Player Preview: Blake Wheeler

Ever since Blake Wheeler has made the shift to the
Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise, his star has taken off. It’s obvious now that
Wheeler is a star player in the NHL, and he has proven that he can play tough
minutes and against the leagues best defensive pairings. A switch to the second
line allowed Wheeler to play against weaker competition and he excelled after a
slow start.

Wheeler was part of the deal with the Boston Bruins that
sent Rich Peverley to Boston the year the Bruins won the cup, but in hindsight,
the deal was a huge win for the Thrashers/Jets. Blake Wheeler is the team’s
leading scorer and that is a trend that is likely to continue into next season.

PERFORMANCE

Wheeler Extra Skater

Over the last three seasons with the Winnipeg Jets, Wheeler
has scored at a very strong rate, compiling 64 goals and 110 assists for 174
points in 210 games. That puts Wheeler’s points per game at 0.82, good for an
average of 67.9 points per 82 games.

Wheeler found more success last season after Frolik took top
line minutes, and Wheeler’s point totals skyrocketed, posting 52 points in the
final 54 games of the season.

Wheeler may start the season on the 2nd line to
encourage his progress, but that can still keep him as the leading scorer on
this team. He’s a big body, and he has silk hands, and even became an Olympian
for the United States at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

In a perfect world, he would be one of the league’s best
second line wingers, but in the Jets harsh reality, Wheeler is one of their
go-to guys.

EXPECTATIONS

I don’t see any reason why Wheeler can’t continue to produce
a 60-point season this year, and especially considering the fact that he may be
playing against easier competition.

Wheeler will still get ample opportunities with the man
advantage and his vision will likely keep him there producing points.

Considering the fact the Wheeler almost scored at a point
per game pace after switching to second line duties, it’s not hard to believe
that he can keep it up. I don’t expect Wheeler to eclipse career totals, but
there’s no reason to believe he’ll struggle with less minutes and less
competition.

Kevin McCartney predicted that Wheeler would score 28 goals,
which would be a career high for him. I don’t expect that many goals, my guess
would be that Wheeler scores 21 at most, but still picks up 40 assists.

With Dustin Byfuglien beginning the season as a forward, and
Michael Frolik penciled in as the top line winger, where does Wheeler fit the
most? Does it make sense to let Byfuglien play on the 3rd line or is
that a place better suited for Wheeler?

I fully expect Blake Wheeler to start the season on the 2nd
line, and eventually work his way back to the top line if Frolik is unable to
keep up.

 

MAJOR QUESTIONS

1.    
Will Wheeler be able to keep up the pace he did
in the 54 games of the season?

Like I mentioned earlier, Wheeler scored an
astounding 52 points in the last 54 games after getting second line minutes.
While it looks like Wheeler will once again start the season in that role, it’s
unlikely he will be able to keep the pace for the entire season.

 2.    
Is Wheeler capable of scoring 70+?

Wheeler has had seasons of 64, 41 in 48
(pro-rated to 70 in 82 games), and 69, but hasn’t actually eclipsed the
70-point barrier. He’s got skill, he’s got the hands, but he doesn’t have the
consistency. He started last season off really slow, and if he had played the
way he did in the first few games of the season the way he played the remaining
52, he could’ve easily eclipsed the 70-point plateau. Once again, I just don’t
see it happening this year.

 3.    
How long until Wheeler is back on the top line?

Considering the success Wheeler found on the
2nd line, it almost seems strange to want to move him off the line.
The fact of the matter is, Wheeler is team’s best player, and if the likes of
Frolik and Byfuglien can’t play top line minutes, Wheeler will resume his post
as the 1st line right-winger.

SEASON POINT PROJECTIONS

Considering this is the first in JetsNation’s Player Preview
series, after each article I will post the players point expectations below to
keep everybody’s memory fresh.

 

BLAKE WHEELER      81GP
21-40-61

  • Stewsquared

    Wheeler is one of the few untouchables on this team along with Trouba and Scheifele in my opinion. Those three aren’t allowed to leave until they’re ready to retire as old guys with Cup rings decorating their hands.