Winnipeg Jets winger Andrew Ladd has always been considered a valuable NHL player, dating back to his early days with the Carolina Hurricanes and as a key contributor in two Chicago Blackhawks playoff runs. He won Stanley Cups with both of those teams as role player who shined in big moments.
Since he was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010, Ladd has been thrust into a more primary scoring role. He’s had to score for teams that didn’t have the offensive depth that his previous Carolina and Chicago teams had. Given more opportunity, Ladd saw his career high in goals increase from 17 to 29 in his only season with the Thrashers. He followed up that season with 28 last year. Those totals aren’t bad for a guy who spent the early part of his career as a third line player.
There is no doubt that Ladd possesses a lot of key traits that are found in a great player. He’s an excellent leader, knowing what to say and what not to say on and off the ice. He’s fearless and can play his game on the edge, understanding how to walk the line between taking a bad penalty and knocking an opponent off of his game. Ladd loves to play with physicality and is never afraid to stand in front of the net. He’s got a pretty decent shot as well. Is he a true top-six forward?
When True North brought the Jets back to Winnipeg, one of the first major moves they made was signing Ladd to a big extension and naming him the first captain in current Winnipeg Jets history. Ladd was given high expectations right from the get-go and he’s done a respectable job of trying to meet them.
Ladd’s 28 goals last season were good for 36th in the league and second on the team behind Evander Kane. When looking at that ranking, Ladd had a pretty good season, but wasn’t quite elite or near the best. Overall it was a solid year, especially after posting his third 82-game season in four years.
Can Ladd reach that next level and become a perennial 30-35 goal scorer? It’s definitely possible as he’s still only 26 years old and runs on endless amounts of effort. He could have more high quality scoring chances if he ends up on a line with newly acquired Olli Jokinen, but there’s no telling how the lines will shake out just yet.
Ladd is just about the total package when it comes to great hockey players: he plays both ends of the rink, he hits, he forechecks, he leads, he plays hard every night, he’s durable and he is a capable scorer. If Andrew Ladd can find the back of the net more frequently and show more offensive firepower, he can reach star status not just in Winnipeg, but around the NHL.