He’s brought a number of positives since returning to the Winnipeg Jets blue line earlier this month — solid defence, eating up big minutes, reliable penalty killing and plenty of grit and toughness which can make him miserable to play against.

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He’s brought a number of positives since returning to the Winnipeg Jets blue line earlier this month — solid defence, eating up big minutes, reliable penalty killing and plenty of grit and toughness which can make him miserable to play against.

But many fans are likely asking themselves the same question while watching Jacob Trouba play: where’s the offence?

Trevor Hagan / The Canadian Press</p><p>Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba carries the puck up ice against the Predators Sunday.</p>

Trevor Hagan / The Canadian Press

Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba carries the puck up ice against the Predators Sunday.

Trouba entered Sunday’s game against Nashville having gone pointless in his first eight games since ending a contract stalemate, rescinding a trade demand and signing a two-year, US$6-million deal to return to the Jets. There’s no question Trouba will be looking to cash in on his next contract and likely wants to be paid as one of the premier defencemen in the league. But the reality is, in order to do that he’s going to need to step up his production.

Trouba certainly set a high bar when he put up 10 goals and 19 assists in 65 games during his rookie season,certainly impressive for a 19-year-old right out of college. But his numbers have tapered off since, with seven goals and 15 assists over 65 games the following year, and then just six goals and 15 assists while playing 81 games last season.

Trouba had his most offensive outing to date on Sunday. He picked up his first point of the season when he made a smart play with the puck in the Nashville end and fired a hard shot towards goalie Juuse Saros. Drew Stafford grabbed the juicy rebound and wrapped it around for the first goal of the game late in the second period.

He then added another assist on Mark Scheifele’s empty-net goal to seal the 3-0 victory. Following the game, Trouba insisted he hadn’t been bothered by not hitting the scoresheet.

"I was pretty happy with how I was playing defensively for the most part. That’s where everything starts for me. Chances come when they come, points come when they come. It’s not what I’m trying to think about. I’m worried about my end, trying to keep pucks out of my end," Trouba said.

Trouba ended up with four shots Sunday and led the Jets in icetime with 27:07. He was also a major part of the penalty kill, as Nashville went 0-for-5 on the day while Trouba played more than five minutes while short-handed.

Trouba also displayed his physical side with a huge hit on Mike Ribiero late in the third period.

"He’s always played his best hockey in the heavier games, the bigger grind, teams that drive the net harder," head coach Paul Maurice said Sunday. "He can be such an impactful defenceman. He’s such a strong man physically, as he gets more and more confident and back into his rhythm I think we’re going to really enjoy his play this year."

Maurice said he believes Trouba is starting to round into form — a positive sign for a team currently missing Toby Enstrom and Tyler Myers.

"The time he missed is so difficult to recapture in your play. But he’s quite a bit ahead of where I expected him to be. And he can handle the big minutes. He’s played well, with whoever we’ve played him with," he said.

Trouba admits he’s now starting to rush the puck more often than when he first returned, which was noticeable during a third-period play where he nearly broke in alone while shorthanded.

"Obviously it’s not something you do off the start, not playing for a while. Just kind of let it come naturally," he said.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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