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Why the Winnipeg Jets should send Kyle Connor to the Manitoba Moose

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Kyle Connor has scored a goal in the NHL. He should probably be in the AHL.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Pre-season hockey is an odd beast. Teams put a lot of stock into something that is a very small sample size and is not usually indicative of what a player can actually do against NHL competition. Case in point: the Winnipeg Jets. They are probably where they should be right now with their goaltending hopefully normalizing and providing NHL-average goaltending.

The Winnipeg Jets probably used the pre-season a little too much in their evaluation of players. A player like Marco Dano is a perfectly fine, serviceable NHL player who would be highly useful on the third or fourth line. He was sent down to the AHL and was recently called up because Bryan Little is out for the near future. On the other hand, Kyle Connor had a strong pre-season but has struggled once the NHL hit the regular season. The question should be asked if the Jets should have determined to send Connor to the AHL to start the season, no matter how well he played in pre-season?

First year professional hockey is usually an extreme adjustment unless you are a prodigy. Instead of expecting a player to fill in a spot on a NHL roster, NHL teams should probably bank on an adjustment period in the AHL for any rookie pro. Even if a player performs well in pre-season they should be sent down to the AHL with the promise of continued strong performances will warrant a call-up. This is because at a maximum of eight games, with no player playing all eight of them, the sample-size for a rookie is simply too small to judge them on. By sending them down to the AHL they are being sent to a controlled environment where they can play lots and build a bigger sample for the NHL team to determine where they spend the season.

Back to Dano and Connor. In 69 NHL games Dano has a CorsiFor of 54% and a FenwickFor of 53.12%. While he might not score a lot of points, these are very good offensive stats and should ensure that he is a NHLer for a long-time because he does the little things that lead to a team being a strong team from first line to the fourth line. On the other hand in the much smaller sample of only seven games Connor has a CorsiFor of 37.12% and a FenwickFor of 35.64%. This does not mean he is a bad player. Instead, it means that he needs a bit of time adjusting to professional hockey as a whole and this is probably best accomplished in the AHL instead of the NHL. There is no shame in this and more teams should utilize the NHL in this way.

The crux of this argument is not who is going to be the better NHL player in the future. It is that at this moment Kyle Connor would probably benefit from some time in the AHL to better adjust to professional hockey and the Jets would probably benefit from having Dano on the team because he is a strong possession player who gets the puck going in the right direction. Ideally at some point both Dano and Connor are on the Jets at the same time and are both key contributors to the team.

All stats from Corsica Hockey.