On Tuesday the Winnipeg Jets locked up young forward Jansen Harkins to a two-year contract of the one-way variety. The new deal is a step up for the 23-year-old, who will now require his big-league club to pass him through Waivers should he ever be sent down to the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose.
The two-year, $1.45 million contract carries a $700K salary in 2020-21 and $750K in 2021-22, while the AHL payscale has also dramatically increased. The left-shooting winger recently completed his three-year, entry-level contract that he signed in April of 2017, two years after the Jets drafted him 47th overall in the second round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
Harkins, a product of North Vancouver, BC, played his CHL hockey with the Western League’s Prince George Cougars, serving as a team captain for the majority of his time with the team. In 275 regular season games, he had 75 goals, 242 points, and 164 penalty minutes, before putting up another four goals, 16 points, and 16 penalty minutes in 15 playoff games.
That got him noticed by Winnipeg’s managerial staff, so much so that the club selected Harkins in the second round of the 2015 draft, ahead of Tampa Bay’s Anthony Cirelli, Edmonton’s Ethan Bear and Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov. Winnipeg’s scouting department also found some other hidden gems by way of late-round selections that year, choosing forward Mason Appleton 168th overall, before picking defenceman Sami Niku at No. 198.
Since arriving at Jets camp, Harkins has done nothing but impress his coaches, teammates and front office staff. One of Winnipeg’s best storylines of the 2019-20 season came following the COVID-19 pause, early on in the Qualifying Round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
With the Jets down a number of veteran forwards, Harkins was called into play, to which he scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoffs goal in his first career postseason game. Unfortunately, that goal very well may have been the lone highlight for the Jets’ 2020 playoff showing, however, it provided Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice plenty to talk about going forward.
“I remember sending him down at the end of training camp thinking to myself, ‘this guy has done almost everything he possibly can for himself’,” Maurice reflected following that playoff game. “I’m not saying he was ready to play in the NHL, but he was bigger, stronger, faster and he was starting to piss all of the veteran guys off in camp, just because he wouldn’t come off it. He wouldn’t come off it in practice; he was still finishing checks and grinding. The older guys are getting ready for the season and they don’t want to get popped in practice. But when he came in, he made the most of those opportunities.”
Maurice wasn’t done there. Much like the average observer would do, the Jets’ long-term head coach touched on his strengths and weaknesses, but glorified his level of commitment in practice – something that has clearly paid off in signing the two-year deal Tuesday.
“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. “Like, he had no chance of making our team (last year). 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… 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. 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.”
Following a 2018-19 AHL season that saw Harkins put up 31 points in 70 contests, he began 2019-20 with a bang, matching that point total in just 30 contests with the Moose, earning him that ‘forever call-up’. With Winnipeg, Harkins suited up in 29 regular season games, scoring twice and adding five assists for seven points and five penalty minutes, before finishing the year on the active playoff roster, and finding his first career postseason tally.
“Everything that Jansen Harkins got, he didn’t get there because he was drafted high and we needed to give him a chance,” Maurice said following that playoff game. “And we certainly didn’t develop him in the NHL. He earned his chance by paying his dues in the minors. 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.”