Jets’ 40-goal scorer since Patrik Laine accomplished the feat his 2017-18 sophomore season.

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In addition to being the first 40/40 man of the Jets 2.0 era, he is the first 40/40 man for the Atlanta Thrashers/Jets franchise since 2008-09, when Ilya Kovalchuk piled up 43 goals and 48 assists for 91 points.

Connor a Consistent Scoring Threat

Some players score goals in bunches and then go silent for a number of games — hello again, Laine — but not Connor. The 25-year-old never seems to fall into a slump.

Everyone knows how accurate and scorching Connor’s shot is, and how quickly the puck leaves his stick. His are often “goal-scorer’s goals” — not garbage goals on scrambles — but ones where he rifles a straight shot and says “stop this if you can.”

Perhaps the best illustration of his goal-scoring consistency is that he does not have a hat trick this season, but has lit the lamp in 35 separate games.

He has eight games with three-plus points — including a season-high four-point effort on March 20 against the Chicago Blackhawks — and 23 multi-point games. He has been held off the scoresheet in just 17 games.

He’s been scorching lately, with eight goals in March, and a five-game goal streak from March 8 through 15.

Connor Is No One-Trick Pony

Connor’s passing ability remains a highly overlooked part of his game, despite the fact he’s piled 160 of them in 371-career games — just 12 fewer assists than he has goals.

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A player doesn’t get 40 assists in a season without being an adept passer. His knack for making accurate passes off the rush, his vision to find open seams in the offensive zone, and ability to dish out perfect sauce make him more than a one-dimensional scorer — they make him a well-rounded and highly-dangerous offensive player in general. Goals such as Neal Pionk’s below don’t happen without Connor’s gorgeous pass.

Picture yourself as an opposing goaltender for a second. Connor has the puck as he and a teammate enter the zone on a two-on-one. Is he going to wire a shot, or dish it off? If he was a bad passer, you could cheat on the shot. But you can’t — he’s equally good at both. Your situation is a nightmare and there’s a good chance the puck will be behind you in a moment, whether it’s off his twig or his teammate’s.

Connor Still On Pace for 50-Goal Season, Jets 2.0 Single Season Points Record

With 40 goals through 65 games, Connor is scoring 0.615 goals per game. If you do the math, with 17 games to go, he’s on pace to score 10.45 more, which would be enough to reach the 50-goal plateau.

He would be just one goal shy from 50 already if it weren’t for those pesky posts. He’s beaten goaltenders — but not iron — nine times, which is tied for second-most in the NHL.

Connor is also on pace to set a new Jets 2.0 single-season points record. The current record holder is Blake Wheeler, who recorded 91 in both 2017-18 and 2018-19. Connor is recording 1.23 points per game and is thus on pace for 20.91 more, which would put him into triple digits.

Kyle Connor Winnipeg Jets
Kyle Connor is on pace to score 50 goals and record 100 points. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It would certainly be exciting to see Connor reach the 50-goal mark — he’d be the first 2.0 Jet to do it, the first Jet — when taking the WHA and 1.0 eras into account — since Keith Tkachuk in 1995-96, and the first in the Thrashers/Jets franchise since Kovalchuk in 2007-08.

Individual accolades are all well and good, but the most important thing is that he keeps flexing his overall offensive skill during the team’s push for the second Western Conference Wild Card spot. Those chances took a big hit Thursday night with the Dallas Stars winning 4-3 in a shootout over the Carolina Hurricanes and the Jets playing down to yet another inferior opponent.

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If Connor doesn’t score 50 this season, he almost certainly will in the future. He is just entering his prime and is under contract through 2025-26. If he does, his superstar status won’t be able to be ignored any longer.