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Scheifele's star rising

Twenty-game point total ties Jets centre with NHL's best

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/3/2016 (1233 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Mark Scheifele has earned a lot of slaps on the back of late. There’s been praise from Winnipeg Jets management, there are more and more 55 jerseys popping up at the MTS Centre and — just a guess — he might get a few appetizers comped whenever he sticks his head into a restaurant in this town.

His game is also grabbing attention across the NHL of late. Little wonder, considering since Bryan Little was injured Feb. 18 in Tampa, no player in the league has had more points than the Jets centre.

His 24 points (13 goals, 11 assists) in that 20-game stretch is exactly the same as two of the biggest names in the game in Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (seven goals, 17 assists) and Joe Thornton of San Jose (six goals, 18 assists) as he has settled into the middle of the Jets’ top trio, with Nikolaj Ehlers on the left and Blake Wheeler on the right.

But maybe it also says something about Scheifele’s overall growth — his maturation, per se — that after scoring his 26th goal of the season in Wednesday’s loss to the Ottawa Senators, the 23-year-old centre was bemoaning his handiwork before that marker and his team’s 39th loss of the season.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/3/2016 (1233 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Mark Scheifele has earned a lot of slaps on the back of late. There’s been praise from Winnipeg Jets management, there are more and more 55 jerseys popping up at the MTS Centre and — just a guess — he might get a few appetizers comped whenever he sticks his head into a restaurant in this town.

His game is also grabbing attention across the NHL of late. Little wonder, considering since Bryan Little was injured Feb. 18 in Tampa, no player in the league has had more points than the Jets centre.

</p><p>JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele (55) celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators during third period NHL action in Winnipeg on Wednesday, March 30, 2016.</p>

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele (55) celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators during third period NHL action in Winnipeg on Wednesday, March 30, 2016.

His 24 points (13 goals, 11 assists) in that 20-game stretch is exactly the same as two of the biggest names in the game in Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (seven goals, 17 assists) and Joe Thornton of San Jose (six goals, 18 assists) as he has settled into the middle of the Jets’ top trio, with Nikolaj Ehlers on the left and Blake Wheeler on the right.

But maybe it also says something about Scheifele’s overall growth — his maturation, per se — that after scoring his 26th goal of the season in Wednesday’s loss to the Ottawa Senators, the 23-year-old centre was bemoaning his handiwork before that marker and his team’s 39th loss of the season.

Yes, not only has everyone’s expectations changed for the team’s first-ever first-round draft pick, so, too, have his own. He’s got a few miles on his treads now, dating back to his NHL debut in the fall of 2011.

"It’s unbelievably different since then," said Scheifele when asked to compare his game to his rookie season. "I’m happy with where my game is now, but I still know there’s a lot of room to grow and that makes me happy as well.

"There’s still so many times when I have a chance to make a play and I don’t. Defensively, I can get better. It’s all areas of the game. I go through game tape every day and see the chances I missed. What’s happening now is just a byproduct of working hard. I’m a guy that whether it’s going good, bad or ugly I want to continue to improve my game and work hard."

That was part of the appeal of Scheifele from when the Jets first interviewed him before the 2011 draft. He’s an admitted hockey nut, not just a guy who studies his own game, but watches as much NHL as he can to the point he can likely name every line combination of every team in the league.

His timing, even with the Jets’ nosedive out of the playoff picture, couldn’t be more perfect. He becomes a restricted free agent this summer and his recent offensive run not only provides some dandy ammunition for contract talks, it has to have him moving to the top of the candidates’ list for the Team North America entry at next fall’s World Cup.

Jets coach Paul Maurice pointed out Wednesday night Scheifele’s success isn’t just a recent phenomenon.

He had 12 goals by mid-December before missing 11 of 14 games from Dec. 27 to Jan. 23 with two stints on the injured list, the first for a concussion, the second a knee injury.

"His season was good in December. He had 12 goals and was doing some good things and was in position to be a driver on a line but not playing against the other teams’ best. He was playing with (Mathieu) Perreault and Ehlers and they generated some offence. His injury really set him back, he had two with the leg injury, and it set our team back, too.

"He’s committed to working on the things he needs to. There’s parts of his game where he’s learning. It’s a different league when you play against the other team’s best players. Mark is becoming one of those guys offensively."

And to be included in conversations with "those guys" — Crosby, Thornton, (Steven) Stamkos — puts him in elite company.

"It makes you feel good, to be put in a category like that," Scheifele said. "I just want to continue to grow as a player. Things have been going in for me. The toughest thing is when you start to get closed off you’ve got to find a way to come out of that. A prime example is (Wednesday). Things weren’t developing very easily and you’ve got to find ways to create.

"You have to put it out of your head, but it’s always going to be in the back of your mind," Scheifele added, when asked about the upcoming contract talks. "It’s not a distraction, it’s motivation to play harder, work harder and improve your game. That’s what I’m trying to do here."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

 

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