In 1999, the Atlanta Thrashers began play as the NHL’s newest expansion team. After years of Ilya Kovalchuk scoring highlight-reel goals, the team relocated to Winnipeg in 2011 where the Winnipeg Jets 2.0 have played ever since.
Related: Top 3 All-Time Jets Goalies
Only being in the league for 20 years, players drafted in Winnipeg have climbed up the goalscoring leaderboard. Below is a list of the top 10 scorers in Thrashers/Jets history.
1. Ilya Kovalchuk — 328 Goals
With the first overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, the Atlanta Thrashers drafted the face of their franchise. Ilya Kovalchuk started lighting up the goal light in his rookie season, scoring 29 goals. He scored a career-high and franchise-record 52 goals twice in his career and was a co-winner of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy with Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash, all scoring 41 goals in the 2003-04 season.
Kovalchuk scored 30-plus goals nine times in his NHL career, and spent time on lines with Bryan Little, Nik Antropov and Maxim Afinogenov while playing with the Thrashers. Kovalchuk was named to the 2002 NHL All-Rookie Team, NHL First All-Star team in 2012, the NHL Second All-Star Team in 2004 and played in three total all-star games.
Unable to come to terms on a new deal, the Thrashers traded Kovalchuk to the New Jersey Devils in 2010 for defenceman Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier and a 2010 first-round pick. Kovalchuk played three seasons with the Devils and made one Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2012 when the Devils lost to the Los Angeles Kings.
Kovalchuk left $77 million on the table to leave the NHL and play five seasons in the KHL before signing with the Kings as a free agent in 2018. He didn’t light the lamp as much as he used to, leading the Kings to cut him in 2019. Kovalchuk signed with the Montreal Canadiens in Jan. 2020, showed he was still an NHL player and was traded to the Washington Capitals at the trade deadline.
2. Bryan Little — 217 Goals
The Thrashers selected Bryan Little 12th overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and he’s the only original Thrasher draft pick still playing with the Jets today. After splitting time in the AHL and NHL during his 2007-08 rookie season, he scored a career-high 31 goals in 2008-09 for the Thrashers. Little has scored 20-plus goals five times in his career
He most notably centred the Jets’ top line with Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd for nearly five seasons and has since cemented himself as the team’s number two centre. When Little is healthy and playing, he’s been centring a line with Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers. When he is injured, the team tends to struggle to fill his role.
Little has been a recipient of the Dan Snyder Memorial Award two times (2011, 2014), which is awarded to the Jets player who embodies perseverance and hard work without seeking recognition. He also switched from number 10 to number 18 when the team was relocated to Winnipeg to respect Jets 1.0 great Dale Hawerchuk.
3. Blake Wheeler — 214 Goals
Wheeler played two full seasons with the Boston Bruins before being traded in his third season. Wheeler and defenceman Mark Stuart were traded to the Atlanta Thrashers for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik. Wheeler is the only player of this trade still playing in the NHL.
The following season, the Thrashers were moved to Winnipeg and Wheeler has played for the Jets ever since. In his early years with the team, he spent some time on a line with former captain Andrew Ladd and centreman Little. However, things changed when Ladd was traded to Chicago during the 2015-16 season.
The Jets named Wheeler the team’s new captain prior to the 2016-17 season when he was in the prime of his career. He is known more as a playmaker than a goalscorer, but he’s been scoring consistently since coming to Winnipeg. He scored 22 goals prior to play being suspended in 2019-20, making it seven-straight seasons that Wheeler’s netted 20-plus goals. A lot of his recent success comes on a line with the team’s number one centre Mark Scheifele and rising star Kyle Connor.
Wheeler scored a career-high 28 goals in the 2013-14 season, was named to the 2018 NHL Second All-Star Team in 2018 and has played in two All-Star games as a member of the Jets.
4. Mark Scheifele — 180 Goals
With the first pick in Jets 2.0 history, they selected Scheifele with the seventh-overall pick in 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He is a playmaker who has cemented himself as the number-one centre for the Jets for years to come. Every season, he tallies more assists than goals, but he’s shown he can be a goalscorer, too.
Scheifele scored a career-high 38 goals in the 2018-19 season and has put together five-straight, 20-plus goal campaigns. He netted 29 goals in 2019-20 before play was suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak. His most recent success has come on the team’s top line with Wheeler and Connor. However, he’s also had Laine as a winger throughout 2019-20 with Wheeler slotting in at the second-line centre position in place of the injured Little.
In just seven full seasons, Scheifele has surged to the top of the franchise goalscorers list and he shows no sign of slowing down as he continues playing on that number-one line. He’s also been recognized as a top player in the league and has played in the last two NHL All-Star games.
5. Slava Kozlov — 145 Goals
Drafted 45th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in 1990 and retired from the NHL after the 2009-10 season, Slava Kozlov put together eleven 20-plus goal seasons. He spent the majority of his career with the Red Wings, had a short one-season stint with the Buffalo Sabres, and then finished off the last seven years of his career with the Thrashers. He scored 20-plus goals in five of his seven seasons with the Thrashers. He showed he still had the goal-scoring ability and found twine 26 times in his second-to-last season in the league.
Kozlov is known for his shootout talents and found the back of the net 13 times in 20 total shootout attempts. He’s also known for being a part of the Russian Five for the Red Wings, a unit that played a big role in their back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998. The Russian Five played together for the USSR team before joining the NHL and their success translated to the NHL level. Kozlov scored a career-high 36 goals in the 1995-96 season.
He won two Stanley Cups, but Kozlov was also awarded the Don Snyder Memorial Award in 2007. While with the Thrashers, he finished his career playing on a line with players like Little and Todd White.
6. Andrew Ladd — 139 Goals
With two Stanley Cups under his belt, the Thrashers traded for Ladd during the summer of 2010 and his career took off. He was named captain of the team and he scored a career-high 29 goals in his first season with the team. The next season, the team was relocated to Winnipeg and the team’s new fans celebrated his 28 goals. He wasn’t known for scoring goals and he usually had higher numbers in the assist column.
A staple on the top line, Ladd played with Wheeler and Little for the majority of his time with the Jets until he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2015-16 season. The Jets got Marko Dano and a draft pick that turned into Logan Stanley, while Ladd was shipped to the Blackhawks. He played the rest of the season there before signing with the New York Islanders in the offseason on a seven-year deal. After scoring 23 goals in his first season with the Islanders, his numbers have fallen off. He played 34 games in the AHL in 2019-20 and just four in the NHL.
Ladd won his first Stanley Cup in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes and his second in 2010 with the Blackhawks.
7. Patrik Laine — 138 Goals
No Jets’ draft pick has been as hyped up as when the team selected Laine with the second pick of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Winnipeg has been home to some impressive Finish players and some fans were thinking he could be the second coming of Teemu Selänne. Laine was known for being a goalscoring machine in juniors, and he’s translated that to the NHL.
He scored 36 goals in his rookie season and followed that up with a career-high 44 goals in the 2017-18 season. Laine scored 30 goals for the third-straight season in 2018-19 and netted 28 goals in 2019-20 before play was suspended — he was on pace for a fourth-straight, 30-plus goal season. Laine’s found a lot of success on a line with Nikolaj Ehlers and Little, but also got an opportunity on the team’s top line with Wheeler and Scheifele.
Laine’s rented out Alexander Ovechkin’s office, standing in the faceoff circle during power plays. Every time the Jets are on a power play, you know the players are trying to find Laine open in the slot for a one-timer, where a lot of his goals have been scored.
The league rewarded him for his 44-goal season with an invitation to the 2017-18 NHL All-Star game.
8. Dustin Byfuglien — 122 Goals
In nine seasons with the franchise, Dustin Byfuglien is the first and only defenceman to crack the top 10 in goals. He scored a career-high 20 goals twice with the franchise and has double-digit goals in six of his nine seasons with the club. His first 20-goal campaign was in his first year with the Thrashers after he was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks.
Byfuglien won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010, scoring 11 goals in 22 games en route to lifting the Cup. He was drafted as a defenceman, but the Blackhawks moved him upfront to play right wing in the 2007-08 season. He scored 15-plus goals in three seasons with the team before being traded to the Thrashers.
He played with Tobias Enstrom for a lot of time with the Thrashers/Jets organization and more recently was linemates with Ben Chiarot. However, Byfuglien may be stuck at 122 goals on this list after all the uncertainty throughout in 2019-20 and his future with the team.
Byfuglien was an eighth-round draft pick but worked hard to gain recognition in the league. Besides winning the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks, he played in four NHL All-Star games.
9. Nikolaj Ehlers — 115 Goals
With the ninth pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the Jets selected Danish forward Ehlers. After developing his game for three seasons, he made a quick impression in his rookie NHL season in 2015. He scored 15 goals that season and has scored 20-plus goals per season ever since. Ehlers had a career year during the 2017-18 season and buried 29 goals and put up a total of 60 points.
Ehlers followed his career year with 21 goals in just 62 games and was on pace to set a new career high in 2019-20 — he netted 25 goals in 72 games before the season was suspended. Throughout his career, he spent some time on the top line with Wheeler and Scheifele, but he’s played the majority of his minutes with Laine and whoever slots in at the second-line centre position.
It’s no surprise Ehlers is on this list. He uses his speed and skill to find open ice and usually shoots the puck every chance he gets, whether it hits the target or not. However, his success in the regular season hasn’t translated to playoffs yet. He hasn’t scored a goal in 21 career playoff games.
10. Evander Kane — 109 Goals
Drafted fourth overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the Thrashers had high hopes for Evander Kane. In his rookie season, he netted 14 goals and he had a career year in 2011 when the Thrashers were relocated to Winnipeg. Kane found the back of the net 30 times that season, a mark he only reached one more time in 2018-19 during his first full season with the San Jose Sharks.
Kane played a couple of seasons with Olli Jokinen on his wing, before he got his chance to play with Wheeler and Scheifele in 2014 before he was traded.
He put up decent numbers, but he’s most known in Winnipeg for his locker room troubles that ultimately led to his trade. On Feb. 11, 2015, Jets general manager Kevin Chevyldayoff pulled the trigger on arguably his biggest trade to date. The Jets sent Kane and defenceman Zach Bogosian to the Buffalo Sabres for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Joel Armia, Brendan Lemieux and a first-round draft pick that was used to select Jack Roslovic.
Kane put up three 20-goal seasons while with the Sabres, but during his third season, he was traded again, this time to the Sharks. He scored nine goals in 17 games after the trade and followed up with a 30-goal season. He has been playing the best hockey of his career and was on pace to set a new career high in goals in 2019-20, with 26 goals in 64 games before the season was suspended.
With some current Jets players on this list, the order is bound to change, and other players are bound to crack the top 10. Kane may find himself off the list soon, especially with Kyle Connor playing on the team’s top line and just four goals behind him.