Scheifele and Big Hits: Should we be concerned?


 "Dashers taste gross in the NHL…" Mark Scheifele thought to himself

Scheifele is just two games into what promises to be his first full NHL season. The early returns are excellent – beyond what anyone could have reasonably expected. Goal, assist, +2, 5 shots on, and two unlikely wins. He’s already doubled his offensive output from his previous 11 games in the NHL. 

Of concern is that Scheifele seems to be finding more than his fair share of heavy hits and compromising contact. Will Scheifele make it through 82 games?

Give me some examples

There is one moment in each game so far that gave me some pause – both related to protecting himself along the boards. 

From the Edmonton game:

Game two against the Kings:

The kid is stopping his momentum with his face more often than is healthy.

Will it continue?

Watching Scheifele in the Young Stars tournament, I thought one of things that showed him to be more ready than most is how he took contact – controlling his body, using the boards, and moving on.

In the pre-season, Scheifele seemed to be struggling with that and his falling became a bit of a joke around town. Obviously, the speed of the game has ramped up quite a bit from the Penticton tournament almost a month ago. We’re seeing some adjustments in his game – less falling overall, more offensive patience and awareness – but there are still moments when he looks less like a power forward and more like a very young man. 

It’s a dangerous game, and part of NHL readiness is showing you can avoid serious injury to some degree. It’s only a handful of professional games, and he is improving. The worry, of course, is whether he can avoid injury during his adjustment period.

The Bottom Line

Scheifele isn’t the first player to struggle to avoid major contact at a young age. Taylor Hall earned a reputation for having a reckless disregard for his own health before ever entering the NHL. His first two season were, indeed, injury shortened. Last year was Hall’s first full NHL season (lockout and suspension shortened, but injury free). I don’t mean to suggest a direct comparison – Scheifele’s game is very different in general and Hall apparently started his NHL career with a shoulder injury. Still, if Hall can adjust his game and remain effective, certainly we can expect the same from Scheifele.