(This month we will be auditioning a number of contributors for JetsNation. This is the first article in a continuing Jets "blogoff)
On Wednesday of last week, an article appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press titled, " Scheifele still riding pine; Noel grows weary of probing." The article went on to summarize how Scheifele is part of the team’s future and how his being relegated to the press box is creating tension between the MSM and the coach.
Well, Scheilfele was in the line up on Saturday when the Jets were pasted 8-3 by Tampa Bay and his stat-line read like this:
0G, 0A, EV +/-, 0PIM, 0Hits, 0Bks, and 1 SOG
He wasn’t a factor in the game positively or negatively. As flawed as the plus/minus stat is, one would expect the young center who played 16:47 to be at least be a -1 in an 8-3 loss, but he was even. He primarly saw time rotating the center position with Nik Antropov on a line with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little. He also saw brief stints on the wing and playing center on a line with Little and Evander Kane (hat tip to the theleftwinglock.com for the line breakdowns).
What is evident by Scheifele’s TOI and +/- stat in a lop-sided game is that he wasn’t a defensive liability. Given the influx of young talent assuming key roles on their teams around the league (ex. Montreal & Edmonton), the 3-4-1 Jets wouldn’t be harmed by giving youth a chance and keeping Scheifele in the NHL (would it the best for his development? a debate for another day). However, the bigger question is who is Mark Scheifele is terms of career potential? Is he indeed the second coming of Dale Hawerchuk to Winnipeg as some suggest (want)?
While the compaison to Hawerchuk understandably grabs the attention and imagination of Winnipeg fans, as everyone enjoys being reminded of the ‘good old days.’, it is a flawed. While the Barrie Colts connection exists, Hawerchuk, the player, was a different breed and played in a run and gun offense first era. Consider that for the season leading up to the 1981 draft, Hawerchuk averaged 1.13 (81) goals and 1.42 (102) assists per game for the Cornwal Royals of the QMJHL. Playing for Hawerchuk’s Barrie Colts in the season prior to the 2011 draft, Scheifele averaged 0.33 (22) goals 0.80 (53)assists per game. Even if you were to adjust for time period, team, league, etc. it would be extremely difficult to make a convincing case that from an offensive standpoint you are looking at similar players.
However, before you print a copy of this post and attach it to you dart board, please continue to read. I do believe Scheifele has a chance at a career similar to that of a player who lead his Western Canadian team to the Stanley Cup Finals- Trevor Linden. Linden’s junior stats are more comparble as he averaged 0.69 (46) goals and 0.89 (64) assists per game for the Medicine Hat Tigers during the season leading up to the 1988 NHL entry draft. When you consider an example like Greg Hawgood, a smallish defenseman who scored 48 goals for the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers during the 1987-88 WHL season, it is easier to make adjustsments for time period, team, etc. and find Scheifele’s junior stats more comparable.
In addition to their junior offensive output, there is also the question of body type and style. While Hawerchuk, Scheifele,and Linden are all listed as centres, that doesn’t mean they necessarily play the same position once the puck is dropped. Scheifele is either listed as 6.02 or 6.03 depending where you are looking and Linden is listed by hockeydb.com as 6.04. Linden played at 210lbs and Scheifele is currently listed at 185lbs, but it is not hard to imagine a 19 year old adding 15-20 lbs of muscle as he enters his early 20’s (Hawerchuk was listed by hockeydb.com as 5.11 and 185lbs). An article posted last spring on the Bleacher Report sums up my thoughts on Scheifele:
The Hockey News projects Scheifele to become a power forward in the NHL one day. Blessed with high-end skill and a projectable frame, Scheifele will be able to play the game with intesity when he adds some more muscle to his 6.03 height.
When added to the 2011 TSN Draft Rankings projection of Scheifele to be a, " productive centre who is responsible at both ends of the ice," it is even more apparent the Scheifele compares better to a player like Linden than Hawerchuk. Linden was known as a tough two-way player who could either score or shut you down. Sure, Hawerchuk changed his game later in his career to be more defensive, but he would have never been considered a power forward.
If Scheifele ended up with a career similar to that of Trevor Linden, would that be so bad for Jets’ fans? Five thirty goal seasons, a two-way captain, and a trip to the finals? Most teams would take that in a heart beat.