Jets sign Jansen Harkins; where does he fit?
On Tuesday the Jets announced the signing of forward Jansen Harkins to a two-year contract worth $725,000 annually.
The 23-year old Harkins made his Jets debut last season, scoring twice and adding five assists in 29 games. Harkins was dominant in the American League last season where he finished with seven goals, and 24 assists in 30 games.
He was named Manitoba Moose team MVP.
Harkins path to his latest contract is an inspirational one, and one that shows how hard work pays off.
The Jets selected Harkins in the second round of the 2015 Entry Draft while Harkins was finding success in the WHL with the Prince George Cougars.
After concluding his Cougars career with 242 points in 275 games, Harkins spent the majority of his time since in the AHL with the Moose, also spending 6 games in the ECHL during the 2017-18 season.
Prior to making his playoff debut with the Jets a few months ago, not much in his professional career went Harkins way.
But with injuries to Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine and Mason Appleton in the Jets qualifying round series with the Calgary Flames, Harkins was given an opportunity that I’m sure to him seemed like it would never come.
In the first period of his first playoff game Harkins scored his first career playoff goal. Finally, in his professional career a break went his way.
It was the lone point he would have in the three playoff games he saw before the Jets were eliminated. But those three games did so much more for Harkins then anything on a stat sheet could do.
With just 31 points in 70 AHL games the year prior, Harkins was never considered a serious threat to make the Jets roster out of camp last season.
But with a hot start to his AHL season, and the Jets offensive depth ripped apart, Harkins got his first NHL promotion.
While his 2-5-7 line won’t jump off the board with you, his work ethic was eye opening to Jets head coach Paul Maurice.
“I don’t know that I’ve had a player that has been given less opportunity and stayed in the fight, and competed as hard as this guy has,” Maurice said following Game 2 of their qualifying round victory over the Flames. “Like, he had no chance of making our team. He had a good camp, but he’s not a first overall pick, so he doesn’t have 10 guys pounding the table for him to be given that chance. He’s been given nothing here. But what he did was he forced an opportunity.”
With his hard work Harkins has forced himself another opportunity as his latest contract is a one-way deal.
So with Harkins back in the fold, and Jets addressing their offensive depth during the offseason, where will Harkins fit into the Jets lineup?
It seems like that is going to be up to Harkins and once again, he’s going to have to earn himself another opportunity.
A left-shot winger, Harkins can play either wing. But even with having the flexibility of playing both sides, the Jets top-nine is pretty set on the wings with Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler, Nikolaj Ehlers, Patrik Laine, Andrew Copp and Mason Appleton as the potential last piece to the top-nine.
Providing the Jets and RFA Jack Roslovic are able to come to terms on a new contract, he, Harkins, Mathieu Perreault and Dominic Toninato are presumably left fighting it out for the final two wing spots on the Jets fourth line.
While the depth battle in Jets camp will be an intriguing storyline to watch, if your basing who has the advantage simply off Maurice’s comments, you would think Harkins has the edge over the competition.
“With the Moose, there was no choice but to call him up. And then he gets in the lineup and he gets into practice, he works so hard that you just have to play him. He just catches your eye. I think what you have with Hark is a guy who’s going to get into the National Hockey League, and he’s probably not going to get out for 14 years,” Maurice said.
“He understands the value of opportunity, and he’s earned that opportunity every time he steps on the ice. He didn’t get one shift, one look, one game that he didn’t completely earn.”
With a potential logjam of wingers looking for jobs in the Jets bottom-six, Harkins will find himself in the familiar position of working hard to earn himself a job.