Nearly two months after being on the injured list, Nikolay Ehlers returned to action on Friday in a game between the Winnipeg Jets and the Dallas Stars. A return to the game that was eagerly awaited in Winnipeg.
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Ehlers, who hasn’t played since Jan. 18 with a knee injury, provided an overtime assist in a 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars. To help him get back in shape, he was used in the third line along with Andrew Kopp and Adam Lowry. He went 16:04, including 2:43 on the second powerplay block.
The loss of Ehlers took a toll on the Jets, who have been on the up and down this season. In his absence, the Manitoba team posted a 7-9-3 record, giving them 22nd place in scoring percentage (.447) in the League during that period. An unforgiving performance as the Western Conference fights for the last two playoff spots. With 58 points, the Jets are now seven points behind the Dallas Stars in second, fourth.
Ehlers was 25 points in 34 games before the injury this season, averaging 0.74 points per game, compared to the previous season, which was 0.98 thanks to 46 points in 47 games.
Will the recent hardships force the Jets to offer more offensive duties to Ehlers, who always has to develop in the shadows? Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler as well as Kyle Connor?
Prior to the injury, the Danish striker was the least used of the Jets’ top 6 and was very rarely allowed to play in the first power play block. None of his 13 goals came on the powerplay, and only three of his 25 points came from a five-man attack.
It was previously rumored that Ehlers’ stats this season are lower than last year, but this decline in performance can be attributed in part to his shooting percentage, which is 9.3 percent, the worst of his career since his rookie year in 2015- 16. . By comparison, last year it was a career best of 14.2 and has not dropped below 12.3 since the 2017-2018 season.
Video: [email protected]: Stastny joins Ehlers, closing the gap
Therefore, we can think that Ehlers will be able to finish the season in strength from the moment he returns to form, and the Jets will benefit from more use of him.
Ehlers has a 5.6 shooting percentage compared to other teammates this season, which is first on his team and 29th in the NHL among offensive players with at least 20 games. Despite having less playing time than his teammates in the first two lines, he is the player who attacks the Jets the most in a five-on-five game. His absence was very noticeable, as the Jets saw their five-on-five goals per game average (17th in the NHL) plummet to 1.58 without him, 31st in the NHL.
So the poolers are right to wonder why Ehlers isn’t used anymore. Moreover, since the 2019/20 season, he has been his club’s highest scoring player in a five-to-five minute of play, averaging 2.42 points per 60 minutes played (minimum 50 games). During the same period, he is ranked 28th in the NHL.
The arrival of Dave Lowry behind the bench on December 17, 2021 did not allow finding solutions to revive the team. The Jets are sorely lacking in offensive depth, and only two things can save them: the goalie’s equipment. Connor Hellebike and a power play that maintained a 25 percent shooting percentage during Ehlers’ absence. If one of these two elements does not work, it smacks of defeat.
Could one solution be to use more Elers? The pullers will have to keep this situation under review. If he is finally eligible for playing time commensurate with what he can bring offensively, the striker could quickly rise in value and become a top target in daily pools due to his current low acquisition cost as well as for annual poolers who want to acquire a player by the March 21st deal deadline.