Winnipeg Jets: 4 Best Players from the First Half of the 2013 NHL Season

Eric McKelvieSenior Writer IMarch 11, 2013

Winnipeg Jets: 4 Best Players from the First Half of the 2013 NHL Season

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    The Winnipeg Jets passed the halfway point of the lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season Sunday, with a 3-2 shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils. 

    However, it’s not all bad news for Winnipeg’s passionate fan base. The Jets are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and have had some success on the road, where they struggled virtually all of last season. 

    The Jets now sit ninth in the Eastern Conference, just two points behind the New York Rangers. With that said, there have been a few key players who have helped the Jets stay in the playoff hunt.   

    These are Winnipeg's four best players from the first half of the season.  


    Stats courtesy of

Andrew Ladd

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    It’s hard to imagine where the Jets would be without their captain. 

    Ladd has not only been playing some of the best hockey of his career, he has been producing offensively on a consistent basis and in crucial moments as well. With a team best 13 goals and 24 points, Ladd has proven he is a legitimate first line player. 

    He has also made improvements in his defensive zone play, making fewer turnovers. Ladd is proving to be the complete package thus far, making good decisions in all game situations. If he can continue to lead by example, the Jets may just have a shot at the playoffs. 

Evander Kane

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    At this point Kane is living up to the six-year, $31.5 million contract he signed prior to the lockout. 

    Yes it’s a very small sample size, but Kane’s speed, play-making and shooting abilities have been on full display. With 10 goals and nine assists, Kane trails only Ladd for the team lead in goals and points.

    However, offensive is just one part of what Kane brings to the ice every game. At just 21 years old, Kane has already earned a reputation as being a hard-nosed, physical player. He continues to prove that this season, as he leads the Jets with 73 hits. 

    The only knock on Kane this season is that statistically he's been more streaky than consistent. His point streak was well documented, but he’s also gone eight straight games without a goal and five straight without a point in different stretches this season.

Dustin Byfuglien

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    In the five games Byfuglien missed, the Jets were not nearly as strong defensively. They managed to win two games, but gave up a combined 14 goals in embarrassing losses to the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. 

    At 27 years old, Byfuglien continues to improve as a defenseman, while still maintaining his offensive touch. 

    He has 11 points in 20 games, including a beautiful game winning goal in overtime against the Panthers. 

    The 6'5" 265-pound blueliner leads all Winnipeg defensemen with a plus five rating. Also, Byfuglien will likely be ever better once his regular partner, Tobias Enstrom, returns to the lineup. 

Blake Wheeler

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    Wheeler struggled at some points earlier in the season, but is now playing a much better game overall. 

    The 26-year-old right winger, who led the Jets with a career-high 64 points last season, has racked up eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points in 25 games. 

    Wheeler has put in a better effort defensively this year. He leads all Winnipeg forwards with 26 blocked shots and has a team best 17 takeaways. With that said, there is still room for improvement for Wheeler, who at 6'5" boasts a great mix of skill and size.

    Finally, Bryan Little, who has centered Ladd and Wheeler on the top line, deserves a mention. Little has won nearly 52 percent of his draws and has obviously played a big role in the success of his linemates.