Season GP G A Pts +/-
2014-15 82 15 34 49 +11
2015-15 54 21 20 41 +15
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This article was published 8/3/2016 (2270 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Even the most faithful of Winnipeg Jets fans can go ahead and admit it now and without the need of a truth serum:
There had to be times over the past few years when there were some serious doubts about Mark Scheifele’s ability to morph into a bona fide No. 1 centre. His vision and shot were world class, no question, but his skating was just OK and he spent so much time picking himself up off the ice, there was even the #Scheifeledown hashtag trending on Twitter.
Now, while it’s a bit presumptuous to draw any concrete conclusions solely from Scheifele’s handiwork over the last few days — he was named the National Hockey League’s second star after registering seven points (six goals, one assist in four games — there has been enough obvious growth in his game over the last year or so to open up discussion again as to what his offensive ceiling might be and his ability to match up against the best centres.
Remember, it was just last spring after the Jets had been swept from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Anaheim Ducks when Scheifele was being criticized for struggling head-to-head against Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf en route to finishing with only one assist in four games.
But if we’ve learned anything about Mark Scheifele since the day his name was first called out by Kevin Cheveldayoff as the Jets 2.0’s first-ever draft pick, it’s this: the guy is a hockey nut who is absolutely, positively driven to succeed.
He went back to his personal trainers this off-season and got stronger. He’s still often one of the last to leave the practice ice and is one of those hockey nerds that is forever studying and watching the game. That dedication to his craft is now showing up on the black and white of the scoresheet.
Scheifele now has 41 points in 54 games this season and is eight points shy of matching last year’s career high. But it’s how he has matched up against the likes of John Tavares and Connor McDavid defensively in the last week that has Jets coach Paul Maurice beaming. His minutes and his role have spiked upward dramatically since the Jets lost Bryan Little for the season with a neck injury, and when the club’s management sifts through the wreckage of this lost campaign, Scheifele’s transformation will be one of the salvageable developments.
The Jets still have two more games against Chicago, Anaheim and Los Angeles down the stretch and while no one is expecting Scheifele to be as prolific offensively as he has been over the last week, there is a growing expectation he now won’t be mismatched against the likes of Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler.
All of this says something of management’s faith and Scheifele’s work. But it also says a lot about timing. Not only did Scheifele’s recent hot streak unfold after he was not named as part of the initial 16-man roster for Team North America announced last week, it comes with him about to become a restricted free agent this summer.
First, it’s hard to imagine Team North America executives don’t have Scheifele still on their radar. As for the upcoming contract talks, some are now using the recent deal signed by Florida Panthers young centre Aleksander Barkov — he signed a six-year deal worth US$35.4 million — as a reasonable comparable.
Wherever this ends, know this: dude is going to get paid this summer.
Season GP G A Pts +/-
2014-15 82 15 34 49 +11
2015-15 54 21 20 41 +15
1. LOTS OF CHATTER OUT THERE: As to the vacant Jets captaincy and the process behind how the next man to wear the ‘C’ will be determined. If it’s a given Blake Wheeler will be the new captain when the Jets get around to it — and there’s little argument against that decision — then who else might be selected to wear an ‘A’? Mark Stuart wears one when he’s healthy, Little has in the past, too.
Mark Scheifele’s name has come up in the last few weeks as the Jets try to make sure one of their younger core picks up a leadership torch. But we’ve also suggested Dustin Byfuglien get consideration. Leadership doesn’t always come in the form of Jonathan Toews’ Captain Serious act. Byfuglien might be more prankster than speech maker, but there’s little doubt he is an influential presence in the Jets room.
2. NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT: I don’t get all the consternation about Paul Maurice’s recent comment that Mark Chipman would have a role in who the next captain will be. It’s been ridiculed, it’s been criticized as meddling and also suggested he should have absolutely no say in the matter. Look, this should be a vote conducted by the players because the captain has to be a trusted conduit between the room and the coaching staff/management.
But the man who wears the ‘C’ will also be the face of the franchise, especially in this market. And if the owner and the man who signs the cheques has to rubber stamp the decision, why all the fuss?
3. IT SEEMS as though: We can’t put together one of these Jets Takes pieces this season without mentioning prospect Kyle Connor and how he is tearing up the NCAA with the Michigan Wolverines. Michigan was swept on the weekend by Ohio State (once in OT), but Connor picked up three more points — all assists — and continues to lead the country in scoring with 26 goals and 31 assists in 32 games. Those numbers are similar to the totals thrown up by Jack Eichel last year (26G, 45A in 40 GP) and could mean a freshman leads the nation in scoring in back-to-back seasons.
That, understandably, has prompted the debate as to whether Connor will be ‘one and done’ and turn pro after the spring. It’s a mammoth leap from the NCAA to the NHL, but the league is trending younger.
The fact Connor fell to the Jets at the 17th spot in last year’s draft doesn’t make them brilliant in their evaluation, but opportunistic. What it does do is put some of the GMs who passed on him in the picks previous — hello, Don Sweeney, with picks 13, 14 and 15 — squarely under the microscope.
4. ANOTHER JETS PROSPECT NOTE: While we’re at it: the list of the 26 nominees for the new Mike Richter Award — given annually to the top goalie in the NCAA and first won by Connor Hellebuyck two years ago — includes two Jets draft picks — Jason Kasdorf of Rensselaer, who was part of last year’s blockbuster trade and is now Buffalo Sabres property, and Michigan Tech’s Jamie Phillips. A seventh-round pick in 2012, Phillips is 21-7-5 this year with a 2.00 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. Hellebuyck, you may recall, was a fifth-round pick in that same draft. Whoever is scouting puck-stoppers for the Jets might be banging on Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s office bucking for a few more dollars.
5. FINALLY: For as big as the black clouds hovering over the Jets are right now, the response from their fan base could be worse. Much worse. Jets Nation seems to be coming to grips with being a player in the Draft Lottery now and not in the playoff picture.
Just FYI: a soccer pal of mine recently sent me a link to a story from December about how Roma fans reacted after losses to Barcelona and Atalanta. Frustrated by the defeats, Roma fans began calling their own squad ‘rabbits’ and then blockading the training ground with crates of carrots and a banner that read ‘eat up, rabbits.’
Roma, it’s worth noting, is now third in Serie A after having won seven of their last eight matches.
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