How malleability has made Adam Lowry a key component of Jets' core

Tanner Pearson scored the game-winner as the Vancouver Canucks beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 in preseason action.

WINNIPEG — Adam Lowry has made a habit of being malleable and that ability to adapt to the circumstances has served him well as he approaches his eighth season as a member of the Winnipeg Jets.

Since the time he was chosen in the third round (67th overall) of the 2011 NHL draft, Lowry has demonstrated an innate ability to recognize what he needs to work on while also having a firm grip on his strengths.

On his path to full-time employment with the Jets, that meant focusing on making improvements to his skating, getting himself up to speed both literally and figuratively.

While breaking into the league as a defensive specialist, penalty-killing connoisseur and physical force, Lowry also has four double-digit goal seasons on his resume and he’s relied on for secondary scoring.

His role is clearly defined and Lowry is also an important member of the Jets’ leadership group. That status was cemented when the Calgary product chose to forego unrestricted free agency to sign a five-year deal worth $16.25 million on April 16 that carries an AAV of $3.25 million.

As the Jets prepare for a fifth exhibition game, Lowry is back in the lineup continuing the process of breaking in a new linemate — a job he’s also become accustomed to during recent seasons.

“Usually, whoever I played with ends up on a different team, so at least he’s still here,” Lowry joked last month as he spoke to reporters.

The question Lowry was answering was about being separated from longtime linemate Andrew Copp, but he was only half-kidding in his response. The player on the right side of Lowry in recent seasons has been a bit of a revolving door thanks to a variety of circumstances.

Joel Armia was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in a move with backup goalie Steve Mason to clear up salary cap space. Brandon Tanev cashed in on a career season to sign a six-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins. And most recently, Mason Appleton was claimed by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft after he posted similar offensive totals to Tanev.

All joking aside, playing alongside Lowry has brought a change of address for several individuals but you could also make a strong argument that those individuals have enjoyed the benefits of playing on a line that was often counted on to deliver in tough matchups against the opponents' top offensive players.

Because he’s become one of the longest-tenured players on the Jets roster, Lowry was asked if he has any say in who his linemates are.

“There's some dialogue. The pieces fall where they fall. You have injuries, you have different needs on the team, so I'm not going into the office begging to play with anyone,” said Lowry. “You just show up and you're told who you're playing with. Now let's make the most of it.

"We've been fortunate here to have real deep lineups and I've been pretty lucky to play with a lot of really good players. That doesn't change. I just come to work, throw my skates on, go out there and try to have some fun.”

With Copp earning the opportunity to start the new season on the Jets’ second line with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Nikolaj Ehlers, Lowry’s unit is going to take on a slightly altered look.

Paul Stastny has spent the bulk of his time during training camp with Lowry, but he’s likely to slide into the top-line centre role for the opener as Mark Scheifele serves the final game of his suspension.

The right-wing job remains an open competition, with 2017 first-rounder Kristian Vesalainen currently sitting in the front-runner position — though the competition for that spot is fierce, with Jansen Harkins, Evgeny Svechnikov and Riley Nash among those still under consideration.

Stastny and Lowry are both cerebral players, which should help speed up the process of creating chemistry.

“He's got such a wealth of knowledge,” said Lowry. “There are some things that he brings to the table that you might not even think about and then the lightbulb goes off, and: ‘Aha! I didn't even think about that.’ Maybe I should have. So you can always learn from a guy like that. He's always in tune to those small little details that you might not notice if you're watching the game casually but he picks up on it.

“He's excited to talk about hockey. He's excited to ask if you saw certain plays in the game before. And it's not just a highlight goal, it's: ‘Did you see what he was doing with his stick there? Or how he got that separation down low?’ There are things like that where you might not necessarily think about it. He mentions it once and now you're picking up on it, you're seeing multiple guys do it, and maybe that's the reason they're getting their shot off quicker, or maybe that's the reason they're getting their pass through. So it definitely helps having a guy like that on our team.”

When it comes to the adjustment process, Lowry has a clear handle on what needs to change and what must stay the same.

“You get different people and everyone has different strengths and different weaknesses so it changes the style. It doesn't necessarily change the end goal of what we're trying to accomplish,” said Lowry. “It’s important to integrate guys into your line, letting them know what you’re comfortable doing, letting them know the reads you want to make. So when you get into a game they’re not second-guessing, they’re not a step off wondering, ‘Is he going here or is he going to go there?’ The more you play, the more repetitions you get with each other, those reads become quicker. They become second nature.”

Given the composition of the Jets' roster, head coach Paul Maurice admits he may ask the Lowry line to do a little less of the heavy lifting when it comes to the matchup game, but he also believes they can chip in a bit more offensively.

“The maturation of those other players will change where Adam comes out,” said Maurice. “They’ll play against the heavier lines from the other teams, not necessarily the best, they’ll play against size. Then, when we need D-zone faceoffs on the left side, they’re on every single time. So I can get more for the offensive guys in the offensive zone. Things have changed around them that will help them, I think.”

Lowry isn’t planning to incorporate many sweeping changes to his game as his line completes this most recent transformation.

“We want to be a line that's tough to play against, responsible, not giving up goals, and obviously it's important to chip in at the other end of the rink. That was something we did well last year,” said Lowry. “We really contributed offensively and we took lots of tough matchups. That's going to be a thing I think we try to grow.

“You can't just forget there's one end of the ice at the far end of the rink and now you're hanging out by the red line to just play prevent. It's about finding that good balance. Making sure, if it's a younger guy, he realizes when it's time to make a play and when it's time to cut it off, get the big dogs out there, and let them go.”

What won’t change is Lowry’s value to this Jets team.

“He brings a sense of calmness to the ice and to the room, I guess, too. On the ice, he’s kind of a general out there,” said Dubois. “He’s always in a good position, always has a good stick. To me, personally, I like guys who can do everything out there, can play defence, can play offence, play physical.

“You look at him, he’s the kind of player that can do everything out there. You can ask him to go on the power play, you can ask him to go on the PK. You can put him in front of the net at the end of the game, if you’re winning and if you’re losing. He’s good on draws. Guys like that, I think you need to win.”

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