NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three key statistics for the Winnipeg Jets
[Jets 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown]
1. The Wheel deal
Forward Blake Wheeler had a career season in 2017-18, leading the NHL with 68 assists, finishing second with 40 power-play points (six goals, 34 assists), and being named to the Second All-Star Team.
Over the past seven seasons with the Jets, the 32-year-old forward ranked second in the NHL with 216 primary assists, 10th with 478 points (165 goals, 313 assists) and 14th with 1,567 shots in 534 games. Wheeler (6-foot-5, 225 pounds), who often plays in front of the opposing net, ranked fourth in the NHL in that span with 53 deflections and second with 14 goals by deflection, and among NHL forwards, he ranked 56th with 767 hits, 23rd with an average of 19:32 of ice time per game, and 10th with 380 blocked shots.
Video: Blake Wheeler lands at No. 9 on the list
2. Net improvement
The Jets reduced their goals-against from 255 in 2016-17 (27th in the NHL) to 216 in 2017-18 (fifth). That reduction of 39 goals ranked second in the NHL behind the Colorado Avalanche's minus-40.
The difference was in net. Winnipeg's goalies combined for a .919 save percentage in 2017-18, up .015 from .904 in 2016-17. That was the second-biggest improvement in the NHL behind Colorado's goalies, who had a .018 increase, from .899 in 2016-17 to .917 in 2017-18.
Connor Hellebuyck led the NHL in games played by a goalie (67) and wins (44), was named to the Second All-Star Team, and finished second in voting for the Vezina Trophy last season. His NHL career-best save percentage of .924 in 2017-18 was the highest in a single season in Jets/Atlanta Thrashers history among those to play at least 20 games.
Based on his .910 save percentage over his first two NHL seasons, Hellebuyck would have been expected to allow 183.5 goals on the 2,048 shots he faced in 2017-18. Instead, he allowed 156, for an NHL-high difference of 27.5 saves above expectations.
Video: Connor Hellebuyck is named No. 4 on the list
3. Trending up
Winnipeg's power-play percentage went from 18.2 percent in 2016-17 (18th in the NHL) to 23.4 percent in 2017-18 (fifth). The plus-5.2 percent was the fourth-greatest improvement in the NHL. The 23.4 percent was a franchise high, topping the 2008-09 Thrashers' 19.3 percent.
The Jets' penalty-killing percentage went from 77.5 percent in 2016-17 (26th in the NHL) to 81.8 percent (ninth). The plus-4.3 percent was the third-biggest improvement in the NHL last season.
Video: WPG@VGK, Gm4: Laine rips home power-play goal