Player Preview: Mark Scheifele

When Kevin Cheveldayoff stepped up to the draft podium
holding an NHL-themed jersey in his hand for the Jets inaugural season, many
were surprised to hear the name Mark Scheifele called at 7th overall of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Fast forward to present
day and it looks like Chevy knew exactly what he was doing.

Scheifele was ranked 16th amongst North American
skaters and many expected the Jets to go with a sexier pick, considering draft-day
fallers like Sean Couturier (8th overall) and Dougie Hamilton (9th
overall) were still available. Looking back now, it was a totally fine selection and Scheifele seems to have more offensive potential than Couturier.

The excitement of having a team back in Winnipeg was enough
to ensure sellout crowds for the pre-season games, but seeing Scheifele
absolutely tear up the scoreboard in his first time on NHL ice was enough to
have the Jets faithful calling his a savior. Scheifele made the club and played
in 7 games before returning to the OHL.

Last season was Scheifele’s first full one in the NHL and he
is sure to build on his 34 points.

PERFORMANCE

Scheifele extra skater

Scheifele was a bonafide point producer in the OHL for the
Barrie Colts, taking the team from a bottom feeder to a Memorial Cup contender
during his three seasons with the club.

Scheifele also starred for Team Canada at the World Junior
Championships despite the team not winning a gold medal. He played 11 games in
the NHL before his first full season, only scoring one goal and getting
sheltered ice time against weaker competition.

In Scheifele’s first full season he dealt with inconsistency
early on and had some injury troubles, which can be a red flag for young
players. Scheifele was able to produce like a pro during a 28-game stretch in
December and January, where he produced 23 points.

Scheifele will see 2nd line minutes and therefore
won’t be playing against the best defenders on opposing teams (unless they see
likely line mate Evander Kane as a bigger threat than the Wheeler line) so he
should definitely see his game develop at a good pace.

EXPECTATIONS

If Scheifele stayed healthy throughout the season, his point
totals would fluctuate to 17 goals, 27 assists good for 44 points, which is
considered a very strong NHL rookie season.

Considering those totals, Scheifele had a very similar
rookie season to the Oilers Taylor Hall, and while Scheifele will never produce
like Taylor Hall, there’s no reason to suggest he can’t have a modest jump in
point totals for his sophomore season. Sure there’s a chance for the dreaded
sophomore jinx, but considering the poor depth the Jets have, Scheifele will
get ample opportunities to shine offensively.

Scheifele will likely play with Evander Kane, and
considering Kane is almost a lock to score 30 this year, Scheifele could flirt
with 50 points if he stays healthy.

Even if Scheifele isn’t a shoe-in to stay completely
healthy, I still believe 50 points is within reach.

THN has a prediction of 50 points as well, and they must be
geniuses because I couldn’t agree more…. I kid, I kid.

Let’s say the sophomore future superstar’s card looks like
this at the end of the season: 73GP 18-33-51.

MAJOR QUESTIONS

BeBetter

1.    
Will Scheifele play with Evander Kane or get new
line mates?

There has been some buzz around the Jets
atmosphere that part of recruiting Mathieu Perreault consisted of promising him
playing time with Evander Kane. It’s sad considering Scheifele’s chemistry and
Perreault’s history of sheltered minutes, but it is what it is. If Kane plays
on Perreault’s wing, take off around 8 points from Scheifele.

2.    
Will Scheifele fall victim to the dreaded
sophomore jinx?

It happened to Jonathan Huberdeau and Nail Yakupov last season, and it’s amazing how common that 2nd season can
be a step up in an NHL player’s career. Scheifele played a few games in his 18
and 19-year-old seasons, so he can maybe convince his head that he can avoid
the sophomore sump. Considering his skill and cocky attitude, I think he makes
it through.

3.    
What is Scheifele’s ceiling?

I mentioned that Scheifele is going to a
great NHL player, but is he able to become a number one centre??? Probably yes,
and he will eventually push Little to the 2nd line in the future,
but a few seasons as the second string should be good for him. I don’t see
Scheifele ever eclipsing 80 points and I really feel he only has one 70-point
season in him. Look for Scheifele to top out around 65, which is still solid
NHL production. (Don’t worry Jets fans, now that I have said that he’ll
probably win an Art Ross trophy).