Jets Need to Keep Svechnikov on 2nd Line With Connor & Dubois

If the Winnipeg Jets want to keep their second line clicking as they pursue a Western Conference Wild Card spot, Evgeny Svechnikov needs to stay on it.

Svechnikov Complements Connor and Dubois Well

Svechnikov has played on the second line with Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois for the past three games (plus one period of the game preceding them.) He scored his first goal since Jan. 4 on a deft deflection in the Jets’ strong three-goal first period against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday — a game where they collapsed and lost 6-3 — and scored again in the first period against the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday.

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He also had the gorgeous primary helper on Connor’s third-period game winner, which helped the Jets snap their four-game losing streak and avoid hitting rock bottom for now.

Svechnikov complements Connor and Dubois in a number of ways. He is a terrific passer with great vision and a good defender in all three zones. He can make good things happen in tight spaces and has a knack for retaining and maintaining possession of the puck.

Svechnikov Must Be Dizzy from 2021-22 Tilt-a-Whirl

Svechnikov, a Detroit Red Wings castoff who came into the season on a PTO and impressed Jets’ brass to capture an NHL gig, began the season with the pair.

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Reunited with Dubois — an old teammate of his on the QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles — Svechnikov had seven points by mid-November. From mid-October through the end of November, he played double-digit minutes in 19 straight games.

Evgeny Svechnikov Winnipeg Jets
Evgeny Svechnikov began the season in a top six role, then was relegated to the bottom six or the press box, and now has a top six role again. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Through December and January — upon the returns of Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler — he was relegated to a checking-line role or to the press box. While he missed three games due to injury and was a healthy scratch at times, he had only three points from Dec. 1 through Feb. 23, the first game he returned to top-six duty.

“During that stretch, you could see an obvious mood change with Svechnikov, who is considered to be among the most talkative and joyful players in the locker room,” The Winnipeg Free Press’ Jeff Hamilton wrote recently. “Part of that could be not having success compared to earlier the year, among other things.” (From ‘Svechnikov’s roller-coaster season,’ Winnipeg Free Press, Feb. 24, 2022.)

Jets Coaches Throw Spaghetti at Wall to Find Suitable Second-Line Right Winger

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 the pure sniper Connor and hard-charging Dubois to see what would stick.

Related: Winnipeg Jets Need to Figure Out Who They Really Are

They tried Kristian Vesalainen, who has offensive talent but never seems in a position to use it. The 2017 first-rounder has just two goals and one assist in 44 games.

Kristian Vesalainen Winnipeg Jets
Kristian Vesalainen is just one player the Jets tried with Connor and Dubois. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Lowry then gave the assignment to top prospect Cole Perfetti and deserves credit for providing the youngster big minutes, because it’s something Maurice never would have done. Perfetti performed admirably through January and February with two goals and five assists through 17 games, but was injured on Feb. 17 against the Seattle Kraken and remains on the shelf.

Instead of going back to Svechnikov, Lowry tried waiver-wire pickup Adam Brooks in the spot against the Flames last Monday. But the hometown product — on a whirlwind NHL tour — was added to shore up the bottom six, not play on the top six, and hadn’t suited up for an NHL game since New Year’s Eve. Finally, the solution dawned on Lowry and Svechnikov replaced Brooks before the third period. He has not left the spot since.

Jets Don’t Need Solution for Problems That Don’t Exist

Nor should he. Connor and Dubois are too good to be throttled in any way by a revolving door on the right. As two of the only players who have consistently given a full effort during this disappointing season, they deserve to be set up for success. Connor is chasing the 50-goal mark — with 32 tallies and 29 games still to go — and Dubois is in the thick of things every night with 21 goals and 19 assists in 52 games.

Winnipeg Jets Celebrate Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Brenden Dillon
Kyle Connor (right) and Dubois (centre) deserve to have a consistent right winger. (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

Svechnikov is found money, on a one-year, $750,000 contract. He has the touch to stick with the pair, and stick with them he should. Lowry’s already has enough issues on his plate — team consistency, a lack of identity, and the inability for both top lines to excel simultaneously are some reasons for their position on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. He doesn’t need to try and solve a second line problem that doesn’t exist.

Lowry’s made poor decisions regarding defensive deployment, but putting Svechnikov on the second line was a good one. It should be a no-brainer to keep him there going forward.