NHL THREE STARS: WINNIPEG JETS’ CONNOR EXCELS WITH MAPLE LEAFS AND LIGHTNING WINGERS

NHL THREE STARS: WINNIPEG JETS’ CONNOR EXCELS WITH MAPLE LEAFS AND LIGHTNING WINGERS

In this week’s NHL three stars, Winnipeg Jets winger Kyle Connor could set new season highs, a Toronto Maple Leafs winger continues to raise his value, and the Tampa Bay Lightning has a 30-year-old winger who’s still got it.

It’s time, once again, for THN.com’s three stars of the week. For this file, we’ve examined the results of the past seven days in the NHL and picked out the three NHLers with the best effect on their team’s play. Let’s get straight to it:

3. WILLIAM NYLANDER, TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

Nylander’s thriving with points in all of the Maple Leafs’ 15 games this season. Since last Monday, he posted four goals and seven points in four games this week.

The 27-year-old winger has been arguably Toronto’s top player, as he’s generated 10 goals and 22 points this year, a pace that would see him smash his personal-best total of 87 points in 82 games, which he set last season.

As most fans know, Nylander is playing in the final year of his contract, and he’s set to become a UFA next summer. He will get a major raise from the $6.96-million annual average salary he’s made with the Leafs since 2018, and Buds fans will be incensed if GM Brad Treliving doesn’t get him signed to a lengthy contract extension.

Nylander has grown his all-around game to new heights this season. While he and the Leafs still have much to prove in the Stanley Cup playoffs, he’s already demonstrating there are very few NHLers who can play on his level. Whenever he’s got the puck, he’s as dangerous as just about any player on the planet, and he’s raising the bar for himself by thriving the way he has this season.

2. NIKITA KUCHEROV, TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

In three games this week, Kucherov put up four goals and seven points while averaging a whopping 23:10 of ice time – the most of any forward in the league.

The 30-year-old sniper has amassed 11 goals in 14 games this season – nearly half the total of 30 goals he scored for the Lightning last season. His personal career best of 41 goals and 128 points will be difficult for him to beat, but certainly, Kucherov could beat his output of 113 points last year.

Kucherov’s salary cap hit of $9.5 million – which will last through the 2026-27 campaign – is worth every penny for Tampa Bay. If the Bolts are going to do any real damage this season, they’ll need him to be prominent and productive to the degree he’s been thus far this year. But if he does maintain his current pace, he’ll amass at least an astounding 60 goals – a number that will put him at or near the top of the fight for the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal-scorer.

On a Lightning team that has its share of elite offensive performers, Kucherov is the most potent, and he’s got years ahead of him as a top competitor with the puck. If you’re dealing with him in his offensive zone, you’d better be quick to pounce, lest he make you look silly and put the puck in your net.

1. KYLE CONNOR, WINNIPEG JETS

Since Monday, Connor recorded five goals and three assists for eight points in just three games. The Jets have been one of the better teams in the Central Division this season, and Connor has been leading the way with his output on offense, with 11 goals – more than twice the number of goals the next-best Jets scorer – and 17 points in 14 games.

The 26-year-old is Winnipeg’s highest-paid player this season, at an average annual payday of $7.14 million. He’s got two more seasons under contract after this current season, after which time he’s going to get a hefty bump in pay.

Connor had a dip in production last year, dropping to 31 goals and 80 points after putting up 47 goals and 93 points in 2021-22. That said, he’s on pace for a career-high 64 goals and 99 points this season, and if he does generate that amount of offense, Winnipeg’s results in the win/loss columns will be much more positive than they were last season. He’s at or close to his peak, and there’s no way Jets brass would even consider trading him this year or any year, for that matter. And this week, he proved to be the very best in the NHL.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*