Jets Weekly: Connor’s Slow Start & Ehlers’ Injury

Welcome to the fourth installment of “Jets Weekly.” This author will cover the past week in Winnipeg Jets news every Saturday during the regular season and break down storylines involving the Jets organization.

The Winnipeg Jets had an outstanding, drama-filled week of games. They currently sit in second place within the Central Division with a record of 5-3-0. Rick Bowness remains sidelined from the Jets bench due to his battle with COVID-19, and Scott Arniel has done a great job taking over coaching duties in his absence.

The 4-0 win over the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 24 was their most complete effort of the season, and they followed that up with a 6-4 come-from-behind win over the Los Angeles Kings. On Oct. 27, the Jets needed overtime to take down the Arizona Coyotes at Mullet Arena, but they ultimately walked away with a 3-2 victory. They’ve gone on a three-game winning streak in the past week despite facing some early-season adversity.

Kyle Connor Has Only 1 Goal Through the First 8 Games

Kyle Connor scored 47 goals last season, yet he has only scored one throughout the first eight games in the 2022-23 campaign. That goal was scored on an empty net, which means that Connor has yet to beat a goaltender with a shot. Should Jets fans be at all concerned with the slow start for one of the teams’ elite goalscorers?

Related: Winnipeg Jets: 6 Notable Statistics Through First 6 Games

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Connor has an uncharacteristically low shooting percentage (S%) of 3.33 percent so far, which is well below his percentage from last season of 14.83 percent. According to, Connor has recorded 15 individual high-danger chances (iHDCF), and 4.27 individual expected goals (ixG). These numbers indicate that he is generating chances at the same rate he was a year ago. Obviously, he did not lose his top-end shooting talent over the offseason, meaning he is bound to start putting pucks in the back of the net soon enough.

For a team that was projected to be lacking forward depth, it’s incredible how they’ve been able to string together impressive wins despite their top goalscorer’s lack of production.

Halfway through the Oct. 27 win over the Coyotes, coach Arniel re-united Connor with his centre from a year ago, Pierre-Luc Dubois. This duo was electric for the Jets in 2021-22, and the Jets are hoping they can get the same production a second time around.

Connor Hellebuyck Remains A Consistent Performer

Connor Hellebuyck is still good. Who would’ve thought? Six games is a small sample size, but his .925 save percentage (SV%) would be a career high, and his 2.50 goals-against average would be his best since 2017-18.

According to, Hellebuyck has saved 2.9 goals above expected (GSAx) so far this season, which is a good start for the former Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender. His best performance of the season came against the Blues on Oct. 24, where he made 25/25 saves for his first shutout of the season.

Connor Hellebuyck Winnipeg Jets
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Hellebuyck is the ultimate “X-factor” of the Jets’ 2022-23 season, and his hot start has provided hope that the 28-year-old goaltender will yet again be amongst the NHL’s best.

Besides a bad first period against the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 20, David Rittich has looked like a replacement-level goaltender as the backup on the second half of back-to-backs. Rittich being a decent backup is a huge key for the Jets, who would like to get their star goaltender as much rest as possible.

A Great Start Given the Circumstances

Connor’s scoring drought is not the only thing the Jets have had to persevere through so far. Nikolaj Ehlers has now missed six straight games, with his last played game being on Oct. 17 against the Dallas Stars. The Jets have gone 4-2-0 in Ehlers’ absence, which bodes well for their success once he returns to the lineup.

Ehlers’ wins above replacement (WAR) card is one of the most impressive in the league, and his $6 million cap hit is one of the best value contracts in the NHL.

Nikolaj Ehlers
Nikolaj Ehlers’ wins above replacement (WAR) player card, 2019-22

The question that arises with Ehlers returning to the lineup, is what the Jets will do with their third line. Mason Appleton has filled in for Ehlers in the top six in his absence, and the bottom six has been dominant in that time.

According to, the third line of Morgan Barron, Adam Lowry, and Sam Gagner have a 79.2 percent expected goals percentage (xG%). That number is unsustainably high, but it’s been the sixth-best forward line by that metric across the entire NHL. How the Jets deploy their lines upon Ehlers’ return is something to keep an eye on.

The Jets will face the Golden Knights on Sunday night, looking to get revenge for the 5-2 loss they suffered on Oct. 20. They will look to sweep the three-game road trip with a good performance against the second-best team in the NHL by point totals. This will be a true test for the Jets who will look to break the Knights’ undefeated home record. They will then return home for a three-game home stand beginning on Thursday, Nov. 3.

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