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Run-and-Gun Style Suits the Jets

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Hockey fans across the country have described the new all-Canadian division in many ways. It’s often referred to as a run-and-gun style of hockey, with less defensive structure and high-end, quick-strike offensive talent.

This is largely a factor of it having the top three goal scorers in the league: Austin Matthew (Toronto) with 18 goals, Connor McDavid (Edmonton) with 14 goals, and Brock Boeser (Vancouver) with 12 goals. It also features six of the top-ten goal scorers in the league, including the Jets’ own Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers with 11 goals each.

The North Division leads the NHL in goals per game with an average just over three.

This style of game seems to suit the Jets as they continue to find ways to win. They rank third at the moment with 27 points and have earned 68 percent of the points available to them so far in the season, which ranks second in the division and seventh in the league overall.

If you compare this season to the first 20 games of last season, the Jets have earned more points (plus four), scored more goals (plus sixteen), improved their powerplay efficiency (plus seven percent), and improved their penalty kill efficiency (plus eight percent).

Nikolaj Ehlers is small, fast, and explosive—and he’s a benefactor of the division realignment. He’s been given more time and space for him to navigate through the offensive zone. He has the skill to be successful with top-line minutes, but his deployment is terrorizing opponents while he picks apart their middle-six forwards.

He is tied for first on the team in goals scored at 11, and he’s second in points at 22. He is on pace to score 36 goals this season, which is equivalent to 53 goals over a full 82-game season, despite only playing an average of 16:55 per game.

Points aside, Ehlers ranks fourth in the league in drawn penalties (13) while only being penalized twice.

Neal Pionk is also having a strong season because of the realignment. He’s got a small body that plays big, dolling out 45 hits, second most among Jets.

“[He’s] a guy you might consider undersized, but he certainly doesn’t play undersized,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler recently. “I mean, you guys have seen him. He will run into anyone at full speed, he makes incredible plays with the puck, and he has shown an ability to bury an open opportunity.”

After being deemed dispensable and traded to Winnipeg along with a first-round draft pick for Jacob Trouba last season, Pionk has become a reliable defender for the Jets. He ranks third in the league among defenders in goals (three) and seventh in the league in points (16).

The North Division is fun to watch for fans, creating lasting rivalries, and it also features top-end talent. So far the Jets have been able to match up against any team in the division, and they arguably have the deepest group of forwards, which can make them a force as the rest of the season plays out.

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